What Next For USF At Quarterback?

USF Bulls have an open competition to replace Quinton Flowers

USF fans were spoiled watching Quinton Flowers repeatedly take over games with his right arm and feet in leading the Bulls to 23 wins the last two seasons.

When Flowers walked off the field for the final time following last year’s Birmingham Bowl victory over Texas Tech he did so as the owner or co-owner of 37 school records, including career marks for touchdown passes (71), rushing touchdowns (41), total offense (11,802) and rushing yards (3,672).

What Flowers left behind was rather sparse in terms of game experience. Redshirt junior Brett Kean and redshirt sophomore Chris Oladokun enter this season having combined for 195 career total yards. In late April they were joined by graduate transfer Blake Barnett, who arrived from Arizona State where he served as a backup last year. The California native, who has two seasons of eligibility, is with his third program. He started his career at Alabama where as a redshirt freshman in 2016 he opened the season as the starting quarterback.

The three quarterbacks have been battling it out since the start of fall camp on August 3 and coach Charlie Strong has yet to anoint a starter for the September 1 opener against visiting Elon. Each player was made available to the media for the first time following Saturday’s scrimmage in which, according to a USF sports information report, Barnett led three scoring drives.

“I think I have been picking it up pretty quick,” said Barnett of his understanding of the offense. “Everybody has had a fair shot and everybody has had equal reps. We are trying to apply ourselves and do the best we can to make this team productive.”

Barnett, who along with wife and professional surfer Maddie Peterson welcomed son Brooks into the world in March, said he is grateful for yet another chance.

“Coach Strong has been awesome,” said 22-year-old, who threw for 259 yards and two touchdowns during his time with the Crimson Tide and Sun Devils. “He presented me with an opportunity to compete and that’s all I can ask for. I want to help provide for this team the best that I can.”

It looked like the competition to be under center against Elon and perhaps the remaining three games in September was going to be between Barnett and Oladokun. That’s because Kean was reported by The Daily Stampede to be facing a four-game suspension for academic reasons. The NCAA cleared him earlier this month and he will not miss any time.

“That was huge for me,” he said of not having to sit out any games. “I am excited to focus on football and I will keep working my hardest.”

Kean, who was the primary backup to Flowers the past two seasons, said there is a solid camaraderie among the quarterbacks.

“We are all good friends,” he said. “Chris and I are close and then Blake came in and we all clicked. It’s good to have a supportive (quarterback) room where you are all close and we can work together.”

Oladokun, a Tampa native and product of Sickles High School, knew the opportunity to compete to be No. 1 was in front of him. That is why he entered fall camp with the mindset of making each day better than the one before.

“My personal opinion is I feel like I can do a lot,” he said when asked what he could bring to the table should he be tabbed as the starter. “But I want to get better every single day whether it is throwing the ball or running the ball. That’s my goal this camp.”

Being the starting quarterback of the hometown Bulls has long been a goal. Not that he dwells on it.

“It would mean a lot, growing up here,” he said. “That has always been my dream, but you can’t get caught up in that. So, I try to stay grounded, stay focused and get better every day.”

That is what each of the quarterbacks has been trying to do and they will very soon learn who leads the offense against Elon.

Tom Layberger has been a sports writer and editor since 1990. Among the companies he has worked for are Beckett Publishing, The Topps Company and Comcast. In addition to being a contributing writer for sportstalkflorida.com, Tom also writes for forbes.com and Tampa Bay Business & Wealth Magazine. A native of the Philadelphia suburbs and a University of South Florida grad, Tom is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation. He resides in Tampa.