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Thursday, Nov 27, 2014
USF Bulls

USF Bulls preview: Five things to watch

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Published:   |   Updated: August 26, 2014 at 10:12 AM

 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Last season's nightmarish opener — McNeese State 53, USF 21 — has the Bulls taking nothing for granted heading into Saturday night's game against Western Carolina. On paper at least, there is the potential for a fast start. USF opens with four consecutive home games, including dates with Maryland and N.C. State, when 3:30 afternoon kickoffs in September could make for a brutally hot atmosphere, plus a nationally televised Friday night American Athletic Conference game against Connecticut before USF finally hits the road with a Sept. 27 trip to No. 14-ranked Wisconsin.

GOING BOWLING

After three consecutive losing seasons, reaching a bowl game is an obvious goal for USF, which had six straight postseason teams from 2005 to 2010. A 6-6 record might not sound glamorous, but it's definitely a step in the right direction. Meanwhile, the AAC has a new look. Louisville (ACC) and Rutgers (Big Ten) have bounced to new leagues. The AAC has added East Carolina and Tulsa — both on USF's schedule — along with Tulane. In 2015, the AAC will split into divisions and hold a championship game when Navy is added for football.

3-4 DEFENSE

The Bulls will employ a 3-4 defense, although defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan is quick to caution that a 4-3 will also be used, and many principles from last season (when USF's defense was 21st nationally) will be utilized. But the 3-4 look — with a “Buck'' linebacker who will mostly be used as an edge pass-rusher — was largely a product of personnel. USF took big hits on the defensive line, losing NFL draft pick Aaron Lynch and a fleet of others, while having a surplus of athletic linebackers.

 

FEELING A RUSH

Willie Taggart's offenses have traditionally emphasized the running game, but last season was a struggle. Marcus Shaw had 100-yard efforts in three of his first four games before injuries slowed his pace. The Bulls relied on young runners and are hopeful that sophomore Darius Tice or freshman Sta'fon McCray will emerge in a primary role, while not ruling out contributions from true freshmen. Either way, USF must vastly improve upon its team average of 3.0 yards per carry, and a veteran, beefed-up offensive line is expected to lead the way. There are three senior starters, each with at least 17 starts.

SPECIAL INDEED

Special teams will be a major strength. Senior place-kicker Marvin Kloss, who led the nation in field goals of 40 or more yards (11) and set a school record with 13 consecutive made field goals, was a finalist for last season's Lou Groza Award. Punter Mattias Ciabatti averaged 40.2 yards in his first season. Meanwhile, Chris Dunkley, who has shifted to cornerback while maintaining his wide-receiver duties, is an electrifying return man. He averaged 22.6 yards on kickoffs and 24.2 on punts, including a 50-yard touchdown return.

 

TAMPA AREA PLAYERS ON ROSTER

 No.

Name

P

Ht

Wt

Year

School

20

Devin Abraham

CB

5-9

187

 

East Lake

87

Rodney Adams

WR

6-1

190

 

Lakewood

48

Spencer Adkinson

TE

6-3

237

R-Fr.

Indian Rocks Chr

88

Austin Aikens

WR

6-0

180

 

Plant

15

Zach Benjamin

WR

6-4

195

R-Fr.

Tampa Cath

55

Josh Black

LB

6-2

228

 

Sickles

56

Juwuan Brown

LB

6-2

230

 

Jefferson

2

Jamie Byrd

DB

5-11

184

 

Pasco

62

Lucas Cancio

OL

6-5

283

 

Chamberlain

49

Mattias Ciabatti

P

6-0

189

 

Hillsborough

7

Andre Davis

WR

6-1

205

 

Jefferson

71

Mak Djulbegovic

OL

6-5

293

 

Carollwood Day

19

Eric Dungy

WR

6-1

190

 

Plant

82

Jordan Duval

WR

6-2

216

 

Hillsborough

16

Tommy Eveld

QB

6-5

194

 

Jesuit

13

Tajee Fullwood

CB

6-2

209

 

TBT

48

Ruben Garcia

LB

6-0

248

 

Durant

36

Nate Godwin

DB

5-10

202

 

Freedom

57

Nigel Harris

LB

6-0

220

 

Hillsborough

60

Bruce Hector

DT

6-2

296

R-Fr.

Robinson

69

Zach Hudson

OT

6-5

302

 

Sickles

15

Vincent Jackson

DE

6-2

246

 

Jesuit

80

Mike McFarland

TE

6-5

252

 

Blake

26

Rodney Mills

DB

5-11

185

 

Jefferson

61

Kieran Pettus

DT

6-3

239

 

East Bay

39

Tyler Robb

DB

5-10

200

 

Tampa Cath

74

Cameron Ruff

OL

6-3

313

R-Fr.

Jesuit

43

Auggie Sanchez

LB

6-2

241

R-Fr.

Northeast

58

Zach Stewart

LS

6-3

220

 

King

23

Mazzi Wilkins

CB

6-0

162

 

Plant

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