Takeaways: Potential quarterback competition brewing

Sophomore quarterback Katravis Marsh (left) and junior wide receiver Xavier Weaver (middle) connected four times for 54 yards and a touchdown in Saturday’s spring game. ORACLE PHOTO/ALEXANDRA URBAN

With the USF spring season ending after Saturday night’s spring game, there is a bit more clarity about what Bulls fans can expect when the team kicks off against BYU at Raymond James Stadium on Sept. 3.

The team showed off its depth and talent with multiple players having impressive performances on both sides of the ball. There also seems to be a renewed energy for the upcoming season that coach Jeff Scott hasn’t experienced since he arrived in Tampa in 2020.

“Our culture is the best it’s been since I’ve been here,” he said. “When your players love their team, they love the coaches around every day, they love their teammates. They go to their high schools and they tell their teams, their former teammates and it makes it easier to recruit. 

“All of a sudden, I’m seeing for the first time since I’ve been here that it’s turning into a positive to come to South Florida.”

Here are three of the biggest lessons learned from this year’s spring game.

 Quarterback situation getting interesting

While both of the game’s starting quarterbacks, Katravis Marsh for the Green team and Timmy McClain for the White, had up-and-down performances, there could be a potential battle for the starting job as the team heads into the summer.

Marsh, a sophomore that served as backup for much of last year, outplayed the incumbent McClain, who started nine games in his freshman season. Marsh completed 14 passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns to go along with an interception.

Meanwhile, McClain struggled a little more, completing 12 passes for 105 yards and an interception.

It wasn’t just the stats in which Marsh outperformed McClain — he also executed new offensive coordinator Travis Trickett’s system at a higher level than his teammate. Marsh converted two of his trips in the red zone to points, something McClain had trouble with at times during the game.

Marsh also seemed to build a good rapport with junior wide receiver Xavier Weaver, as the two linked up for four passes to the tune of 54 yards and a touchdown.

Although McClain was quick to shoot down any notion of a competition between himself and Marsh postgame, it’ll be interesting to see how the two young quarterbacks progress leading into the fall.

Running back depth

One of the few bright spots for USF last season was the production the team got out of its running backs, namely senior Jaren Mangham, junior Kelley Joiner Jr. and sophomore Brian Battie.

What has become clear is the Bulls have only built on that strength going into 2022. Both new and old faces at the position impressed in the spring game.

Headlining the group was senior Mychael Hamilton, who mostly played special teams last year but took full advantage of his playing time on Saturday to show off his skill set. He rushed eight times for 50 yards for an average of 6.3 yards per carry.

Six other players received a decent amount of snaps, so Scott will have plenty of options to work with from that position group.

“There’s really good chemistry in that [running backs] room,” he said. 

“I think Cam Aiken, our running backs coach, he’s done an outstanding job for us and technically coaching those guys up, but then also creating an atmosphere where everybody’s a team player. We’re not sitting here worried about who’s getting the ball.”

Turnovers still a defensive strength

A calling card of last season’s defense was its ability to take the ball away from its opponents. The Bulls forced 17 turnovers in 2021, tied for 60th in FBS. 

It looks like the team will continue to do much of the same next season under defensive coordinator Bob Shoop. Both defenses came away with at least one turnover on Saturday. The Green team intercepted the quarterback once while the White team came away with an interception and a fumble recovery.

After senior linebacker Antonio Grier picked off Marsh in the second quarter, senior defensive back Mekhi LaPointe intercepted McClain on the following play.

Not only is it a good sign the defense is still taking the ball away, Shoop will be able to rely on his best and most experienced players to get the job done in his new scheme.