Alex Golesh has never been a head coach, but South Florida isn’t worried about the first-time head coach’s lack of experience. Golesh, just 38 years old, has led some of the nation’s most explosive offenses.
Golesh served as offensive coordinator for UCF in 2020 and Tennessee in 2021 and 2022. The two programs were dynamic offensively, lighting up scoreboards with a dazzling array of speed and precision.
Can he bring that to a program in desperate need of improvement?
USF Falls Behind
Within the last two decades, USF was one of the best Group of Five programs in the country. Just a few years ago, the Bulls often went toe-to-toe with rival UCF.
UCF then took a monumental leap forward, playing exceptional football under Scott Frost and becoming a well-known program. The Knights accepted a bid to the Big 12 where they’ll go this summer, joining AAC teams Cincinnati and Houston. South Florida remains in the AAC, where the program is slowly drifting toward complete irrelevance among Florida football programs.
South Florida has won just eight games over the last four seasons. Last season, the program went 1-11 and failed to beat any of the FBS teams on its schedule. The Bulls weren’t just bad, they were overmatched by AAC peers for the third consecutive season.
Golesh’s job is to fix that, and his hire makes a ton of sense. What better way to engage prospective recruits than with a high-powered offense?
He’ll need to recruit at a high level to sustain success, and he’ll also need to engage a fanbase that hasn’t seen the team play well in any of the last few seasons. South Florida competes in an area with quality professional sports teams, so the Bulls need to become a winning program to draw local attention their way.
Can The Defense Improve
It’ll take time for Golesh to make South Florida a contender in the AAC, even with a few strong programs departing the conference. South Florida plays at Western Kentucky to open the season, and the Bulls also host Alabama. Those two non-conference games won’t be easy, and a matchup with UConn could be surprisingly tough.
The Bulls are going to need significant improvements to reach a bowl game in 2023, and the expectation is that South Florida falls short of a bowl in 2023. That could leave Golesh trying to lead the program to bowl games in 2024 and beyond.
Fortunately for Golesh, he’s inheriting a program where just about any success will be an improvement from recent seasons. He isn’t expected to have the nation’s top offense in 2023 and win 10 games. Golesh will receive a few years worth of leeway to improve the program.
Keep a close eye on South Florida’s defense. Golesh has an offensive background, but he brought in experienced defensive coach Todd Orlando as defensive coordinator. Orlando is tasked with a massive overhaul, as South Florida ranked 130th out of 131 teams last season in scoring defense, allowing more than 40 points per game.
“Defensively, we’re going to be the most aggressive group in the country,” Golesh said after the hire. “Todd is one of the best defensive coordinators in the country. I’ve coached against and schemed against his defenses, and I am beyond excited that I don’t have to anymore. He’ll be aggressive, he’ll be intense, and we’re going to have a blast on defense.”
South Florida can’t just become a flashy offense if Golesh wants to succeed. The Bulls need to play way better defense to become a quality team.
Bennett Conlin is a college football contributor for HERO Sports, and he works full-time covering sports betting industry news and legislation for Sports Handle and US Bets.