For the second straight season opener, BYU’s opponent will have the element of surprise on its side when the Cougars face South Florida Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.
That might be a bit surprising to some, considering the Cougars and Bulls will be squaring off for the third time in four years. South Florida defeated BYU 27-23 in 2019 in Tampa, while BYU got the best of the Bulls 35-27 last year in Provo.
But just as Arizona was introducing new coordinators last year when the Cougars eked past the Wildcats 24-16 in Las Vegas in early September, South Florida will also have new guys calling the offensive and defensive plays. Bob Shoop, a 33-year coaching veteran who has been at Mississippi State, Tennessee and Penn State, among other Power Five programs, is USF’s new defensive coordinator and Travis Trickett, who has been at West Virginia the past three seasons, is the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Head coach Jeff Scott took over in 2020 and is 3-18 through two seasons.
“There are a lot of unknowns still; we don’t know a lot about what they do on offense, what they do on defense, with the new coordinators they have,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said Monday. “We will have to be ready for everything, and we are prepping that way. Sometimes in season openers, like last year versus Arizona, we didn’t know a whole lot going into that game.”
And it showed, BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said Tuesday.
“Yeah, a similar situation (to last year),” Roderick said. “We expected to play better in that game, frankly. And (Arizona) did a good job doing some things we weren’t ready for. … It is not easy when you don’t know exactly what they are going to run, and you don’t know a lot about their players.”
South Florida has more than a dozen new players from the transfer portal, and most of them played for Power Five programs last year.
“There are a lot of unknowns still; we don’t know a lot about what they do on offense, what they do on defense, with the new coordinators they have, We will have to be ready for everything, and we are prepping that way.” — BYU football coach Kalani Sitake
“They have a whole bunch of new players on defense,” Roderick said. “It is a little bit hard to prepare for, but we will be ready.”
The Bulls’ most significant transfer is on offense. Former Baylor quarterback Gerry Bohanon, who guided the Bears to a 38-24 win over BYU last year in Waco, Texas, has landed at USF and beat out Timmy McClain for the starting job last spring.
BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki said knowing Bohanon’s skillset is helpful, but he would rather know the schemes he will run more.
“It is really difficult because the schemes are different. What they asked him to do in Baylor’s scheme is a little bit different than what we think they will ask him to do in this scheme,” Tuiaki said. “So we have got to be ready to perform.”
Sitake said what he remembers most from Bohanon’s performance last year in Waco was his poise.
“He’s been in tough situations, and helped his team win the Big 12 championship,” Sitake said. “And he has experience against our defense. So it is not like he is a guy who is brand new to the game.
“His poise is the thing I was really impressed with the first time we played them. I saw, and I continue to see him do that in every game he played in. … We just have to make sure that he doesn’t have as much success against us as last time we saw him.”
USF’s Scott said Bohanon has been everything he and his staff thought he would be.
“I definitely would say this year is the first year since I have been here that I really felt like we had a veteran guy that has been through some big battles and also been successful on some big stages,” Scott said in his Tuesday news conference. “Is he going to be perfect? No, there’s not many of those guys out there. But can he play to the standard we need him to for us to be able to win? I believe he can do that.”
Bohanon’s counterpart isn’t bad, either. BYU quarterback Jaren Hall played against USF three years ago in Tampa and left the game with a concussion, which has been well-documented. He didn’t play last year due to injury.
He said the Cougars have watched film of defenses from Shoop’s previous stops, just as they did last year when they prepared to face new Arizona DC Don Brown, AKA “Dr. Blitz.”
“We didn’t get what we thought last year, and that could be the case this year,” Hall said. “Being able to have the mental fortitude to see what is going to happen, accept it if it is different, make some adjustments at halftime and go play ball (is important). At the end of the day you gotta execute your basic plays better than they do.”