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USF Bulls

Bulls Say They're Primed To Take It To Next Level

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: May 25, 2013 at 02:33 PM
NEWPORT, R.I. -

Just a few years ago, University of South Florida football coach Jim Leavitt promised - or was is threatened? - to run naked down the streets of Tampa to get the Bulls a bowl bid.

Luckily for Leavitt - and Tampa - that's no longer necessary. USF has been to three consecutive bowl games and the Bulls say they're now ready to move on to bigger and better things.

Like a Big East title and BCS bowl berth.

"We feel it's about time South Florida gets the Big East championship," USF senior linebacker Brouce Mompremier said. "We're always one game away, one game away. It's about time we get it."

This fall appears to be the Bulls' best shot. In the league's media poll, released Tuesday at Big East media days, USF was picked to finish second, its highest preseason ranking since joining the league in 2005, and even received one first-place vote.

"It's nice to get respect and get noticed," Mompremier said. "But in the end it doesn't matter. It comes down to how we play."

Last year, the Bulls (9-4) played tremendous at times. And not-so-tremendous at times. USF's 6-0 start thrust the Bulls to No. 2 in the BCS rankings and into the national title picture. It also changed the perception of the program, which is only 11 years old.

"It opened up doors," Leavitt said. "Human nature is always the same. People are not going to believe things unless they see it firsthand because of a lack of trust.

"That the No. 2 ranking was seen, it was experienced, it was witnessed. So now everyone knows that it can happen. Will it? Nobody knows that answer, but knowing it can, changes everything.

"It's totally different this year. How our team handles adversity and how we're going to handle this season is completely different from last year. Everybody's hungry. Very, very hungry."

The Bulls return 16 starters, but is it enough to win their first league title?

"For the first time since they had Marquel Blackwell, they have someone Matt Grothe in place at quarterback for a couple of years that they can build the program around," said Pete Thamel of The New York Times. "A lot starts with Grothe. I think they have athletes and playmakers on defense and the continuity in their staff to win the league in the next two or three years."

ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach thinks the loss of key defensive personnel will be difficult to overcome.

"Grothe is a great playmaker, he makes tons of plays on offense," Schlabach said. "Mike Ford's a good running back.

"But when you lose guys like linebacker Ben Moffitt, cornerbacks Trae Williams and Mike Jenkins and a couple of guys on the interior line - I think what made defensive end George Selvie so good is he had Williams and Jenkins locking down on the perimeter.

"That's too much to replace in one year."

USF senior wide receiver Taurus Johnson said the Sun Bowl loss to Oregon "made us more humble. Now we know how to handle the attention."

Reporter Brett McMurphy can be reached at (813) 259-7928


or bmcmurphy@tampatrib.com

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