Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 19, 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 34 of 55 SEPT. 19, 2020 35 SOUTH FLORIDA RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE Gone for South Florida from last season is tail- back Jordan Cronkite, who led the Bulls with 687 rushing yards and tied for the team lead with four rushing touchdowns. Sophomore Kelley Joiner Jr. will step into the lead role this season, after playing in 11 games and starting the final two in 2019. He finished second on the team in rushing with 364 yards on 71 car- ries, and also hauled in nine catches for 108 yards. In just three games as a prep senior, the 5-9, 179-pound Joiner rushed for 1,006 yards — an average of 335.3 per game, a pace that would've set a new Florida high school single-season record — and 17 touchdowns before suffering a broken leg that ended his season prematurely. Redshirt sophomore Johnny Ford — a speedy and shifty 5-5, 172-pounder who burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2018 with 787 rushing yards and an average of 6.8 yards per carry — has returned to the backfield after starting three games at slot receiver before redshirting last fall. That duo will look to give this Bulls offense a much-needed boost after it finished 115th in the country in scoring (20.8 points) and 112th in total offense (330.8 yards) in 2019. With a No. 60 final ranking last season in rushing defense (153.1 yards allowed per game), Notre Dame felt it underachieved in this area, though its ground control showed steady improvement after a tough start through the first three games. Continued development of a Buck linebacker — junior Shayne Simon or sophomore Marist Liufau — to complement Irish senior linebackers Jere- miah Owusu-Koramoah and Drew White, who tied for the team lead last season with 80 tackles, will be an important storyline in this game and beyond. Advantage: Notre Dame SOUTH FLORIDA PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE Just four seasons ago in 2016, South Florida featured one of the most explosive offenses in the country, finishing sixth in the nation in yards per play (7.17). Last season, the Bulls slipped to 109th out of 130 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams in that category, one of the reasons why former USF head coach Charlie Strong found himself out of a job after three years on the sideline. New head coach Jeff Scott hired Charlie Weis Jr. as his offensive coordinator. Weis — the son of former Irish head coach Charlie Weis Sr. — held the same position the last two seasons at Florida Atlantic. Sophomore Jordan McCloud fended off junior Cade Fortin, a transfer from North Carolina, for the starting quarterback job. The 6-0, 193-pound Mc- Cloud played in all 12 contests a year ago, and took over as the starter in the third game of the season. Sophomore quarterback Jordan McCloud became the 2019 starter in the third game, finishing with 1,429 passing and 283 rushing yards on one of the least productive offenses in the Football Bowl Subdivision. PHOTO COURTESY SOUTH FLORIDA ATHLETICS GAME PREVIEW: SOUTH FLORIDA On PaPer

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