2014 USF Preview: What You Need To Know
South Florida TE Mike McFarland
South Florida TE Mike McFarland
Posted Jul 26, 2014

Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About South Florida (Getty Images)

2014 USF Preview

What You Need To Know

- 2014 USF Preview 

What you need to know about the offense: When you’ve hit rock-bottom, the only direction is up. The Bulls were in the offensive cellar in 2013, averaging 13.8 points per game in a general comedy of errors. Former Washington State head coach Paul Wulff has been hired to reshape the unit and restore some order. Since Wulff plans to run a familiar run-first attack, his first objective in the offseason was to be sure that USF got stronger at the point of attack. So far, so good. His next objective is to decide on a quarterback out of Mike White and Steven Bench. That’s a far more complex problem, which might not have a solution until deep into the summer. Otherwise, the Bulls have hints of potential, beginning with a physically-gifted receiving corps that features next-level wannabe WR Andre Davis and TE Mike McFarland. A replacement for all-star RB Marcus Shaw, though, must be found between now and the visit from Western Carolina. The contenders include including senior Michael Pierre, junior Willie Davis, sophomore Darius Tice and second-year freshman Stafon McCray.

What you need to know about the defense: It’s become increasingly hard to get excited by the South Florida D these days. It’s a stark departure from a time not long ago when this program was defined by its speedy, hard-hitting defense. The Bulls are suddenly bland, mediocre and light on flash or star power. No, the unit wasn’t horrible a year ago, but it wasn’t a bunch of game-changers either. And three of the team’s all-stars are no longer in Tampa. Coordinator Chuck Bresnahan must build from the bottom up, teaching sound fundamentals, while remaining open to the possibility of newcomers contributing immediately. Since there are no sure-things on this side of the ball entering 2014, rookies and redshirt freshmen will get every opportunity to crack the two-deep in August. Bresnahan will be employing a 3-4 base alignment this season, one approach to addressing the loss of six productive defensive linemen who earned letters in 2013.

Players You Need To Know
1. WR Andre Davis, Sr.
Davis must feel a little lost at times, miscast as the playmaker of an offense that struggles to get him the ball downfield. The 6-1, 207-pound deep threat already owns four USF receiving records, and will add to his personal haul this season. Despite a lack of support at quarterback, and on the other side of the field, Davis managed to catch a team-high 49 passes for 735 yards and two touchdowns. If the quarterbacks improve even a little in 2014, Davis will see his production skyrocket accordingly.

2. PK Marvin Kloss, Sr.
The strong-legged Kloss is particularly valuable to a school that sputters so frequently on offense. In 2013, he was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, the first Bull ever be named a college football award finalist. He nailed 18-of-23 field goal attempts, with a penchant for drilling kicks from long range. Kloss led the nation in field goals of 50+ yards and 40+ yards, while setting a USF record of 13-straight three-pointers.

3. TE Mike McFarland, Sr.
South Florida is deep at tight end. McFarland is the cover boy of a unit that also boasts up-and-coming junior Sean Price. McFarland is coming off a breakout season in which he earned Second Team All-AAC after catching 23 balls for 288 yards and two touchdowns. The former Florida transfer is a sure-handed 6-5, 260-pounder, with a chance to use 2014 as an audition for NFL scouts.

4. C Austin Reiter, Sr.
Reiter is the closest thing to a sure-thing that South Florida has on an otherwise troubled unit. He not started every game of the last two seasons, but he also missed just one offensive snap over that period. The 6-3, 286-pounder is the leader of the front wall, a steady performer who should be on the Rimington Trophy Watch List for a second straight year. The Bulls could use a few more blockers sharing Reiter’s intensity and work ethic.

5. LB Reshard Cliett, Sr.
Cliett is coming off his best season in Tampa, finishing second on the team with 56 tackles, seven of which were for minus yards. At 6-2 and 220 pounds, he’s big enough to deliver the payload, yet he also showcases tremendous range and closing speed. Cliett sat out the spring to rehab following shoulder surgery, and expects to be at full strength when the team reconvenes in the summer.

6. DT Elkino Watson, Sr.
The time has come for Watson to put it all together and become one of the most destructive linemen in the American. He’s shown flashes over the last three years as a regular starter. The 6-1, 307-pound slasher has racked up 25 career tackles for loss, including nine in 2013, and 4.5 career sacks. However, a midseason knee injury curtailed his production a year ago. Watson is banking on a full season of health bringing him his best season as a Bull.

7. S Nate Godwin, Soph.
Godwin is off and running after an auspicious debut in the Bulls secondary. He nabbed a job in September, started the final nine games and cemented his spot as a part of the future in Tampa. Godwin was fourth on the team with 49 tackles, while shining on special teams as well. The 5-10, 197-pound budding star can cover and pack a wallop, conjuring up images of former USF standout Nate Allen.

8. DT Todd Chandler, Sr.
Chandler brings leadership and toughness to the interior of the line for one final year. The 6-0, 320-pound fire hydrant has played every game of the last two seasons, chipping in 24 stops, 5.5 tackles behind the line and two fumble recoveries a year ago. He makes good use of his leverage and strength, busting through the offensive line by getting underneath his man’s pads.

9. LB Nigel Harris, Soph.
Harris may line up at weakside linebacker, but he’ll fly around the field like a frenetic strong safety. He played too small as a true freshman in 2013, yet he still managed to get his feet wet with 35 tackles and 2.5 stops for loss as a six-game starter. Now 6-0 and 215 pounds, the heady Harris packed on 25 good pounds during the offseason, which will help make him more effective as a run defender.

10. CB Johnny Ward, Soph.
While Ward started just three games in his Bulls debut, he did enough to emerge as a cornerback of the future. He appeared in dime and nickel packages, finishing with 32 tackles, two stops for loss and a team-best five pass breakups. Ward has work to do, including adding muscle to his 6-0, 173-pound frame. But there are early signs that he could develop into a mainstay in the defensive backfield.

- 2014 USF Preview