USF Football: Heavy the horns that wear the crown
By Chris Torello , Spectrum Sports USF Reporter
USF Football has never faced these types of expectations going into a season.
USF picked to win American Athletic Conference
Bulls enter 2017 ranked in pre-season Top 25
USF opens season Aug. 26 at San Jose State
Sure, there was that time in 2007 when the Bulls were 2nd in the nation but fizzled quickly under the brightest of lights.
After going 11-2 in 2016, the most wins in a single season in program history, the Bulls know that 2017 is expected to rewrite the history they just made last season.
"Great job on making history, now go make it again," laughed head coach Charlie Strong, who is entering his first season at USF. "When you think about just where everyone has said what we can do, it still comes back to us working and taking care of business each week and buying in every single day. I tell these guys all the time 'Win The Day'."
Strong takes over perhaps his most talented offense as a head coach.
USF was the top scoring offense in the American Athletic Conference in 2016 putting up nearly 44 points per game. The Bulls have moved on from the fast-paced Gulf Coast Offense and are focused on their 2017 offense being even faster by snapping the ball every 12-15 seconds.
"We want to get the ball, move it, get it to the middle official, get set, get the signal and keep rolling," said senior quarterback Quinton Flowers, who is a legitimate 2017 Hesiman Trophy candidate.
While a great offense can win plenty of games, it's the defense that can catapult a team to becoming champions - something this program is trying to do after being picked to win the AAC.
But in 2016 USF was last in the AAC in total defense and ranked 119th (out of 128) among all FBS defenses.
"We were the weak link last year, no doubt," said senior linebacker, and Northeast Alum, Auggie Sanchez. "We got guys who are ticked off about that and I'm glad they are because we need to step up and prove a lot this season."
"We need to improve our defense, there is no question we can and will," said Strong, who became a renowned defensive coordinator under Urban Meyer at Florida. "We have plenty of talented guys on that side of the ball and now they just need to work as one unit and believe and hold each other accountable."
Accountabilty will be a big word for USF this season. The goal, and the expected result, is 12-0 with a conference title and shouting at the College Football Playoff committee for a shot at a New Year's Six bowl game. But the Bulls know that they will be a lot of team's biggest game, being a preseason Top 25 team.
"The targert is on our backs, no question," said Flowers. "We just need to stay focused, me and the leaders will get everyone on the same page and we will go to work."
"Not long ago USF Football was 2-10 and not many people around here liked or cared about us," said Sanchez. "Do you remember when we lost to McNeese State (53-21, 2013 Season Opener) and we took them lightly. Right now we are making some noise. We take San Jose State lightly (on August 26th) and we lose, then we are back to square one and people are back to hating us and not caring how we do."
Heavy the horns that wear the crown.