Fans are optimistic of Bell’s new offense

Johnny Ford lined up as a slot receiver during the spring game Saturday at Corbett Stadium. Ford caught six passes, including one touchdown reception. 

The Bulls new offensive look started out with an explosion during the spring football game at Corbett Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The 75-yard strike from quarterback Blake Barnett to tight end Mitchell Wilcox on the first play from scrimmage sent the 3,700 fans into an uproar.

“It felt great to come out with that start for sure,” Wilcox said. “I have to give all the credit to the O-line, Blake and especially to coach [Kerwin] Bell. That was all the brains. I just finished the deal.”

We asked several fans in attendance at Saturday’s spring game what they thought of USF’s redesigned offense.

The fan reaction to the offense Saturday was an overwhelmingly positive one as the Bulls used three quarterbacks, Barnett and two redshirt freshmen, Jordan McCloud and Octavious Battle, to pass for 509 total yards and five touchdowns.

“This sure looks a heck of a lot different than last year,” Jermaine Fisher said. “Did you see that first play to Wilcox? This is going to be a totally different type of season.”

The fans saw sophomore running back Johnny Ford lined up in the slot most of the afternoon. Ford caught six passes for 30 yards and scored a touchdown. Last season Ford spent time exclusively in the backfield splitting time with Jordan Cronkrite, rushing for 787 yards on the season.

“Johnny Ford is one of those guys that can make people miss,” said Jerry Timposta. “It’s going to be interesting to watch how they utilize him [Ford]. I think putting him in the slot position and putting him in motion is going to create a lot of problems for some teams.”

The focal point of the offense this season will be pace and exploiting the middle of the field while utilizing dynamic players like Cronkrite, Ford, Wilcox and wide receiver Randall St. Felix.

The Bulls look to exploit the third-level with St. Felix. St. Felix contributed to the offense with three receptions for 54 yards and will undoubtedly be a big-time target for Barnett this upcoming season.

Last season St. Felix caught 33 passes from USF quarterbacks averaging over 20 yards per reception, scoring four touchdowns.

“He is going to have a big season,” Brian Handler said. “Now that he and Blake have been together for a whole year and now an entire spring, I expect him [St. Felix] to score a lot of touchdowns … maybe at least 10.”

Cronkrite was missing from the spring game because he is recovering from injury. It was senior Trevon Sands leading the rushing attack gaining 25 yards on four carries.

“It looks like we have some depth in the backfield even with moving Ford outside,” Jeremy Billings said. “Cronkrite was amazing last season but it seems we have some depth also. If Cronkrite can be healthy all year and with Ford a year older, this team has a chance to score a lot of points.”

Barnett had a touchdown and 135 yards passing but the offensive line was credited for seven sacks while he was under center. Last season, with a young offensive line, USF quarterbacks were sacked 34 times

“The offensive line seems like it is still an issue but we will wait until the regular season starts to judge them on performance,” Rodney Taylor said. “Last season was a bit of a merry-go-round when it came to the offensive line because of the injuries and how young they were. Everyone is a year older and I am sure they will work out the kinks by August.”

Showcasing the new offense run by Bell was something the fans were looking forward to in many ways. It was clear yesterday that the game plan will heavily involve moving the ball down the field and allowing Barnett to stretch the field with a wide array of talented playmakers.

“I am so excited to start the season and see how this new offense shapes up,” said Trent Anderson. “This year can’t be like last season with the disappointment of how last year ended. I have a great feeling about this team, and putting together a complete season is what I look forward to the most.”