TAMPA — With rare exceptions, the University of South Florida Bulls have generally felt great about their quarterback during the program's 17-season history.
Chad Barnhardt was solid in the first two years. The Bulls also featured a trio of four-year starters in Marquel Blackwell, Matt Grothe and B.J. Daniels.
What do the Bulls have now?
A question mark behind center.
After an 0-3 start for the Bulls, sophomore Steven Bench, a transfer from Penn State, looks like USF's best option. Three quarterbacks have played in all — with sophomore Matt Floyd and senior Bobby Eveld each being named the starter, then getting benched after a flurry of mistakes.
Bench, who plays with swagger and has the look of a leader, committed a pair of second-half turnovers in Saturday's 28-10 loss against Florida Atlantic. It added up to another loss. Already, opposing defenses have scored five times against the Bulls.
“It doesn't matter who we've got back there, they've got to take care of the football,'' Bulls coach Willie Taggart said. “We're giving points to the other team. If we correct that, people are going to be a lot happier around here.''
During the bye week, before the No. 16-ranked Miami Hurricanes visit on Sept. 28, the Bulls are mostly working on themselves. It's clearly a team in search of a spark. Bench wants to provide that. His playing time has been limited because of his unfamiliarity with the offense after announcing his transfer to USF in May.
Bench said he feels like he has complete understanding of USF's playbook.
Taggart said he isn't that certain – yet.
“I'm sure he would say that (he knows the offense),'' Taggart said. “Any quarterback would say that. He doesn't (know it), not like we need him to. He'll learn. He did a good job coming in there.''
Taggart wants to establish stability at quarterback. There doesn't appear to be much separation — they have all made crushing mistakes — but a singular direction is needed.
“We've got to make sure we have the right guy at that position to help us win some ballgames,'' Taggart said.
Floyd was named the initial starter and team captain, but he has seven career interceptions and no touchdowns. Eveld, a former walk-on, has been hampered by a lack of mobility. Taggart said freshman Mike White isn't ready and probably would prefer to preserve his redshirt season.
Bench looks like the right guy to build around.
He had the right idea with his Twitter post on Monday.
“Through every dark night, there's a bright day after that. So no matter how hard it get, stick your chest out, keep ya head up & handle it.''
Hall of Fame class
The USF athletic department will present its fifth Hall of Fame class on Sept. 27 at the T. Pepin Hospitality Centre. For ticket information, call (813) 974-6729.
The inductees are former football quarterback Marquel Blackwell, a four-year starter who still holds most of the program's passing records; former baseball player Chris Heintz, an All-American who batted .400 with 16 home runs and 95 RBIs as a senior; and track and field athlete Dayana Octavien, who was Conference USA's athlete of the year in three straight seasons, and former men's basketball coach Bobby Paschal, who led the program's first two NCAA Tournament teams.
With the addition of this year's class, the USF Athletics Hall of Fame will feature 16 athletes, four coaches, two administrators and one team.
There are 16 winless teams remaining in the 123-team Football Bowl Subdivision. Twenty-five percent of them — USF, Connecticut, Memphis and Temple — are from the American Athletic Conference. …Women's soccer goalkeeper Christiane Endler, who had nine saves in Sunday's 1-1 home draw against the No. 9-ranked Florida Gators, was named to the weekly AAC honor roll. The Bulls (4-1-3) host South Alabama on Friday night. …Volleyball senior middle blocker Andrea Rodriguez Gomez was named to the weekly AAC honor roll after she registered 28 kills and 22 blocks in the USF Invitational. The Bulls (5-6) travel to the Wildcat Invitational in Chicago this weekend.