After several days of unconfirmed reports, the Bulls have publicly revealed Blake Barnett as their starting quarterback for their season opener against Elon on Saturday, coach Charlie Strong announced Tuesday.
Barnett edged out junior Brett Kean and sophomore Chris Oladokun as Quinton Flowers’ replacement after a fall camp that saw the three split first-team reps. Kean and Oladokun will occupy the second- and third-string positions, respectively, according to a depth chart released Tuesday.
“It’s not so much that it came down to this guy over this guy – they all had evenly distributed reps,” Strong said. “It just came down as a decision. I told our offense we need to make a decision on the quarterback because the team needs to see who’s going to be the guy.”
Originally a five-star recruit out of high school, Barnett chose to go to Alabama, where he was a redshirt in 2015, appearing in four games before transferring to Arizona State for the 2017 season.
Strong said he thinks the experiences Barnett went through in Tuscaloosa and Tempe, Arizona, before arriving at USF will help keep him grounded in Tampa.
“He’s seen it all,” Strong said. “I think that this is good for him. You don’t have all the glam and expectations (of being the starting quarterback at Alabama). So, I think it allows him to calm down and really be himself.”
Despite Barnett being a late addition to the Bulls’ roster – only arriving at USF in May – Strong said the locker room was not divided over the decision.
“When you want to win, I think that you set all of that aside,” Strong said. “They were smart enough to look at and say, ‘Who’s going to be the guy?’ It was never where it came down to where we’re going to have some guys upset.
“And I told them … don’t ever feel like because you’ve been in a program three years, it’s your job. You go to win that job.”
Senior wide receiver Tyre McCants said he was surprised by Barnett’s abilities during fall camp.
“He’s done some things this camp that’s surprised a lot of us,” McCants said. “We didn’t expect it from him. He’s really athletic (for) being a taller (6-foot-5) guy. I’m just excited to see what he can do.”
In addition to his athletic abilities, McCants offered praise about Barnett’s intangible assets.
“He’s a great leader,” McCants said. “He never really yells, he never really gets angry. He wants the best to happen, and if that’s not happening, he knows how to calm the team down.”
When Barnett lines up under center against Elon, he will become the 15th starting quarterback in the program’s 22-year history and the first to debut since Flowers against SMU on Nov. 15, 2014.
In previous games with a new starting quarterback, USF is 8-6 all-time.