USF Offense Going Even Faster Under Gilbert
By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA, MARCH 17, 2017 – USF’s “Gulf Coast Offense” zoomed past previous program records in 2016 and the Bulls are jumping into an even faster lane this spring.
Head coach Charlie Strong has handed the keys over to new coordinator Sterlin Gilbert, who is already putting his stamp on the Bulls’ evolving up-tempo attack.
“It’s very different,” quarterback Quinton Flowers said. “Everything goes very fast and you only get a signal one time, so you have to see it.”
Flowers (Miami) is one of seven returning starters from last year’s offense that set new school records with 6,650 total yards, 3,714 rushing yards and 77 touchdowns, along with several other new milestones. Heading into his second full season as the starter, Flowers seems to be grasping Gilbert’s new system that’s already producing explosive plays.
Last Friday, The American’s 2016 offensive player of the year connected with receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling – one of 23 returning lettermen on offense - for a 45-yard scoring strike in the second half of practice. Sophomore receiver Darnell Salomon (Miami) also found the end zone from 70 yards out.
“I see I can do a lot of things in this offense, a lot of passing,” said Flowers, the state of Florida’s first collegiate player to throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 more in a single season.
Flowers and Co. have been happy to learn from a coordinator whose past four offenses averaged 505.3 yards and 36.8 points per game at Texas (2016), Tulsa (2015), Bowling Green (2014) and Eastern Illinois (2012-13). Gilbert’s Texas offense ranked 17th nationally and second in the Big 12 with 239.3 yards on the ground per game in 2016.
"It's about progressing and being faster as we go through spring ball, and even into fall camp," Gilbert said. "... We've got to be faster. It's just a matter of a process and understanding it."
Gilbert has been impressed with the USF offense’s ability to adapt quickly this spring while giving maximum effort in practice.
“We’re just trying to schematically get everything put in and try to find and find our personnel that’s best and gives us an opportunity to win every Saturday,” he said.
Early Spring Observations
Focused on fundamentals, USF kept things simple through the first three spring practices last week, but some of Gilbert’s imprints are already apparent.
One notable observation so far is in the running game, where Gilbert is utilizing USF’s bruising backs in a more traditional sense. Last year at Texas, Gilbert helped D’Onta Foreman become just the 28th player in FBS history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season.
“We run a lot more power than outside zone and stuff like that, said senior D’Ernest Johnson, who has rushed for 1,000 yards as a Bull.
Johnson (Immokalee, Fla.) is leading a running back quartet that has the ability to punish opponents in multiple ways. Johnson, senior Darius Tice (Miami), sophomore Trevon Sands (Miami) and impressive redshirt freshman Elijah Mack (Punta Gorda, Fla.) are all at least 200 pounds with plenty of mobility.
“It’s a lot more power,” said Tice of the changes to the running game. “Sometimes those holes are huge out there.”
Another difference from last season is the way USF is working through the air. Flowers, who had a hand in 68 percent of the Bulls’ 90 explosive plays in 2016, has been throwing downfield even more, along with returning quarterbacks Brett Kean (Lakewood, Ohio) and Chris Oladokun (Tampa).
USF returns to practice 8 a.m. Tuesday morning at the Morsani Complex.
Offensively, Gilbert said “steady progression” will be important in preparation for the spring game on Saturday, April 15. The game returns to Corbett Stadium on campus for the fourth time.
“We still have a lot of football left, a lot of practices left,” he said. “We just want those guys to get better every day, be focused on what they’re doing and trying to be great in the process.”
USF finished the 2016 season ranked No. 19 in the Associated Press poll with a school record 11 wins following the program’s fifth-ever bowl victory in the Birmingham Bowl. The Bulls’ 11-2 record marked the fifth-best winning percentage in FBS football in 2016 and one of just 11 teams to reach 11 wins. USF set nearly 40 team and individual records in 2016, including team records for total yards (6,650), rushing yards (3,714), touchdowns (77) and scoring (569). Junior quarterback Quinton Flowers was named the American Conference Offensive Player of the Year and led a school-record 10 players named to the all-conference team, six of which, including Flowers, will return in 2017.
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