Strong adds collection of former assistants to ‘17 staff
Following the departure of former USF coach Willie Taggart to Oregon, much of the excitement around the program has been centered around his replacement — former Texas head man Charlie Strong.
However, the Bulls are turning over far more than just the face of their coaching staff. Though Strong still has two more vacancies to fill, USF’s 2017 staff will have nearly a complete new look from top to bottom.
Excluding newly-named running backs coach Shaun King, who recently switched over from coaching quarterbacks last season, Strong has brought in a new staff comprised of both longtime assistants and those with solid Florida recruiting ties.
Here is a quick rundown of the new faces set to lead USF in 2017:
Less than a month into his tenure at USF, Strong began building his staff by naming Sterlin Gilbert the Bulls’ new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks’ coach on Jan. 6.
While serving as Strong’s offensive coordinator at Texas in 2016, Gilbert guided a Longhorn offense that was not far behind USF’s, averaging only 20 yards less (491.3 yards per game) than the Bulls’ 11th-best offense in the country (511.5 yards per game).
“Sterlin has put together a tremendous track record of developing players and producing highly productive offenses that build his on players strengths,” Strong said in a press release.
“He’s young and passionate about his players and the game of football. We are excited to have Sterlin on our Bulls staff and to have him working with the very talented players we have at South Florida.”
Gilbert’s most notable project to date was the development of Texas running back D’onta Foreman last season. Under Gilbert, Foreman grew from a back that split carries his sophomore year with two other running backs to the nation’s second-leading rusher in 2016, with 2,028 yards.
Two days after hiring Gilbert, Strong made fellow Longhorn assistant Brian Jean-Mary his defensive coordinator and assistant head coach.
The new leader of the Bulls’ defense, Jean-Mary takes over for the departing Raymond Woodie.
“I’m very excited to come to South Florida and have the opportunity to serve as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator under Coach Strong,” Jean-Mary said in a statement following his hire.
“I have had the honor to work with Coach Strong over the last seven seasons and appreciate his confidence in me to lead his defense. We have some terrific talent at USF and in the state of Florida and I’m excited to be back in the state and getting to work building the Bulls defense.”
Before joining Strong in Austin to lead Texas, Jean-Mary was Strong’s defensive coordinator at Louisville, where the Cardinals went 37-15 under the duo.
Jean-Mary is also a native of Apopka, Florida, the hometown of current Bulls’ quarterback Quinton Flowers.
Charlie Williams returns to the Bay area, joining the Bulls as the wide receivers coach after a 31-year coaching career in both college and the NFL. Williams, who also served on Strong’s staff at Texas last season, worked as the running backs and receivers coach for the Indianapolis Colts for four seasons before joining Texas in 2016.
“I have very fond memories of my time here and the people and community here,” Williams said in a release. “We have a great opportunity at USF with some really talented players, and I’m excited to be back in Florida and to get started.”
His job with the Bulls will be Williams’ second coaching stint in Tampa. He worked previously as the wide receivers coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers under Tony Dungy from 1996-2001.
Defensive Backs- Corey Bell, the first assistant to have not worked directly with Strong at any level, previously served as the defensive backs coach at FAU the past two seasons. Bell comes to the Bulls after coaching two Owls defenders, sophomore Jalen Young and junior Raekwon Williams Jr., to Conference USA Honorable Mention awards this past season.
“It is great to continue my coaching career in the state of Florida,” Bell said. “I know the players and coaches in the state very well and have great respect for the talent that resides here. It’s an exciting time at USF, and I’m ready to get to work.”
Bell has also aided then-head coach Randy Shannon at the University of Miami from 2007-10 as the director of football operations for the Hurricanes.
Strong’s second hire of Wednesday came soon after the announcement of Bell, as Matt Mattox was named the Bulls’ offensive line coach and run-game coordinator in the wake of losing former coach Daren Hiller, who joined Taggart at Oregon.
Another assistant under Strong at Texas in 2016, Mattox was rumored to join the USF coaching staff after the addition of Gilbert, who he worked under in the same position at Texas. Those early reports came to fruition with the official announcement on Wednesday.
“USF was very productive on the ground last year and has some outstanding players returning, so I’m looking forward to the opportunity to work with them and the talented players in the state of Florida,” Mattox said in a release.
Mattox, who also coached with Gilbert at Tulsa in 2015 as co-offensive coordinator, guided the Golden Hurricane as the 11th ranked passing offense and the 13th ranked team in total offense in the country.
Special Teams/ Tight Ends
Justin Burke would become the third and final coach officially hired Wednesday, joining USF as both the special teams and tight ends coach.
“He’s a former collegiate quarterback and an All-Big East Academic Team honoree with an MBA, so he’s a smart guy with recent playing experience and will work great with our players at USF,” Strong said of Burke in a release.
Burke’s relationship with Strong dates back to 2008, where he played quarterback for a Strong-led Cardinals team for three seasons. Burke has also served under Strong as an offensive assistant since 2013, after beginning his coaching career as a recruiting intern under Nick Saban at Alabama in 2011.