Former offensive lineman speaks out about departure from team

Brooks Larkin gained national fame for his split on live TV during the 2017 Birmingham Bowl. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/ESPN.COM

Through an elaborate tweet, former USF offensive lineman Brooks Larkin announced Friday he was leaving USF football, calling offensive line coach Matt Mattox a “liar and a coward.” He added in his tweet that Mattox “plays who he wants rather than the best player for the job.”

In a phone interview, Larkin, 22, elaborated on his issues with Mattox and spoke out about differences between USF football under former coach Willie Taggart’s coaching staff opposed to under current head coach Charlie Strong’s.

“Under Taggart, you knew exactly where you stood with coaches,” Larkin said. “They were fair and didn’t play favorites. They played who deserved the jobs and as you saw in Taggart’s last year, we were explosive.

“The coaching and culture (are different now). We would leave games under Strong and be ridiculously frustrated. Tulane we should’ve beaten by a lot more; Temple we should’ve beaten by a lot more; Stony Brook was a joke. We should’ve never let them hang around that long.”

Another difference between Taggart and Strong, according to Larkin, was how players are disciplined for mistakes made on and off the field. Under Taggart, Larkin said a missed tutor session meant “dom patrol,” which forced players to push a 45-pound plate 20 yards and back, 20 times, all in a 30-minute span at 5 a.m. the next morning. 

Under Strong, after missing a workout over the summer, Larkin’s only punishment was to push a 100-pound plate the length of the weight room and back. Others who missed, he said, were never punished at all.

“It was child’s play,” Larkin said. 

USF has made no official statement in regard to the situation and has removed Larkin’s bio page from the athletics website.

“A lot of times that’s gonna happen to you where a player gets disgruntled,” Strong told the Tampa Bay Times after Saturday’s practice. “But we have to continue to just coach the guys we’ve got and just make them better.”

Of Larkin’s personal issues with Mattox, which is what ultimately pushed the walk-on lineman to quit, Larkin said his biggest issue was false promises. 

Larkin said he was told in the weeks leading up to USF’s first game against San Jose State that he’d be starting on the offensive line. Two days before the game, Larkin said he was abruptly told he’d been moved to the second-team offense. 

He’d go on to play in six games in 2017, starting none.

“Everybody would tell me I was the best player for the position, but still, I’d never see the field,” Larkin said. “Other players would tell me they were most comfortable when I was on the line. Still, I’d never even see ones (first team) action during practices.”

In the Spring, Larkin said Mattox promised him split first-team reps with redshirt sophomore Michael Wiggs in a competition for the starting center job. According to Larkin, that never happened.

“A competition is (quarterbacks) Chris Oladokun and Brett Kean,” Larkin said. “They’re literally splitting reps. That’s a competition. That’s what I was promised, but not what I got. I know if I had a shot, I’d win the job — no problem.”

When Larkin tried to meet with Mattox to discuss issues, he said his texts, calls and voicemails went unanswered. After he talked to Strong and shared his grievances, Strong suggested the two meet together in Mattox’s office. Larkin said he reluctantly agreed and waited for Mattox in his office for 25 minutes. 

According to Larkin, however, Mattox never showed — so he left and went to class.

“I actually heard Mattox’s voice in the hallway near his office,” Larkin said. “He still never came in. I knew he was ignoring me. It just reassured me about everything I was doing.”

Later that morning, Larkin released his public statement via Twitter at 11:04 a.m.

In regard to why he chose to voice his opinion publicly on Twitter, Larkin said: “A lot of athletes get lied to and it’s just wrong. I’ve always believed honesty is the best policy and that’s how I was raised. If I stir the pot a little with this post, then I could open a door for other athletes to say, ‘I’m not going to stand being lied to anymore.’ 

“Most coaches say, ‘you need to keep doing your thing until you get your opportunity.’ Then they keep leading you on and leading you on and nothing happens. It crushes your spirits. I went in loving football and there was nothing in the world better than putting on a helmet. Really, when this staff came, it deflated me — borderline depression from all that went on. It was getting tough.”

Larkin mentioned other current players hold the same position as he did. However, as they’re still members of the team, he requested their names be withheld.

In regard to his tweet, Larkin said he wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again.

“No regrets,” Larkin said. “I’d absolutely (do it all) again."