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South Florida Preview
Ever so methodically, USF has taken each progression
along the path toward becoming a
nationally-respected program and now appears to have
finally arrived. With Jim Leavitt as the architect,
the Bulls pounded Louisville in 2005, shocked West
Virginia in Morgantown in November, and then
defeated East Carolina for the school’s first-ever
bowl victory. Now bowl games are expected. Next
stop? Leavitt believes USF is on a collision course
with two more milestones, a Big East crown and a BCS
Head coach: Jim Leavitt
11th season: 70-43
Off. 23, Def. 24, ST 6
Lettermen Lost: 15
Best USF Players
1. CB Trae Williams, Sr.
2. QB Matt Grothe, Soph.
3. LB Ben Moffitt, Sr.
4. CB Mike Jenkins, Sr.
5. DE George Selvie, Soph.
6.LB Chris Robinson, Soph.
7. LB Tyrone McKenzie, Jr.
8. WR Taurus Johnson, Jr.
9. RB Mike Ford, Fr.
10. OT Marc Dile, Jr.
at Florida Atlantic
2006 Record: 9-4
2006 predicted wins
McNeese St W
at Kansas L 13-7
at No Carolina W 37-20
at Louisville L 31-8
at W. Virginia W 24-19
East Carolina W 24-7
USF is blessed with momentum and a coach that’s repeatedly resisted the
temptation of moving on to larger schools with bigger paydays. One look
up and down the depth chart shows plenty of youth and an improving
talent base as Leavitt is no longer just getting all the also-rans who
didn’t get recruiting letters with Gainesville, Coral Gables or
Tallahassee addresses. It helps when you finish ahead of Miami and
Florida State in the BCS rankings.
Sure, veterans Stephen Nicholas and Pat St. Louis must be replaced at
linebacker, but both lines are deep and experienced, the secondary
houses two future NFL corners and the face of the program, quarterback
Matt Grothe, was only a freshman last year. Physically and emotionally,
he’ll be at the center of the Bulls’ success for the next three seasons
as the program could become cemented among the league’s top four.
Forget the notion that this is a novelty act that’s riding some streak
of good fortune. The bubble isn’t going to burst. What may have seemed
like an anomaly to some was actually another rallying cry in the quest
for respect. Now there’s a new issue: expectations.
South Florida is supposed to be a player in the Big East race. It’s
supposed to go to a bowl game. It’s supposed to be good. Just don’t tell
Leavitt and his team; they won’t be used to the love.
What to watch for offense: Grothe proved to be plenty good in his
first year leading the team in passing, rushing and scoring, but the
Bulls have to begin diversifying to keep their quarterback healthy and
opposing defenses from simply trying to stop one playmaker. Benjamin
Williams and Ricky Ponton are pedestrian ground options, meaning
blue-chip rookie Mike Ford could be this year’s freshman who ignites the
offense. He’s the kind of special athlete that probably wouldn’t have
chosen USF before the program joined the Big East and earned postseason
What to watch for on defense: Like all teams from Florida, the
USF defense pursues well and is built on speed. Wally Burnham’s unit is
well-coached, prevents the big play and is vastly underappreciated and
unnoticed on a national level. Ball-hawking corners Trae Williams and
Mike Jenkins allow the defense to sell out on occasion and the front
four, led by sophomore rush end George Selvie, returns seven linemen
that started games in 2006. Expect the line to be dominant with former
Iowa State head coach Dan McCarney brought aboard to work on the front
The team will be far better if … it can develop a running game to
complement Grothe’s diverse skill set. Two years ago, the Bulls had
Andre Hall and no passing attack. Last year, they found a quarterback,
but lost the running game. If the offense can achieve better balance,
Grothe will be able to mature without the burden of having to constantly
hoist the offense on his pads.
bad, but there are just enough brutal road games to prevent a truly
special season. The Bulls get West Virginia and Louisville at home, but
have to go to Rutgers and Pitt. A non-conference date at Auburn comes
just early enough that an upset is possible if everything breaks right,
but that's a likely loss going into a two-week layoff and a must-win
home game against North Carolina. In-state games against Florida
Atlantic and UCF in mid-October aren't just must wins, they're vital
blowout games to get the first look at the mid-level Sunshine State
Best Offensive Player: Sophomore QB Matt Grothe. In Grothe, South Florida has
finally found one of the missing pieces to its puzzle; a young
quarterback that the offense can build around for the next few seasons.
A dual-threat, who led the Bulls in rushing and passing in 2006, he’s a
natural born leader and poised beyond his years late in tight games. Now
he has to start to make the team around him even better.
Best Defensive Player: Senior CB Trae Williams. Now a third-year
starter in the secondary, the converted running back has blossomed into
the proverbial lockdown corner and one of the premier defensive backs in
the Big East. He led the league with seven interceptions in 2006, but
could have had more if opposing quarterbacks weren’t so timid about
throwing to his side of the field.
Key player to a successful season: Outside linebackers Marvin
Peoples and Sam Miller. You don’t immediately replace heart-and-soul
defenders like Stephen Nicholas and Pat St. Louis, but Peoples and
Miller will get the first shot at the jobs on the outside. Miller’s like
another safety on the weakside, while Peoples will look for the
strongside gig. Whoever ends up starting will get plenty of help from
Ben Moffitt in the middle.
The season will be a
... USF finishes in the Big East’s top three. That’s a bigger deal than
it might sound in a conference with Louisville, West Virginia, Rutgers
and Pittsburgh. The Bulls were supposed to be merely average last year
with an eye towards this season, and now that they’re experienced, have
their quarterback in place, and know what it takes to go bowling,
anything less than a run at the Big East title will be disappointing.
Getting West Virginia and Louisville in Tampa will certainly help.
Sept. 29 vs. West
Virginia. After last year’s 24-19 shocker, USF will have to deal with a
very motivated Mountaineer team. As the Big East opener for the Bulls,
it’s a must-win home game to have any realistic hope of winning the
title with road trips to Rutgers and Pitt (in December, not a plus for
the warm-weather Bulls) to deal with.
2006 Fun Stats:
- Sacks: South Florida 37 for 257 yards – Opponents 27 for 144 yards
- Penalties: South Florida 104 for 916 yards – Opponents 93 for 774
- Rushing touchdowns: South Florida 22 – Opponents 9