Bulls still looking for starter after Week 1 loss

Sophomore quarterback Cade Fortin (center) will get the start against Florida, but freshman Timmy McClain is also expected to see snaps at the position, according to coach Jeff Scott. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

When the USF football program announced via an Aug. 23 tweet that sophomore Cade Fortin would be the team’s starting quarterback, it seemed to finally be the end of the quarterback purgatory that the Bulls found themselves in 2020 when they played four different quarterbacks over the course of the season.

However, following the season opener against NC State on Sept. 3, it became clear that wouldn’t be the case. Fortin was replaced early in the second quarter by freshman Timmy McClain after completing three passes for zero yards in his first five drives.

Although both quarterbacks struggled against the Wolfpack, Fortin in particular had a rough outing finishing with just seven completions for 41 yards and an interception. McClain, a true freshman, brought a little more life to the offense completing 53% of his passes for 126 yards, but threw two interceptions which ultimately led to him being pulled from the game as well.

During Tuesday’s press conference, Scott announced the team would be rolling with a multi-quarterback system until one proves themselves to be the better option than the others. He plans on starting Fortin on Saturday and for at least McClain to be cycled in.

“We’re not playing both quarterbacks because we think it’s the best thing to do for us to win the game,” Scott said. “We’re playing both quarterbacks because we’re trying to figure out who our starter is.

“I think for us right now, I’ve said it before, we’re using these first four nonconfernce games [to name a starter]. The ultimate goal is to be able to have our starting quarterback really emerge and feel confident going into the SMU game with who that is.”

Now, Fortin and McClain, along with sophomore Katravis Marsh, who threw for 125 yards on four passes during the spring game, will once again battle it out to see who will separate themselves and take the job once the conference slate gets going.

Noticeably absent from the front runners is sophomore Jarren Williams, who transferred to USF from Miami in the offseason and seemed to be in direct competition with Fortin throughout spring ball and fall camp.

Scott plans on starting Fortin against the Gators due to his practice performance, but as the season goes along and the conference schedule gets closer, game performance will become the main criteria.

“The practice performance determines who goes out there first and Cade’s earned that from all of his practice and what he’s done in the offseason,” he said. “But now when you get to the season, now the next level turns into game performance, and that’s really at every position as well.

“There’s only so much you can do in practice. We try to put guys in pressure situations and intense situations but there’s nothing like getting out there in a game.”

Despite it being an eerily similar situation to last year when Jordan McCloud, Noah Johnson and Marsh served as the starting signal caller at different points throughout the season, Scott said he still feels much more comfortable with his current quarterback situation and his team overall.

“I think we’re definitely further ahead than last year,” Scott said of establishing his starter. “I think the difference is we opened up against NC State instead of the Citadel, you know. I think that, to me, it doesn’t even feel like last year. I feel like we’re, from a team standpoint, we’re further ahead. I think we just didn’t go out and execute in our first game against a very talented team, and time will tell … I feel like we’re better overall in some areas but we didn’t show it when it mattered on the field.

“What gives me optimism as we go into the next few games is, I know we’re definitely more capable. Where maybe last year if we didn’t play well, I don’t know how much better we could get just because of some of the deficiencies we had. This year we’re definitely a lot more capable to play better than we did on Thursday.”