Dan Mullen’s Florida football squad takes to the road to face off against South Florida on Saturday afternoon in Tampa, Fla.
Inside the Gators has the very latest on the match-up in this Game Week Breakdown. Allen Barney breaks down the Bulls with his answers to five burning questions as well as previewing five USF players Gator fans should keep an eye on this weekend.
Five USF Bulls players to keep an eye on
1) Darrian Felix, Runningback, Senior (Oregon Transfer)
- The Skinny: Felix transferred in from Oregon after three seasons buried on the depth chart. During his time in Eugene, Felix rushed for 426 yards and 3 touchdowns. Bulls’ insiders say Felix is a do-it-all type of back that resembles what Gator fans see in Malik Davis. Felix is looking to make a name for himself and prove he made the right decision in front of a national tv audience.
2) Demetris Harris, Offensive Guard, Senior
- The Skinny: Harris has made 29 starts in his Bulls career and is the anchor of the offensive line. Reports say that Harris is the leader of the line, and the coaching staff holds high expectations for him. With young quarterbacks playing under center, Harris needs to be a calming force and show his teammates that this game will not be a walk in the park for the Gators. His hands will be full as he tries to hold off pass rushers such as Zach Carter, Gervon Dexter, and Khris Bogle.
3) Daquan Evans, Defensive Back, Junior
- The Skinny: Evans burst on to the scene in 2020 and led the Bulls with three interceptions after little action as a freshman in 2019. Evans has superb ball skills and finished with 138 interception return yards in 2020, which was 27 shy of the single-season school record. If Emory Jones or Anthony Richardson miss their mark, there is a strong possibility Evans can make them pay for it. Evans will be leading a young secondary that is down two starters due to injury.
4) Cade Fortin, Quarterback, Sophomore
- The Skinny: Fortin won the starting job in preseason camp and had the makings of becoming a young star for the Bulls. Fortin was quickly brought down to earth in the season opener at NC State and was pulled after five series for freshman backup Timmy McClain. Fortin would come back into the game in the second half but continued to struggle as the Bulls were shut out. Head Jeff Scott has said that Fortin and McClain will both play against the Gators but if the Bulls have any shot to pull an upset, Fortin will have to step up and play an outstanding game.
5) Antonio Grier, Linebacker, Senior
- The Skinny: Grier led the Bulls with 59 tackles in 2020 and earned second-team All-AAC honors as the heart of their defense. After the embarrassing blowout against NC State, Grier must be carrying a chip on his shoulder to show the world that last week was not the true version of the 2021 Bulls defense. According to reports, Grier is viewed as a leader of the defense and will attempt to hold that side of the ball to a higher standard and surprise the Gators. Expect Grier to be in the middle of everything on Saturday.
Five Fast Facts
- The Bulls have a couple of recognizable names on their coaching staff. Charlie Weis Jr., the son of former Florida offensive coordinator Charie Weis, is the USF offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Ernie Sims, an All-American linebacker in the early 2000s at Florida State and 9th overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft is the Bulls linebackers coach.
- The only previous meeting between the Gators and Bulls was in 2010 with the Gators winning by a score of 38-14. The starting quarterback for the Gators in that game was John Brantley II.
- The Bulls have a 22-2 record in home openers with their only losses coming against a ranked Wisconsin team in 2019 and McNeese State in 2013. They have a record of 11-30 against ranked opponents and are 7-15 at home in such matchups.
- The 2021 season is the 25th season of USF Bulls football and they still hold the record for being the quickest team to ever go from program inception to a top 10 ranking. They reached an AP roll ranking of #6 in 2007, just 11 years after their first game in 1997.
- Jeff Scott is in his second year as the head man for the Bulls. He has never faced the Gators as a head coach but his father, Brad Scott, who is Chief of Staff for USF football, went 0-5 against Florida in the 90s as head coach of South Carolina, losing by an average of 31.4 points per game.
Five Game Day Storylines
Will the jitters that Emory Jones encountered against FAU come back for the second week in a row?
- In this column last week, I made the statement that the night game against FAU would be a perfect way for Jones to start his career as QB1 for the Gators. Maybe it was too perfect of a scenario? After an interception in the end zone on the third drive, Jones’ confidence appeared to be shaken and he never regained his rhythm. There is a good possibility that after sitting for three years that Jones encountered some nervousness or anxiety and he let it get to him. I expect to see a different, fierier Jones come out this week against the Bulls.
What is the mindset of USF after losing 45-0 in Week 1 and now playing host a ranked team?
- Like any other team, USF came out with big expectations for the 2021 season. Not many people expected them to take a thrashing like they did. It will be interesting to see if the team uses the loss as fuel to pull off an upset of a top 15 team or will they let it carry over and help to put them in an 0-2 hole. The odds are stacked against USF, but they can put the rest of college football on notice if they give the Gators a good battle that lasts four quarters.
How will the USF defense stop the Gators run game?
- The Gators rushed for 400 yards against FAU, which is a school record for a season-opening game. They can hurt you in multiple ways with the run game. Malik Davis, Anthony Richardson, and Emory Jones bring speed and elusiveness while Dameon Pierce brings the power. The Bulls' defense will have their work cut out for them and will need to consistently rotate in lineman to keep up with the fast-paced Gator offense. Will their defense begin to wear down in the 2nd half if the Gators are moving the chains on the ground?
Can USF take advantage of a young Florida secondary?
- For many of the Gators defensive backs, this will be there first road game of their college careers facing at least somewhat of a hostile crowd – assuming Florida fans haven’t bought up most of the tickets – during the hottest part of the day in Florida. Not to say the Gators are not used to the heat but will the younger players in the secondary start making mental mistakes as they wear down from the heat? Cade Fortin has weapons and a solid line to block for him with Todd Grantham’s defense playing zone coverage most of the time. Can Fortin take advantage and hit the quick underneath routes that many teams had success with last season against Florida?
With 87 players from Florida on the USF roster, will they play with a chip on their shoulder?
- This was a topic I covered in this column last week with FAU having 83 players from the state of Florida on their roster. Many of these players either played with or against most of the Gators’ roster. This will be an aspect to keep an eye on because some of the USF players can use it to their advantage since they know the strengths and weaknesses of the Gators on the roster from the state of Florida. It did not seem to work for FAU, but upsets happen all the time in college football.
- My final score prediction: Florida wins by a score of 45-13.