2007 RECORD: 9-4; BIG EAST: 4-3
Lost Sun Bowl vs. Oregon 56-21
LOCATION: Tampa, Florida
STADIUM: Raymond James Stadium (65,857)
HEAD COACH: Jim Leavitt
OVERALL: 79-47 (11 seasons)
AT SOUTH FLORIDA: 79-47 (11 seasons)
It is time for everyone to stop looking at the USF Bulls as a nice little story—they are nobody’s underdog, not anymore. They posted their second straight nine-win season and made a bowl for the third consecutive season. Oh…and they play in what is likely the most fertile state for blue chip prospects. They are clearly building towards something and this could be the year the make the jump to the head of the class in the Big East.
WHEN THE BULLS HAVE THE BALL
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Greg Gregory (2nd Season/4th at USF)
OFFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 8
KEY LOSSES: Amari Jackson, Walter Walker
The Bulls offense should be full steam ahead in 2008. Not only do they return four of five starters along the offensive line, which is always a nice place to start, their top five rushers and top four pass catchers return, as well as their leader in the huddle Matt Grothe. The junior signal caller may not be Tim Tebow, but he did run for 872 yards and throw for 2,670 yards and you can bet that Florida St. and Miami wouldn’t mind having him on their roster. That is not to say he can’t improve, Grothe needs to make better and quicker decisions, in other words, cut down on the sacks and interceptions. Sophomore Carlton Mitchell is probably the most talented receiver they have had, and Marcus Edwards, Jesse Hester Jr. and Taurus Johnson will provide additional options and experience. There is talent in the backfield as well and if they can get more consistency from talented sophomore Mike Ford to go along with solid play from former walk-on Benjamin Williams, the offense can rise to another level.
TOP PROSPECTS: 1) RB Mike Ford (SO), 2) WR Carlton Mitchell (SO)
WHEN THE OTHER TEAM HAS THE BALL
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Wally Burnham (8th Season/9th at USF)
DEFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 7
KEY LOSSES: Mike Jenkins, Trae Williams, Ben Moffitt
George Selvie was arguably the most disruptive defender in all of college football last season—he basically pitched a tent and camped out in the opponents’ backfield. Opposite him is senior Jarriett Buie, a returning starter, with a pair of junior college transfers David Bedford and Craig Marshall providing depth. At defensive tackle, Aaron Harris is emerging as a playmaker himself, but they will need either Sampson Genus and/or Terrell McClain, a pair of sophomores, to take charge at nose tackle. Last season, the Bulls were very vulnerable to a between the tackles power running game (see Ray Rice & Jonathan Stewart). At the next level, seniors Tyrone McKenzie and Brouce Mompremier are solid, with Kion Wilson another JC transfer who can make an impact. Their biggest losses come at corner, but the secondary should be fine with the speedy Jerome Murphy and the athletic Tyller Roberts getting their chances. The safety duo of Nate Allen and Carlton Williams rivals any in the nation.
TOP PROSPECTS: 1) DE George Selvie (JR), 2) FS Nate Allen (JR)
Last season they announced their arrival by going down to Auburn and pulling off the upset. This year they take on the Kansas Jayhawks, and will again have the opportunity for a statement win. Other games they cannot overlook are a trip to Cincinnati and a visit from Pittsburgh, but the most intriguing match-ups of the season are their contests versus Rutgers and a season ending commute to Morgantown. They have matched up well with the Mountaineers but haven’t with the Scarlet Knights…will that carry over? Gone are Ray Rice and much of RU’s powerful offensive line, which gave the Bulls fits. However, how will USF do against WVU without the speed of Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams on the perimeter?
Consistency: Last season was a roller coaster ride…they won the first six games of the season to climb from unranked to No. 2 in the country…lost their next three to fall out of the polls once again…then won the final three regular season games to secure a Sun Bowl bid…only to finally get spanked by Oregon 56-21. Even from afar it was enough to make one dizzy. Turnovers would be a good place to start. The Bulls led the nation with their 42 forced turnovers, but were only 18th in the country and fourth in the conference in turnover margin (+9). Their 33 turnovers committed topped the Big East and was sixth most among 119 FBS teams. Two games typified the Bulls inconsistency; they went from –6 versus Cincinnati to +6 against Louisville just two weeks later—you can probably figure out which game they lost and which one they won.
CFI FINAL ANALYSIS
USF may have risen too high too fast last season, but they will be better for the experience. This is a program on the rise both in the Big East Conference and on the national landscape. The Bulls have a good amount of talent returning and it appears they have even more waiting in the wings. They’re very deep at the skill positions and improvement is expected in the trenches—this should the best offensive line they’ve lined up and the defensive line appears to be deeper. The difference maker will be Grothe, who should take a big step forward as a quarterback, leader and more importantly a winner, as he leads the Bulls to their first ever Big East crown.
Friday, August 22, 2008
2007 RECORD: 9-4; BIG EAST: 4-3