USF football finds a silver lining in unexpected bye week

Cade Fortin (in gold) is expected to return for Saturday’s game at Cincinnati and will further coach Jeff Scott’s evaluation of the quarterback room. USF didn’t expect an early bye week, but it gave Scott a chance to reassess his team. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

It’s not ideal having the third game of the season postponed, but USF coach Jeff Scott saw a game-less Week 3 as somewhat of a boon to his team.

The chance to reevaluate early in the season was unexpected, but Scott managed to turn lemons into lemonade.

“The silver lining of the postponement last week was really for our staff and our players just to get a weekend to kind of reevaluate maybe the strengths and weaknesses, things we need to work on after two games and also kind of refocus and re-engage with our plans getting ready to start conference play,” Scott said.

After its blowout 52-0 loss at Notre Dame on Sept. 19, the team has had extended time to digest it, determine the work that needs to be done and push a soft reset button after the first two games of the Scott era.

“For us, we’re really still in the early stages of our team and our program,” Scott said. “For us, it’s really about improving every day, it’s about learning how to practice the right way, how to meet the right way.”

Learning to improve also means assessing personnel. Scott said that he hasn’t been able to play all of his ideal starters, and he likely won’t be able to do so against No. 15 Cincinnati on Saturday, but the week off has allowed him to assess his players, namely the quarterbacks.

“We’re still learning about our personnel, obviously quarterback,” he said. “Obviously, we have to get ready for our opponent, but really, our focus during the week is to improve ourselves, how we do things and get the guys in the right positions.”

Cade Fortin, who’s been on the unavailable list for the first two games, is expected to be available and could make his USF debut on Saturday.

Scott had planned on having a starting quarterback by the start of conference play, but the postponement of the Florida Atlantic (FAU) set his plans back.

“I had said that we were going to use our first three games, thinking that we were going to play against FAU, to give multiple guys opportunities in games with the hope and idea going into the fourth game, thinking it was going to be Cincinnati, that we’d be able to go with one guy and let him go,” he said.

“We’re not at that stage yet.”

With Fortin in the mix for the first time this season, Scott said multiple quarterbacks will play against Cincinnati.

“We’re just going to use it [the game] as another evaluation piece and hopefully, after this game, we’ll be in a better position,” Scott said.

Players like cornerback KJ Sails were looking forward to the game at FAU, but now the focus is turned toward the conference opener ahead.

“We all were excited to play last Saturday,” Sails said. “Not getting that opportunity definitely hit home and in the heart, but we look at everything in a positive way, and all you can do is get prepared for next week, so we’re just excited to play Saturday.”

Wide receiver DeVontres Dukes said the extra practice is welcome, especially given the intensity of conference play.

“We have a pretty tough conference, so I think just trying to get the extra practices in as much as possible, it benefits us in the long run,” Dukes said.

Scott admitted that conference play will likely be even more grueling than before, especially with players rotating in and out of the unavailable list.

Opening up league play against one of the top two teams in the conference presents a daunting challenge, but a chance to assess his team further, Scott said.

“It’s a great challenge, and this is one of the top two teams in our league right now, far and away,” he said. “This’ll be a great challenge for us in our first league game to kind of see where we are and how we need to improve.”