As we look forward to the 2014 USF Football season, we’ll spend part of the summer looking back with the Voice of the Bulls Jim Louk. Louk has compiled his list of the 10 most influential Bulls in program history. As the radio voice for Bulls football since its inception in 1997, Louk has personally witnessed every game in the program's history and worked closely with coaches and players. Yet, his list may not line up perfectly with yours. Discussion and debate is welcome. Join the discussion by sending your list or feedback to @USFJimLouk and use the hashtag #USF10.
We’ll list these 10 players in no particular order in the coming weeks leading up to 2014 USF training camp. Selected players may or may not have huge statistics or have been a part of the big plays we all remember. But, because of their talent, their effort or even their timing, they influenced the USF program greatly during our first 17 years of football.
First installment: Hugh Smith
By JIM LOUK
Voice of the Bulls
TAMPA, JULY 14, 2014 - The questions surrounding USF Football prior to the inaugural game are too many to recount. We did, however, have a pretty good idea of who the quarterback would be.
Among numerous hopefuls for the position was a transfer from a more established program, who many thought could give the Bulls some veteran leadership. Most speculation had him taking over the offense in September, 1997.
It’s not who you are thinking.
Lance Hoeltke came to USF from Austin Peay, and quickly established himself as a leader, so much so that he was named one of four inaugural captains.
But when game time came around, it was a transfer from South Carolina who won the job.
Chad Barnhardt came a little later to the Bulls program; a little closer to that first game, when a lot of would be signal callers had already come and gone. He was a star athlete from Lake Wales, and he was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the eighth round of the MLB draft in 1994. He chose football instead, and enrolled at South Carolina. With the Gamecocks, he was a backup to Anthony Wright, and he was looking for a change. Coming to USF would provide a chance to battle for the starting job without sitting out a year, and bring him back to his native state.
He was at the helm of the Bulls offense that first game against Kentucky Wesleyan, completing 14 of 28 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns. Spectacular numbers? Not really. But there were no interceptions, and there was a demonstrated understanding of the offense as well as a level of control over 10 other guys who were jumping out of their shoes with adrenaline over being on the field for the first-ever game. Barnhardt brought talent to the lineup, no doubt, but he also brought calmness and direction.
Except for a couple of games missed due to injury, Barnhardt quarterbacked the Bulls for two seasons. His career numbers are good; 4,138 yards and 27 touchdowns, but blessed with more time, Marquel Blackwell, Matt Grothe and B.J. Daniels all stand above Barnhardt in the USF record books. Barnhardt’s most impressive statistic might be 13 wins and nine losses, the record the Bulls had in their first two years of existence. He was the perfect quarterback for a program trying to find itself.
Hoeltke, meanwhile, secured his USF legacy with his inaugural season captaincy and some good game appearances off the bench in 1997 before moving on. Ironically, Barnhardt and Hoeltke, at the dawn of USF Football, may have been one of the better quarterback duos the Bulls have had at any one given time.
Those first two years of USF Football helped us believe what could be achieved here. Chad Barnhardt’s leadership and ability made Bulls football success feel possible.
USF returns 16 starters (10 offense, 4 defense, 2 specialists) for Willie Taggart's second season at the helm, which kicks off on Aug. 30 vs. Western Carolina at Raymond James Stadium. The Bulls 2014 non-conference schedule features home clashes vs. Big Ten foe Maryland (Sept. 6) and ACC opponent N.C. State (Sept. 13) as well as a road game at perennial Big Ten power Wisconsin (Sept. 27). USF will welcome UConn (Fri., Sept. 19), East Carolina (Sat., Oct. 11), Houston (Sat., Nov. 1) and UCF (Fri., Nov. 28) to Raymond James in American Athletic Conference action.
Purchase season tickets by calling 1-800-GoBulls, online HERE or in person at the Ticket Sales and Service Center in the Sun Dome administrative offices (Gate B).