Preview 2007 - Offense
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need to know:
This is Matt Grothe’s offense, but unlike last season, he
shouldn’t have to do everything short of crafting the weekly
gameplan in order to make the unit hum. Although he led the
offense in passing, rushing and scoring, the program realizes it
needs to protect its most important commodity and give him more
support. Can freshman Mike Ford live up to the hype? Plenty is
expected from a back that should ignite a rushing attack that
did little in 2006 when Grothe wasn’t slithering through
opposing defenses. Originally headed to Tuscaloosa, he’s the
highest-profile recruit to ever sign with USF. The Bull
receivers are a dynamic bunch that’s loaded with size, speed and
underachievers that need to get their act together.
Passing: Matt Grothe
202-317, 2,576 yds, 15 TD, 14 INT
Rushing: Matt Grothe
178 carries, 622 yds, 9 TD
Receiving: Taurus Johnson
14 catches, 316 yds
Star of the
Sophomore QB Matt Grothe
Player that has to step up and become a star: Freshman RB
Unsung star on the rise: Junior WR Taurus Johnson
Best pro prospect: Senior WR Amarri Jackson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Grothe 2) Johnson 3)
T Marc Dile
Strength of the offense: Depth at receiver, Grothe
Weakness of the offense: The running game, the offensive
It’s taken a few years, but in sophomore Matt Grothe,
South Florida has finally found a quarterback to build
around as it enters the next stage in its evolution. An
unexpected revelation in his first season under center, he threw
for 2,576 yards and 15 touchdowns, while leading the team with
622 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. While not the
prototype at 6-0 and 200 pounds with average arm strength,
Grothe is an improvisational wizard that’ll out hustle and out
run a defense in order to continue a drive. The new face of the
Bull program has added ten good pounds since the end of last
season, a wise move considering how often he absorbs punishment
outside the pocket.
Projected Top Reserves: With Pat Julmiste
gone, Grothe’s backup will be an untested player with virtually
no experience. Junior Grant Gregory, the son of USF
offensive coordinator Greg Gregory, is the favorite to be the
first man off the bench. An Indiana transfer, he has a strong
arm and good enough athleticism to be considered at one time for
a spot in the secondary.
Senior Anthony Severino is a former walk-on who knows the
offensive system well and is the holder on special teams. South
Florida’s reigning Scholar Athlete of the Year is coming of
shoulder surgery which hampers his ability to jump Gregory for
the No. 2 job.
Watch Out For… true freshman Alton Voss.
The odds are good that Jim Leavitt will play it safe and tab a
veteran as the No. 2 quarterback, however, once Voss arrives, he
won’t back down to his inferior elders. A highly skilled dual
threat under center, he’s going to spice up an uneventful
competition in August.
Strength: Grothe. Leave the measurables to the
NFL scouts. Grothe is a winner who ignites a huddle and a home
crowd. Assuming he can stay healthy, expect him to build on
last season by becoming a more complete and mature
Weakness: Turnovers. If there’s one knock on
Grothe, it’s that he forces too many passes and is prone to
coughing up the ball when trying to do too much. With age
should come better discretion for a team was 80th
nationally in turnover margin.
Outlook: Surrounded by a good supporting cast,
Grothe will take the next step in his development, cutting down
on his picks and inching closer to rock star status around
Tampa. However, he’s a runner and isn’t afraid to take a big
shot. With no experience behind him, any injury could be
Projected Starters: South Florida must improve on
the ground because when Grothe is the team’s top rusher, it’s a
real bad sign on more than one front. Former walk-on
Benjamin Williams is a serviceable option out of the
backfield, but clearly someone the Bulls would rather see in a
complimentary role if someone else can step up. The junior led
all backs in 2006 with 436 yards rushing and four touchdowns
capped by an MVP effort in the Papajohns.com Bowl. Despite
being just 5-7 and 190 pounds, he’s a hard runner and does a
nice job of picking up blitzes. Williams averaged just 3.6
yards a carry last fall and needs to do far more to keep his
Projected Top Reserves: All eyes this season will
be glued to true freshman Mike Ford, the most decorated
recruit in the ten-year history of South Florida football.
Originally a non-qualifier at Alabama, he descended on the
program in March with the 6-2, 220-pound frame to run between
the tackles and the 4.5 speed to jet past them. An SEC-type
talent playing in the Big East, it won’t be long before Ford is
stealing some of the headlines from Grothe.
Redshirt freshman Aston Samuels is the long-ball hitter
of the group, a 5-10, 190-pound option that can run forever when
he hits a seam. With track speed and a terrific spring in the
vault, he’ll be a great change-of-pace to taking handoffs and
catching passes out of the backfield.
Watch Out For… sophomore Moise Plancher.
How soon we forget that Plancher was the clear-cut starter in
last year’s opener before hurting his knee and never making it
back on the field. A 5-9, 190-pound slasher, he gets to top
gear in a hurry and has good vision when stuck in traffic. Now
all Plancher has to do is show he can stay healthy for an entire
Strength: Depth. For the first time in school
history, the Bulls are building a respectable amount of depth in
the backfield. The collection of talent is also diverse,
blending a couple of power backs that can get the tough yards
with smaller speedsters that can break long runs and be
especially effective on third down.
Weakness: No proven workhorse. Ford’s potential
is off the charts, however, his next carry will be his first and
none of the other backs has shown an ability to consistently
handle 20-25 carries on a week-in, week-out basis.
Outlook: As long as the line cooperates, the
running game is about to take a quantum leap and some heat off
Grothe in 2007. Although a committee approach will be utilized,
Ford will emerge by October as the go-to guy.
Projected Starters: South Florida returns five of
last year’s top seven receivers, catering to the no huddle
spread’s need for plenty of quality receivers. Juniors
Marcus Edwards, Taurus Johnson and Colby Erskin
will handle the X, Y and Z positions, respectively. At 5-11 and
175 pounds, Edwards may not pass the eye test, but he happens to
be the most consistent of the receivers, running crisp routes
and rarely dropping passes. While too fast to be called a
possession receiver, he’s a reliable target that caught 27 balls
as a starter in 2006.
Johnson emerged in 2006 as the Bulls’ most dynamic receiver,
developing into the deep threat that the offense had been
missing. He caught 37 passes for 494 yards and two touchdowns,
setting the stage for what might be an All-Big East type season
Erskin was one of this year’s big spring surprises, snaring
absolutely everything, including a spot in the starting lineup.
At 5-9 and 185 pounds, he’s not an imposing figure, but when
Matt Grothe needs six or seven yards for a first down, watch him
emerge as the team’s preferred target. He runs tight routes and
just doesn’t drop anything.
A converted receiver who originally signed with Miami, Cedric
Hill is back at tight end for the second consecutive
season. At 6-3 and 240 pounds, he offers little as a run
blocker, but can stretch a defense as a pass catcher.
Projected Top Reserves: Throughout his Bull
career, senior Amarri Jackson has been a 6-5 enigma who
has an electrifying skill set, yet is still waiting for that
first monster season. He caught 26 passes for 393 yards and
three touchdowns in 2006 and is always a threat to run or throw
downfield on reverses. Jackson will begin this season bigger
and stronger than ever with an eye toward that elusive breakout
Like Jackson, junior Amp Hill hasn’t become the player
many thought he’d be when he originally signed with LSU, but
there’s time and as backups go, he’s a potential gem. Blessed
with NFL size and speed, he should improve on last season’s 19
catches for 233 yards and two scores if he gets back in Jim
Leavitt’s good graces. The coach suspended Hill for signing a
football after scoring in a spring scrimmage.
There may not be a faster Bull than 5-10, 170-pound sophomore
Jessie Hester Jr. He’ll compete for playing time in the
slot while doing his best impression of former Miami Hurricane
Watch Out For… the long balls. All hail Grothe,
but does he have the arm strength to fully utilize South
Florida’s track team that masquerades as a receiving corps?
These Bulls have wings and could out run some of their
quarterback’s passes this season.
Strength: Athleticism. They may not wear Garnet
and Gold or Orange and Blue, but the South Florida receivers are
still your prototypical Sunshine State athletes that are a step
or two faster and more dynamic than most recruits from the rest
of the country.
Weakness: Consistency. The raw talent is enough
to make NFL scouts pant, however, the USF receivers collectively
still need to reduce their number of dropped passes and tighten
up their route running and downfield blocking.
Outlook: Save for some issues with fundamentals
that can be addressed in practice, the Bulls have the potential
and the depth to be the Big East’s most exciting receiving corps
this side of Papa John’s Stadium.
Projected Starters: It won’t be easy, but Jim
Leavitt wants to create an offensive line that is consistently
sending kids to the NFL and among the best in the Big East.
Last year’s recruiting class attracted some quality big men and
this year’s squad welcomes back five starters, so the coach has
started getting some traction in the area. The front wall will
be anchored by the tackles, junior Marc Dile on the left
side and senior Walter Walker on the right. A good
athlete at 6-4 and 305 pounds, Dile enters his third season as a
starter and has gradually become the group’s leader. At his
best in pass protection, he still needs to get more physical
when the Bulls keep it on the ground.
Walker put on display his versatility and flexibility a year
ago, starting the first five games at right guard and the final
eight at right tackle. The biggest of the starters, he, like
Dile, must make strides as a pure drive blocker in the running
One-time tight end junior Nick Capogna will once again
quarterback the South Florida interior. Just 275 pounds, he was
named the team’s Outstanding Offensive Lineman following the
2006 season for his leadership skills and quickness off the
ball. By cutting it at center, Capogna also freed up George
Selvie to have a Freshman All-America season at defensive end.
Junior Ryan Schmidt arrived from Kansas State as a
center, but has worked out so far as the Bulls’ right guard. He
started the last eight games of 2006 and provided an insurance
policy for Capogna at the pivot.
On the other side of Schmidt will be junior Jake Griffin,
who moved up one level after returning starter Matt Huners
tore his ACL in April. A guard that can also shift inside and
play center, Griffin was a starter on the left side last year
before breaking his foot in the week 3 win over UCF.
Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Danny Tolley
started the Florida International game at right tackle, but
couldn’t keep the job, eventually making appearances in 11
games. At 6-6 and 310 pounds, the physical tools are there,
however, he needs to polish up his game in order to get back
into the lineup.
Like Tolley, senior tackle Jared Carnes had a cup of
coffee in the lineup in 2006, but failed to keep his job. The
6-7, 310-pound former product of Concord College brings decent
pass blocking skills and a veteran presence to the second
Watch Out For…redshirt freshmen Zach Hermann
and Jacob Sims. At guard and tackle, respectively,
Hermann and Sims are integral parts of the future—and present—of
the USF line. Hermann is a snot-knocker that’ll eventually give
the Bulls that physical presence in run blocking that’s been
sorely lacking. Sims is a fluid athlete that’s added 35 pounds
since matriculating, and is close to being big enough to handle
a spot on the B team.
Strength: The tackles. Walker and Dile are the
line’s best all-around blockers with the quick feet and
experience to help reduce the number of sacks the unit allowed
Weakness: Run blocking. If not for Grothe’s ad
libbing and escapability, South Florida would have been one of
the worst rushing teams in the country last year. The Bulls are
predominantly a finesse line that occasionally needs to flex its
muscles, particularly in short yardage.
Outlook: While the stability of returning six
players that started a game the year earlier is tremendous, the
Bull line lacks a true anchor and isn’t the type of unit that’ll
take over and set the tone of any games in 2007. Four freshmen
on the second unit will help in 2008 and beyond, but could be a
serious liability in the short term.