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Uncertainty at quarterback yet again

Jordan McCloud (holding football) has not been fully healthy since USF’s loss to SMU on Sept. 28. ORACLE PHOTO/BRIAN HATTAB

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — USF found itself in yet another unplanned quarterback situation after its 35-3 loss at Navy on Saturday.

Jordan McCloud — who has taken the majority of snaps since replacing senior Blake Barnett as starter in Week 3 — is hurt.

McCloud’s injury woes began during a Sept. 28 loss to SMU when he sustained a wrist contusion on his throwing hand. They continued Oct. 12 against BYU when he injured his shoulder during the win over the Cougars.

Not that the redshirt freshman used any of that as an excuse Saturday.

“I’m good. That’s no excuse,” McCloud said when asked about his health. “I’ve just got to play better and help this team win.”

But it was no secret McCloud was having trouble gripping the ball, especially after offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell said as much during his media availability Wednesday.

During initial pregame warmups, McCloud was spotted wearing gloves on both hands. Later on in warmups and during the game, McCloud only wore a glove on his throwing hand.

McCloud was 11-of-23 for 50 yards before being replaced midway through the fourth quarter, a decision that didn’t come lightly for coach Charlie Strong and his staff, especially since McCloud said he was fine.

“We thought about [pulling McCloud sooner], then he kept saying he’s OK,” Strong said, “and then you see one of the passes he threw, we knew he wasn’t OK.”

Another reason McCloud may have been left in the game longer was the lack of depth behind him.

Barnett came into the SMU game to start the second half after McCloud sustained the contusion, leading the Bulls to a few garbage-time scores.

In the process, he was hit hard due to poor protection from the offensive line and sustained a high ankle sprain. The sprain ultimately proved to be season-ending, as Barnett underwent successful surgery on the ankle Friday.

Now the Bulls are without a single healthy scholarship quarterback heading into another road game Saturday against ECU.

Walk-on sophomore Kirk Rygol replaced McCloud on Saturday, going 4-of-7 for 64 yards. Prior to Saturday, Rygol’s only game action for USF came against South Carolina State on Sept. 14 and UConn on Oct. 5, though Rygol did not attempt any passes in the South Carolina State game.

There’s a good chance Rygol will be the guy under center against ECU, and Strong doesn’t seem worried if it comes to that.

“Rygol will be OK,” Strong said. “We’ve just got to get him enough reps.” 

Rygol threw for more than 3,000 yards and 36 touchdowns his senior year at Nation Ford High School (Fort Mill, S.C.), but has received limited playing time since. A transfer to USF from junior college ASA College (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and Division II North Greenville University (Tigerville, S.C.) before that, Rygol only saw action in one game for North Greenville in 2017 and redshirted last year at ASA College.

However, when Strong was asked if Rygol will be the starter against ECU, it came back to McCloud’s health.

“We’ve got to see where Jordan is and just try to get him healthy,” Strong said. “He’s not healthy … we’ve got to get our best player out there on the field, and he, right now, he gives us the best chance to win.”