3 Players To Watch As USF Takes On San Jose State

Get pumped sports fans; college football is back! The No. 19 USF Bulls will get an early start with new head coach Charlie Strong as they take on San Jose State tonight at 7:30 p.m.

This is a highly anticipated season for USF, who is coming off a record 11-2 season and under the guidance of a new coach. In fact, the Bulls are not only receiving Heisman attention for their dual-threat quarterback, but also talk of an undefeated season.

A lot of changes have been made during the offseason for the Bulls, a new coaching staff and the loss of two offensive stars to the NFL, and tonight will showcase a whole new ‘Bay Made’ team. There are three players to keep an eye out for in the season opener.

D’Ernest Johnson

Last year senior running back D’Ernest Johnson earned the name ‘The Junkyard Dog’ after doing a little bit of everything for the Bulls. The American Athletic Conference Second-Team selection holds the USF career receiving yards record for a running back with 756 yards (2016) and is tied for second on USF’s career receptions chart for a running back with 62.

Now with Marlon Mack gone, Johnson will step into the leading role and easily take over the starting job in the running back position. Tonight’s game at SJSU will showcase just that.

Running back D’Ernest Johnson. Photo: USF Athletics

“I’m definitely excited to showcase my talent, not just in the pass game, but in the run game,” said Johnson after a spring practice when asked about being the lead back.

Watch for The Deuce (Johnson, who wears the No. 2 jersey) to break loose on the ground, but also on special teams. He will once again be put in as the punt and kick returner.

Deatrick Nichols

We’ve been talking about it all summer: defense. How will the defense look? Has the defense improved? What changes have been made on defense?

Here’s one. Corner back Deatrick Nichols has moved to nickel back. The two-time all-conference senior has eight career interceptions and has had a spectacular fall camp.

With his move to the inside, junior Mazzi Wilkins will line up opposite Ronnie Hoggins at cornerback. Other starters include DE Greg Reaves, DT Deadrin Senta, DT Bruce Hector and DE Mike Love.

All through spring practices and fall camp head coach Charlie Strong and defensive coordinator Brian Jean-Mary have been focusing on the fundamentals and building blocks.

While Nichols is sure to have a big game and is going to be an exciting player to watch, the whole defense will be worthy of watching too. Look for more tackles and fewer penalties against SJSU.

Quinton Flowers

Is it even a ‘players to watch’ list if senior quarterback Quinton Flowers isn’t included? The Miami native has already broken the school record by being named to five national award watch lists during this offseason.

And that’s not the first record he’s broke. 2016 was a record year for the dual-threat quarterback and this year he might be even scarier for opposing team’s defenses. Last year he threw for 2,800 yards, 24 touchdowns and rushed for 1,609 yards and 18 touchdowns.

With offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert’s new veer-and-shoot offense there’s a high possibility that Flowers and the offense will be even more dangerous than they were last year.

Quarterback Quinton Flowers. Photo: USF Athletics

However, don’t be surprised if USF doesn’t release its full potential against SJSU. There’s a good chance the Bulls will run the ball over and over and over and have plenty of success with doing just that against SJSU.

Still, Flowers will be a player to watch as he navigates a new offense under a new OC with a lot of expectations.

Catch The Game:

USF opens the 2017-18 season on the road at San Jose State.

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.

TV: CBS Sports Network

Radio: 820 A.M.


Allison Leslie is a University of South Florida graduate with a bachelors degree in Mass Communications. She joined Genesis in 2016. With a passion for sports, Allison has interned with 620 WDAE, Pewter Report, Trifecta Team: St. Petersburg Bowl, Bullscast, and many other publications. Being a native to the Bay Area, she has followed and supported Tampa Bay teams her whole life.