Commentary: Flower-less Bulls will still be a top contender in the AAC

The Bulls will be without three-year starter quarterback Quinton Flowers in 2018. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/ KEVIN MASTRY

Let’s start by pointing out the obvious. 

In the 2018 season, Bulls fans won’t see No. 9 evading defenders with maneuvers that demand a second take on the jumbotron to answer: “How did he do that?”

Quinton Flowers, former quarterback and most decorated Bull in program history, will no longer be the offensive staple.

Athlon Sports & Life ranks the Bulls No. 65 overall. The site references vacancies left by Flowers and three defensive all-conference players.

Before the 2017 season, USF was predicted to win their first ever American Athletic Conference title. Now, the Bulls will be underdogs.

College Football News predicts USF going 9-3 with losses to Georgia Tech, Houston, and UCF.

In addition to the three listed, the Bulls’ home matchup against Tulane could be particularly difficult. The Bulls had trouble playing with Tulane’s triple option offense last season when they narrowly avoided an upset in November.

The Green Wave will likely return with a similar offense. Georgia Tech is notorious for running a triple option offense and will pose a problem for USF as their new defense adjusts early in the season.

Without Deatrick Nichols, Auggie Sanchez, Devin Abraham, Deadrin Senat and Bruce Hector, the Bulls will have to find ways to disrupt offenses with different personnel. USF led the AAC in fewest points allowed per game last season with this unit.  

Brett Kean and Chris Oladokun will battle in the offseason to fill Flowers’ spot at quarterback. In 2017, the pair completed just eight passes compared to Flowers’ 188. 

Darius Tice and D’ernest Johnson rushed for 1739 yards last season.

Both halves of the rushing tandem leaving opens a spot for transfer Jordan Cronkrite. 

A Miami native, Cronkrite totaled 302 yards and 4 touchdowns as a Gator. He left Gainesville to find a role as a featured back instead of being part of a rotation with two other backs.

Tyre McCants and Darnell Salomon return as two of USF’s top receivers. The duo combined for 1198 yards in 2017. After missing all of last season, Ryeshene Bronson returns to the Bulls’ receiving arsenal.

Another key loss for the Bulls is kicker Emilio Nadelman. The alumnus set school records for most points in a season with 115. Redshirt Freshman Marco Salani and John Carroll University transfer Jake Vivonetto will have their own depth-chart battle as the season approaches.

Despite their losses, USF will return in 2018 as a dark horse contender in the AAC. With experienced units on both sides of the ball, a laser-focused USF squad will be poised to surprise their competition with a team that is ready to show the nation what they’re made of.