2007 South Florida Preview - Offense

Posted Jul 26, 2007

Preview 2007 South Florida Bull Offense

South Florida Bulls

Preview 2007 - Offense

- 2007 South Florida Preview | 2007 USF Defense Preview
2007 USF Depth Chart | 2006 CFN South Florida Preview 

What you 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.

Returning Leaders
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 offense: Sophomore QB Matt Grothe
Player that has to step up and become a star: Freshman RB Mike Ford
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 line


Projected Starter: 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 quarterback.   
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 devastating.
Rating: 7

Running Backs

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 job.

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 season.
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.
Rating: 6.5


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 in 2007. 

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 year. 

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 Santana Moss. 

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.
Rating: 7

Offensive Line

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 game. 

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 string.                                    

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 in 2006.
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.          
Rating: 6.5


Related Stories
2007 South Florida Preview
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 31, 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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