Former UF quarterback named offensive coordinator at USF


TAMPA — Former Florida quarterback Kerwin Bell was named USF’s new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, the school announced Thursday night on its website.

Bell led Valdosta State (Ga.) to a 14-0 record and Division II national title this past season. He replaces Sterlin Gilbert, who was named coach at I-AA McNeese State in December.

“I have known Kerwin for more than 30 years and have a great deal of respect for what he has done in his career both as a player and coach and the success of the football programs he has led,” Bulls coach Charlie Strong said.

“He has directed some very explosive, high-scoring offenses and consistently puts his players in position to reach their highest potential. We are very excited to have Kerwin joining our staff.”

In three seasons at Valdosta, Bell compiled a 27-7 record. His 2018 Blazers squad finished fourth among Division II teams in total offense (523.9 ypg) and led the nation in yards per play (7.89). The Blazers were 28th in passing offense (261.3 ypg) but first in yards per completion (15.2) and touchdown passes (50).

Before arriving in south Georgia, Bell compiled a 66-35 record in nine seasons at Jacksonville, a non-scholarship program. His contract wasn’t renewed following the 2015 season after a philosophical dispute with administrators regarding the program’s future.

He began his coaching career as an offensive coordinator with the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts in 2000, then started the program at Ocala Trinity Catholic in 2001. Four seasons later, the Celtics were Class 2B state champions.

A graduate of Lafayette County High in Mayo, Bell, a walk-on, was thrust into UF’s starting role days before the 1984 season opener when Dale Dorminey suffered a knee injury, and led the Gators to consecutive 9-1-1 seasons.

Bell was named SEC Player of the Year in 1984, when the Gators won the conference title on the field but later were forced to vacate it due to NCAA violations uncovered during the Charley Pell era. In four seasons, Bell threw for more than 7,500 yards and 56 touchdowns, leading UF to a pair of wins against Georgia and three against FSU.

He followed that with a journeyman pro career that included five passes (all completions) in the NFL and nearly 20,000 passing yards in nine CFL seasons.

The Tampa Bay Times contributed to this report.


  1. Congrats Coach Bell! Every game U.S.F. will play (with one exception, Florida) I will be rooting for U.S.F.!
    And before the Coach Dan Mullen hire, I was actually hoping the big dogs at UF would choose to hire Charlie Strong as H.C. (and some D.C. duties), and Kerwin Bell for O.C. But everything seems to have worked itself out, and now I’m a big time U.S.F. fan! When they aren’t playing Florida Football, that is. Congrats again Coach Bell and Coach Strong! I hope y’all tear it up down there in the real ”T-town!”

    • Had we hired a fired Charlie Strong I think the UF brand would have suffered. Strong never broke .500 at UT, and UT gets recruits.
      I also remember the swindle in the swamp, when we had the semenholes 4th and 14 and game, Strong rushed three, and of course the holes converted and won. On the winning TD pass after that, Strong again rushed 3 and Rix completed the 52 yrd RD pass.

      • You’re correct on the history 6. I was more focused on the present and near-term future. USF just wrapped up a 7-6 season with 6 straight losses. UCF was 13-1 and gave LSU a real good game in their lone loss, despite missing their star QB lost to injury in the USF game.

        Coach Strong had to make a move to shake things up at USF and bring them up to UCF’s level of winning. I’m glad he considered coach Bell worthy of being at the center of that move.

    • Hey StLouie, how has Strong taken a big step toward making USF as good as UCF? From 10-2 to 7-6 isn’t trending in the correct trajectory for that. During that same time span, UCF has one loss, none during the regular season.

      • Part of USF rising to UCF’s level of excellence will involve developing a consistently high powered offense. That has been Kerwin Bell’s specialty his entire coaching career. The rest involves recruiting well and developing a respectable defense. Those are Charlie Strong’s strengths.

        Coach Strong inherited a challenging situation at USF last year. It will take him a little time, but I believe he will build USF back up to being competitive with UCF again.

        • I respect your opinion, but in my opinion, Strong has no proof he will get USF anywhere. I love the Throwin Mayoan coaching, and would love to see him at UF, but Strong failed miserably in three years where they have the highest budget in college football and great recruiting. Think about it, he never cracked .500 at Texas.

          • Yes, but other forces in play at Texas, not as square bidness as everybody thinks. Still, this shapes up to be a show down for AAC dominance within a couple of years, don’t you think?

          • You’re right gelco30. My prediction is based solely on my own analysis of Strong’s coaching ability, for now.

            I agree with 6 that he wasn’t dealt a fair hand at Texas. That that had as much to do with his relationships with high school coaches there as it did with UT boosters who were against their hiring him in the first place. Regardless, Strong is more at home recruiting in Florida than he ever was in Texas.

            USF’s offense is not bad. The key to Strong’s success there will be in developing a fast, aggressive defense to counter the UCF offense. That was something Taggart failed at miserably before moving on to Oregon. Given his background, Strong should succeed at that, and being able to now turn the offense over to someone he can trust will free him up to pay more attention to his defense.

          • @6 Sure, but right now it’s solidly UCF and Memphis. Dominance tends to be cyclic, so a USF rise is possible. HOWEVER, my wife is a UCF grad and I hope not, I don’t care one whit about USF. Hope UCF crushes them every year. I do think it’s ironic Strong is at the second school that uses the sign of the horns. Gelco is flashing a horns down sign.

  2. This is GREAT news! I have always loved “The Throwin’ Mayoan” and have long followed his career and hoped for his return to Gainesville someday. I do NOT understand the reluctance of UF’s athletic program (or UFAA) to involve past heroes in SOME capacity. James Bates also comes to mind…

    It seems there is some animosity somewhere towards some of our past heroes. I mean The Sun can’t even mention his name in the headline???

    • Not mentioning the name in the headline is called click bait nowadays. It makes the reader click on the article just to see more info. That helps when they are charging for advertising. I completely agree that UF missed out on not getting Kerwin on the football staff. I believe he will ascend quickly to a D1 head coaching job now.

    • Tom: I guess the graphic to the left of the article didn’t help? Or the summary paragraph underneath the headline either? We’ll work harder. And there is no animosity toward anyone on our end. Thanks for reading.

    • Tom – Not sure if you’re being sarcastic or serious, but former players are constantly around the program. I saw a video the other day of Tebow talking to the team. In the background, Danny W and Louis Murphy were standing there. In the Spring, there was a video of Kevin Carter giving a motivational speech to the guys. Every home game I see former players roaming the sideline – Ahmad Black, Major Wright, and a bunch of older guys from the 90s. Tate Casey is a sideline reporter. The list goes on and on. Whatever issue you think is there…just flat out isn’t.

  3. Coach Strong and Coach Bell have a wonderful legacys at UF. We wish them the best of luck and will be rooting for their success.
    This is the first time Coach Bell has hit the big time. He is well trained by HBC

  4. Charlie strong has done well taking gators muschamp didnt want, just did it again. Bell would have saved champ imo but they had to have some guy from duke and we all lived through that (champ doubled down on that mistake in columbia as well, but i guess they solved that problem for him). look for usf to move past ucf now and bell to just keep proving every doubter wrong, again and again.

          • I will never understand that decision, unless it turns out that Taggart has pictures of the FSU AD with small farm animals in compromising positions or something, but I’m glad they made it just the same. If Bell –>Strong was destiny, God knows I’d hate to see that union at FSU.

      • Taggart will get at least 2 more years to turn FSU around. In that time, Strong will have USF back up to the top of their conference. His job will be easier than Taggart’s because he runs a more disciplined operation and the schedule USF plays is not as challenging as FSU’s. After that time, if the situation in Tally hasn’t improved dramatically, look for the FSU administration to reconsider their choice of USF coach to lead the Noles back.

        By then, CDM should have the Gators recruiting at the Alabama/Clemson level, complete with their new football complex. Even so, I’m still not looking forward to going head-to-head vs. Charlie Strong on the recruiting trail.