USF football used the extra time from the bye week to assess what needs to be done to get a win against Houston in Texas on Saturday.
Here is a look at what offensive coordinator Travis Trickett and defensive coordinator Bob Shoop are doing to prepare the Bulls (1-6, 0-3).
While sophomore quarterback Katravis Marsh hasn’t seen much playing time this season, he has been working with Trickett to help him grow in his confidence as the primary decision-maker on offense.
“It’s a big challenge for him. He’s got to be operating the offense, moving pieces, moving them around just like everyone else does at the quarterback position,” Trickett said. “He’s got to be really good at just operating the offense … so then you go out there and you can make the throw and be a confident, decisive thrower.”
One of the moving pieces that could aid Marsh is in the tight end room. Players like junior Gunnar Greenwald and sophomore Chris Carter have not seen the ball much in recent weeks.
While South Florida did not pass much against Tulane (7-1, 4-0), there could be a chance for Carter and Greenwald to be more involved as threats around the red zone.
“It depends on where you get on the field. I think the red zone is a big opportunity for tight ends,” Trickett said.
Trickett acknowledged the uphill battle Marsh has to adjust to his new role but is confident he will adjust because of his work ethic.
“That’s the challenge for any guy to accept, and he is on board. He has worked for it,” Trickett said. “So it’s coming out there and cleaning everything up between now and Saturday and going out there and playing.”
Over the bye week, Shoop noticed the Bulls’ tendency to give up at least one big play that shifted the momentum of their games.
Whether it is long runs or passes against opponents like Cincinnati and ECU, Shoop was able to point these plays out to his defense during their film breakdowns.
“We have nine-run plays of 30 yards or more against us on the year and five pass plays of 30 yards and more against us on the year,” Shoop said. “I don’t deem those explosive plays, those are catastrophic plays.”
The Bulls cannot afford such plays against Houston (4-3, 2-1). In their last game, the Cougars had 441 total yards of offense and five passing touchdowns.
Houston has a top-50 offense in the nation with the ability to score in multiple ways, according to Shoop.
“[Houston] does not have a lot of weaknesses in their game. They can run the ball, they can throw the ball and they execute well in the red zone,” Shoop said. “Each week, other than maybe Tulane, they’re scoring 30 or more points. It’s a great challenge for our guys.”
In spite of the challenge ahead of them, there is some reason for the Bulls to be optimistic. Health struggles have been well-documented for South Florida this season and they’ve had to experiment with new lineups because of them. However, going into Saturday’s game against Houston, this is the healthiest USF’s defense has been in a long time.
Specifically, players like sophomore cornerback TJ Robinson and graduate student defensive back Mekhi LaPointe will be returning to the secondary. With their returns, Shoop wants the Bulls’ back line to be in sync like an offensive line, it’s just a matter of putting it together on the field.
“We got to communicate [and] execute as a unit, like an offensive line would,” Shoop said. “We’ve got to communicate better, get aligned to be a little bit more precise and candid. We have to make a few more plays [against the] pass game.”