2007 South Florida Preview

Posted Jul 31, 2007

South Florida has been growing into a good program over the last few years, and now it appears ready to make some major noise. With a star quarterback in Matt Grothe to work around, and a tremendous defense, led by Ben Moffitt, the Bulls could be the sleeper in the Big East race.

South Florida Bulls

Preview 2007

By Richard Cirminiello

- 2007 USF Offense Preview | 2007 USF Defense Preview
2007 USF Depth Chart | 2006 CFN 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 bowl game.    

Head coach: Jim Leavitt
11th season: 70-43
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 23, Def. 24, ST 6
Lettermen Lost: 15
Ten 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.

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

Sept. 1


Sept. 8

at Auburn

Sept. 22

North Carolina

Sept. 29

West Virginia

Oct. 6

at Florida Atlantic

Oct. 13


Oct. 18

at Rutgers

Oct. 27

at Connecticut

Nov. 3


Nov. 10

at Syracuse

Nov. 17


Nov. 24

at Pitt

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2006 Record: 9
Preview 2006 predicted wins

9/2 McNeese St  W 41-10
9/9 FIU W 21-20
9/16 at UCF W 24-17
9/23 at Kansas L 13-7
9/29 Rutgers L 22-20
10/7 Connecticut W 38-16
10/14 at No Carolina W 37-20
10/21 at Cincinnati L 23-6
11/4 Pitt W 22-12
11/11 Syracuse W 27-10
11/18 at Louisville L 31-8
11/25 at W. Virginia W 24-19
12/23 PapaJohns.com Bowl
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 invites.    

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 four.

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.

The Schedule: It's not 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 prospects.

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 success if ... 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.

Key game: 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 yards
- Rushing touchdowns: South Florida 22 – Opponents 9


Related Stories
2007 South Florida Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 26, 2007
2007 South Florida Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 26, 2007
2007 South Florida Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 26, 2007

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