TAMPA — A much-hyped position group has so far failed to produce this season for the University of South Florida as the Bulls have only managed three sacks through four games.
Tackles Luke Sager and Elkino Watson and DE Tevin Mims have combined for 83 appearances for the Bulls. The other starter, end Aaron Lynch, was a freshman All-American at Notre Dame in 2011.
Only seven FBS teams have produced three or fewer sacks.
Still, head coach Willie Taggart remains patient and says the sacks numbers may be a bit deceptive.
“I think our defensive line is doing what we’re asking them to do and I think putting pressure on the quarterback comes with a lot of different things,” Taggart said. “For one, as a football team and where we’ve been, we’ve been behind early, so a lot of these teams don’t have to throw the football. They’re running the ball, so we’re not getting the opportunities to get the sacks like we want.”
Middle linebacker DeDe Lattimore said the Bulls’ linebackers and secondary can help the line out by bumping and covering receivers for just a second or longer, turning quarterback hurries into quarterback sacks.
“We’ve just got to buy time,” Lattimore said. “The (defensive backs) have to cover longer, the linebackers also have to cover longer to help the line get to the quarterback and get sacks. We were close last game. When we went back and watched him, we were half a second away from making at least four sacks, so that played a huge role.”
Those sacks might be hard to come by this week against Cincinnati, as defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan predicts a quick, intermediate passing attack from the Bearcats.
In the absence of QB Munchie Legaux, who suffered a season-ending knee injury on Sept. 7, Cincinnati has moved to a more pass-heavy offense under new starter Brendon Kay that uses quick throws on routes that do not take long to develop.
“They may throw a little bit more of the intermediate routes than they did (under Legaux,)” Bresnahan said. “Kay is doing a great job in getting the ball out and making good, quick decisions.”