As the Bulls approach their third season under Jeff Scott, a lot of things hope to be changed from last season to sustain a better record. The keys to success for the 2022 USF Bulls are pretty simple to identify. To fix them may be another story. Even with a new offensive coordinator and a couple of transfers on both sides of the ball, there are still a bunch of things the team will have to correct and perfect to show everyone that progress has been made.
Improving the Pass Game
During the 2021-2022 season, the Bulls had trouble establishing a passing game against most opponents. With the passing game lacking a bit last year, the run game had to be excellent to win most games. The run game was just shy of excellent in most games, but in two of them, the run game shined.
The Bulls’ first win came against Florida A&M in which they ran the ball 46 times for 269 yards, averaging about 5.3 yards per carry. That Bulls’ second win was also the final game of the season against Temple. USF ran the ball 73 times for 454 yards averaging just under six yards per carry. With all this being said, when the run game played really well, USF came out with a win.
But the run game couldn’t play up to that level every week which is one of the reasons the Bulls ended 2-10 last year. If USF can improve the passing game by even just a tiny amount there will be a lot more wins this upcoming season than two. Considering Gerry Bohanon is coming from a good Baylor team should mean the pass games’ future is bright.
Getting Pressure On The QB
After the 2021 season, it was pretty apparent that the Bulls had to work on getting pressure on the QB. USF ended the season with nine sacks for 53 yards, while they gave up 24 sacks for 182 yards. With some new transfer players at the linebacker and defensive line positions, the Bulls should be much better in that aspect of the game.
Guys like Rashad Cheney (DL, Minnesota), Derrell Bailey Jr. (IOL Virginia Tech), and James Gordon IV (LB, Minnesota) will all be new faces on the line. These guys are coming from big-name universities and have had experience against some of the best which should help them have success in the AAC. The speed and physical presence these guys bring will help make sure some of the faster QBs in the AAC don’t have as much time.
Protecting The QB
Last year the offensive line was a bit rough allowing 24 sacks for 182 yards. Thankful for the Bulls, Timmy McClain who started most games, was a pretty mobile guy. Regardless, forcing Timmy out of the pocket was the key to winning a lot of games. Shortening his time to throw and letting big lineman get in his face to create disruptions hurt the passing game.
With the return of Donovan Jennings, the Bulls can at least say they have some veteran leadership returning which will help some of the younger guys. Expect to see some new faces on the line as well. Mike Lofton and Zach Perkins two big transfers from big schools should increase the experience level for USF.
As the Bulls get closer to the first snap on September 3rd, improving the O-line will be one thing to keep an eye on. If the offensive line can create holes for the backs and stay strong against big lineman from bigger teams like BYU and Florida, the offense will be a lot more effective.
Third Down Efficiency
In previous years just like last year, the Bulls heavily struggled on third down. Despite playing some good talent on the defensive side there is a ginormous amount of room to grow. Moreover, the offensive you would assume is going to be a lot better with Xavier Weaver returning as well as a lot of other good talents.
The Bulls in 2020 went 38-124 on third down which correlates to a 30.64% conversion rate. The 2021 USF squad improved a little bit by going 58-169 which correlates to a 34.32% conversion rate, but regardless both of these seasons’ USF ended in the bottom 30 of teams on 3rd down. Of course, no team wants to be in third down situations, but if the Bulls can tighten up on third down there could be a huge jump on the scoreboard.
If the Bulls can pick and choose their plays better this year as well as execute earlier on downs, then 3rd down situations will be limited. Even though the Bulls are no shy to 4th down scenarios considering they went 16-30 in 2021 which corresponds to a 53.33% conversion rate it would be better to not force the team into those situations. Travis Trickett will also be a boost for the team because he wants to add the new scheme of letting the best players play in space more.
Special Team Plays
Special teams played a big factor for the Bulls last year. Brian Battie especially was a huge player in this category because he had three-run backs with two of them coming in the same game. Punting the ball was an area of improvement for the Bulls which could lead to worse starting field position for teams playing USF. The Bulls punted the ball 56 times for 2183 yards and averaged 38.98 yards per punt.
No team wants to be punting the ball, but if there’s an opportunity to trap the opposing team deep in their own endzone then that’d force them to travel farther down the field. Special teams should be an area of impact if the Bulls can be a little bit better.
The Up Hill Climb
The uphill climb to a winning record will be hard for the Bulls because of their difficult schedule. With adjustments and improvements in these areas of the game, this team could emerge as someone to beat in not just the AAC. Despite the struggles in the past couple of seasons the Bulls are promising with these fixes.