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2007 South Florida Preview - Defense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 26, 2007


Preview 2007 South Florida Bull Defense

South Florida Bulls

Preview 2007 - Defense

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

What you need to know: 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.  That could change if the Bulls crack the top 10 in total defense in 2007, a distinct possibility.  Next level 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.  Importing defensive line coach Dan McCarney and linebacker Tyrone McKenzie from Iowa State were coups that’ll pay immediate dividends.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Ben Moffett, 112
Sacks: Chris Robinson, 7
Interceptions: Trae Williams, 7

Star of the defense: Senior CB Trae Williams
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior NT Richard Clebert
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Chris Robinson
Best pro prospect: Senior CB Mike Jenkins
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Williams 2) LB Ben Moffitt 3) Jenkins
Strength of the defense: The pass defense, D-line depth
Weakness of the defense: Depth in the back seven

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: There’s a, well, bullish feeling about a South Florida defensive line that returns virtually intact from a year ago.  With a nice blend of young and old, inside power and outside speed, it’ll be an elixir for a linebacker corps in transition.  It wound up being fate in 2006 that sophomore George Selvie stayed at defensive end rather than filling a need at center.  Out of nowhere, he ransacked opposing offenses for 84 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and four forced fumbles en route to Freshman All-America honors.  Selvie is on his way to becoming a three-down lineman who can help stop the run on first and second while pressuring the passer on third. 

Injuries and academics have dogged senior Jarriett Buie throughout his career, but he has one final chance to parlay all of his speed and athleticism into one special season.  After getting a taste of action a year ago, he needs to evolve into the kind of pass rusher that’ll take some heat away from Selvie. 

Plagued by a nagging groin injury, senior nose tackle Richard Clebert was in and out of the lineup last year.  While not especially big at 6-1 and 295 pounds, he’s experienced, very strong and quick enough to get penetration and make plays in the backfield.  During the spring, he ran a 4.89, the fastest time ever for a Bull lineman. 

Next to Clebert will be Aaron Harris, a sophomore tackle that flashed a lot of potential after injuries forced him to remove his redshirt.  An atypical interior lineman at just 255 pounds, he’s going to be too fast for most guards if he can avoid getting tangled up in the trenches.  With so much depth inside, Harris is a candidate to move to end where there’s more of a need.   

Projected Top Reserves: Senior tackles Allen Cray, Woody George and Tavarious Robinson have 35 career starts between them, a testament to just how deep the Bulls are on the interior for 2007.  While Cray won’t wow anyone physically, he plays with great leverage and intensity, allowing him to finish last season tied for third on the team with 5.5 sacks.  He and Harris are nip-and-tuck for the top job.  A smaller version than Cray, George is an active and agile defender who started 12 games and had 28 tackles in 2006.   Robinson is the most intriguing of the trio, a 6-4, 290-pound player with the pass-rushing skills of an end.  An academic casualty last year, he has the size and athletic ability to be one of this year’s unexpected contributors.

The depth at end is a far bigger concern, placing pressure on redshirt freshmen Joshua Smiley and Brandon Peguese to produce immediately.  A couple of speed rushers in linebacker bodies, if the kids aren’t ready, one of the quicker tackles, such as George, could be moved outside.

Watch Out For…Harris to emerge as a borderline all-league player this fall.  With so much attention being given to his linemates, he’s got the explosion on the inside to frustrate plodding guards and get plenty of close-ups of opposing quarterbacks.
Strength: Tackle depth.  If opposing offensive linemen thought it was rough playing in sweltering Tampa in past years, just wait until they have to face a Bull rotation that can constantly inject fresh, quick legs into the huddle.
Weakness: Pass rush.  Less than half of last year’s 35 sacks came from a defensive line that isn’t going to get as much support from the linebackers as it has the past two years.  Selvie is money, but he’s going to require some help in order to avoid constant double teams.
Outlook: The Bulls will be very strong up front and in the secondary, easing the transition for two new starting linebackers, while making life miserable for opposing quarterbacks. 
Rating: 7.5

Linebackers

Projected Starters: You know a program is headed north when it loses all-timers like Stephen Nicholas and Pat St. Louis, yet doesn’t have to completely rebuild the following year.  The Bulls will retool at linebacker with senior Ben Moffitt anchoring the middle, talented Brouce Mompremier and Chris Robinson flanking him on the outside and some really good newcomers creating competition on the second unit. 

The undisputed leader of this crew, Moffitt enters his fourth season as a starter with 231 career tackles, 29 tackles for loss and a bunch of individual honors.  While not the best athlete of the unit, he’s a warrior that wraps up his tackles and is ultra-effective as a run defender. 

Robinson’s starting job at strongside was actually earned in 2006 when he erupted for 28 tackles, nine tackles for loss, seven sacks and four forced fumbles as a redshirt freshman.  Lightning fast at 6-3 and 240 pounds, he’ll also be effective as a stand-up rush end when South Florida goes to a nickel package. 

First dibs on St. Louis’ weakside job goes to Mompremier, a junior who’s primarily played on special teams the last two years.  Arguably the fastest of the linebackers, he’s a 6-1, 225-pound dynamo that reads and reacts very quickly.  

Projected Top Reserves: The NCAA granted Iowa State transfer Tyrone McKenzie a hardship waiver, permitting him to play in 2007 rather than sit out a year.  That’s a huge win for the defense which gets a slippery junior that notched 129 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss for the Cyclones last fall. 

Moffitt’s understudy will be sophomore Marvin Peoples who’ll be soaking up the knowledge and auditioning for the full-time role in 2008.  A Maryland transfer, he’s itching to prove that Georgia Tech, West Virginia and Notre Dame were spot on for offering him a scholarship two years ago.  

One of the studs from the Class of 2006, Alonzo McQueen, is ready to make his debut after spending last year on the scout team.  Following an impressive spring, he’s now on the verge of passing Peoples into the No. 2 hole behind Moffitt.

Watch Out For… defensive coordinator Wally Burnham to use McKenzie much the same way he did Nicholas, lining him up at strongside on running downs before sliding him over to weakside when the defense goes to its nickel package.
Strength
: Run defense.  Led by the example Moffitt sets, all of the Bulls fly to the football, creating that swarming effect which makes them so difficult to run on with any consistency.
Weakness: Weakside inexperience.  Mompremier is bubbling with potential, however, he’s still very green and those players trying to take his job are even less experienced.
Outlook: Normally, you don’t get better by losing Stephen Nicholas and Pat St. Louis, but with Ben Moffitt surrounded by the next generation of baby Bull linebackers, the corps should be stronger than ever.
Rating: 8

Secondary

Projected Starters: From the moment cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams opted to bypass the NFL and return for their senior years, South Florida knew it was going to have one of the country’s most air-tight defensive backfields.  Jenkins is the headline act and a legitimate All-America candidate if voters are paying attention.  At 6-0 and 200 pounds, he has safety size to go along with outstanding closing speed and cover skills.  If you want to pass on the Bulls, you better have a real good No. 2 receiver because the top guy won’t do much against Jenkins.  Of course, that No. 2 will have to lock horns with Williams.  Quarterbacks learned last year that picking on him had consequences, such as a conference-best seven interceptions.  While not quite the total package that Jenkins is these days, Williams isn’t lagging far behind.

Junior Carlton Williams and sophomore Nate Allen form a physically imposing safety tandem.  At 6-4 and 205 pounds, Williams is shifting to strong safety, where he can best use his superior size and physical attributes.  As a part-time starter a year ago, he had 43 tackles, a number he should soar past this season. 

Allen began the spring on the second team, but that didn’t last very long.  A quarterback when he arrived in Tampa, he quickly shifted to safety, a position that’s going to bring out his combination of speed and keen instincts in a 6-2 frame.   

Projected Top Reserves: While the starters are terrific, the second unit isn’t too shabby either.  Five backups earned letters in 2006 which will help in 2007, but really pay dividends in 2008 when Jenkins and Williams are gone. 

Junior Tyller Roberts is the team’s top reserve corner and the first player off the bench in nickel packages.  A quality athlete at 6-1, he chipped in with 25 tackles in his first extensive action a year ago and will be treated as the heir apparent for next season. 

Sophomore Jerome Murphy appears at cornerback on the depth chart, but he hits like a big safety.  Like Roberts, he’ll be a key member of the second string for one more year before getting a promotion next fall. 

Former Oregon Duck Ryan Gilliam brings senior leadership and 4.3 speed to the secondary.  After getting most of his reps on special teams in 2006, he’ll be an insurance policy in the event Roberts or Murphy regress in their development. 

Junior Louis Gachette is the only experienced safety now sophomore Danny Verpaele has been declared ineligible for the 2007 season.  A former scout team quarterback, Gachette has terrific size and athleticism, but still needs more seasoning on defense before he can crack the first unit.     

Watch Out For… even more blitzing from coordinator Wally Burnham.  South Florida likes to attack offenses from all angles with its speed, and the presence of two lock-down corners dramatically lowers the risk of selling out.
Strength: The corners.  Jenkins and Williams are pro-caliber cover men playing against college receivers, but the good news doesn’t end there.  The reserves are also solid, giving the program one of the best collections of corners in America.
Weakness: Turnovers.  It’s grasping, but aside from Williams’ seven picks last year, the defensive backs only had six interceptions and two fumble recoveries, numbers that are not indicative of their big-play ability.
Outlook: After Louisville’s Brian Brohm, the Big East has no truly top-notch passers.  That reality combined with this secondary will land the Bulls among the nation’s top 10 or 12 teams this year in pass efficiency defense.
Rating: 9

Special Teams

Projected Starters: Few areas of the 2007 Bulls are going to give the coaching staff more headaches than a special teams unit that was bad last year and shows no signs of making a U-turn.  Sophomore kicker Delbert Alvarado nailed a 56-yarder last year, but he also missed 3-of-4 from inside 40 yards, making most of his appearances an adventure.  Strangely, things were even less stable at punter, where four different players got in the act at one time or another for one of the country’s worst net punting units. 

Junior Justin Teachey is the incumbent after averaging 38 yards a punt last and rarely get enough hang time to warrant a fair catch.  A rugby style kicker, he also handles kickoffs for the Bulls.    

USF is hopeful that junior Taurus Johnson can add a spark to its kick returns and a viable punt returner out of junior Marcus Edwards and sophomore Colby Erskin can be found.            

Projected Top Reserves:  Alvarado actually had the punting job to start last year, but couldn’t hold it through September.  He’s back again, looking to do double duty this fall if Teachey doesn’t make considerable strides.                  

Watch Out For… Alvarado.  The results were mixed in 2006, but it should be noted that he was only a true freshman.  The leg strength and technique are there, so if someone can coach him to greater consistency, the Bulls could solve half of their special teams problem.          
Strength: Alvarado’s distance.  When Alvarado kicked that 56-yarder against Syracuse last November, it set a Big East record and opened up a few options for the South Florida offense when it bogs down in enemy territory.    
Weakness: Consistency.  Shanked punts.  Missed extra points.  Hooked field goals.  It all adds up for a Bull program that plays a lot of games decided by a few points and a couple of pivotal plays that are the difference between a W and an L.      
Outlook: Offense.  Check.  Defense.  Check.  Special teams.  Check, please.  Facing a tough schedule, South Florida will lose at least one game that’ll be directly attributable to a missed kick or poor field position       
Rating: 5.5

  

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