2008 CFN South Florida Preview
USF DE George Selvie
USF DE George Selvie
Posted May 16, 2008

The hot team early last year, South Florida faded near the end and clunked in a blowout bowl loss to Oregon. Now the expectations are high with a veteran offense and George Selvie-led defense that should reload in a hurry. Check out the CFN USF preview.

South Florida Bulls

Preview 2008

By Richard Cirminiello

- 2008 USF Preview | 2008 USF Offense
- 2008 USF Defense | 2008 USF Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN USF Preview | 2006 CFN USF Preview 

Head coach: Jim Leavitt
12th season: 79-47
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 32, Def. 25, ST 5
Lettermen Lost: 19
Ten Best USF Players
1. DE George Selvie, Jr.
2. QB Matt Grothe, Jr.
3. LB Tyrone McKenzie, Sr.
4. FS Nate Allen, Jr.
5. RB Mike Ford, Soph.
6. OG Ryan Schmidt, Sr.
7. DT Aaron Harris, Jr.
8. LB Brouce Mompremier, Sr.
9. WR Carlton Mitchell, Soph.
10. OT Marc Dile, Sr.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 30 UT Martin
Sept. 5 at UCF
Sept. 12 Kansas
Sept. 20 at FIU
Sept. 27 at NC State
Oct. 2 Pitt
Oct. 18 Syracuse
Oct. 25 at Louisville
Oct. 30 at Cincinnati
Nov. 15 Rutgers
Nov. 22 Connecticut
Dec. 6 at West Virginia

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record:

Sept. 1 Elon W 28-13
Sept. 8 at Auburn W 26-23 OT
Sept. 22
North Carolina W 37-10
Sept. 28 West Virginia W 21-13
Oct. 6
at Florida Atlantic W 35-23
Oct. 13 UCF W 64-12
Oct. 18 at Rutgers L 30-27
Oct. 27 at Connecticut L 22-15
Nov. 3
Cincinnati L 38-33
Nov. 10 at Syracuse W 41-10
Nov. 17 Louisville W 55-17
Nov. 24 at Pitt W 48-37
Sun Bowl
Dec. 31 Oregon L 56-21

Although the Bulls have won nine games in each of the last two seasons and haven’t missed a bowl game since 2004, there’s a feeling of unfinished business around Tampa. 

USF unexpectedly rose to No. 2 in the polls last year following its scintillating, nationally-televised win over West Virginia, and then floated back to earth with a three-game losing streak and a 56-21 Sun Bowl loss to Oregon to close out with a mega-clunk. Head coach Jim Leavitt, never at a loss for intensity, is determined to get his team back into the national discussion. 

Translation: Any Bull dogging it in the offseason won’t have a job in September.

While South Florida showed signs of growing pains in 2007, it remains a program on the rise and has everything in place to become one of college football’s biggest players. With each passing year, the talent level increases and the national exposure and attention continues to come. This fall, the Bulls have as many guaranteed national TV games as any Big East team, testament to their growth as a media darling. The extra attention works wonders for recruiting and ticket sales, but the days of sneaking up on opponents are long gone.

For a change, the South Florida offense enters a season with fewer question marks than the defense, and now it has to be more consistent. Tireless QB Matt Grothe is back as the offensive leader, while the skill positions welcome back the top four running backs and top four pass-catchers.  After averaging nearly 35 points a game, the Bulls have the ingredients to be even more prolific. They might have to be in the early going. 

The defense, the catalyst for the program’s recent success, has pressing needs at nose tackle, middle linebacker, and cornerback that need to be addressed before the opener. The onus falls on underrated defensive coordinator Wally Burnham to come up with the answers by plugging a handful of first-time starters into the lineup.      

South Florida must prove it can handle lofty expectations because it shows no signs of going away. The young program with the vast upside is looking to add another brick in its foundation by playing in another bowl game, preferably in January. Leavitt won’t settle for anything less.  

What to watch for on offense: Grothe has led the Bulls in rushing the last two years, a double-edged sword for the program. While his dual-threat potential ignites the offense, at just 6-0 and 215 pounds, do you really want your franchise taking so much pounding every week? Grothe will get much-needed help on the ground from RB Mike Ford, who debuted with 645 yards and 12 touchdowns on 138 carries. The passing game welcomes back a talented receiving corps that includes Carlton Mitchell, Jessie Hester, and Taurus Johnson, who each caught four touchdown passes.  Grothe, however, needs to help himself by improving his reads and cutting back on a bloated interception total.      

What to watch for on defense: Although the departures of LB Ben Moffitt and corners Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams have the defense in transition, the unit has enough returning talent to land on its feet. Of course, it helps that All-America DE George Selvie will be back to torment quarterbacks coming off the edge. Regardless of the names on the jersey, the Bulls will be fast, well-coached, and prone to creating turnovers. Losing the cover skills of Jenkins and Williams, however, will stifle the defense’s ability to turn the safeties loose on blitzes.       

The team will be far better if… the defense maintains a high level of performance.  While the offense continues making progress, it’s the D that drives the Bulls’ success. When the team allowed 30 or more points a year ago, it went 1-3, proof that the program wasn’t constructed to compete in shootouts. South Florida needs players, such as LB Tyrone McKenzie, S Nate Allen, and DT Aaron Harris, to evolve into bona fide Big East stars that can attract some attention away from the sack-happy Selvie.

The Schedule: The Bulls catch a nice break playing just three Big East road games, but two are within five days of each other against Louisville and Cincinnati in late October, and the third is at West Virginia in December. Going to Morgantown in the cold won't be a plus for the warm weather team. Hosting Kansas early on could put Jim Leavitt's club on the national map with a win, while a trip to NC State could be far tougher than it would've been last year. Non-conference road trips to UCF and FIU are hardly going to be true away games considering they're in-state, but they could be vital for recruiting.

Best offensive player: QB Matt Grothe. His spirals aren’t always the tightest and his size isn’t prototypical, but in two years, Grothe has become the uncontested face of the South Florida. A modern-day Doug Flutie, he’s an emotional leader that can tuck it and run or go up top to one of his big receivers. Grothe’s willingness to take a hit and lower his shoulder to pick up a first down has earned him the admiration of his teammates.             

Best defensive player: DE George Selvie. Selvie opened eyes as a freshman. As a sophomore, he made them bulge. One of the most explosive ends in the country, he erupted for a nation’s-high 31.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks, commanding constant double teams. An All-American who’s  just a few years removed from being a center, Selvie’s a three-down guy that’ll also pitch in on running downs. He’s such a disruptive force, everyone on the defense benefits from his presence.  

Key players to a successful season: CBs Jerome Murphy and Tyller Roberts. There’s no simple way to replace Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams, a pair of NFL corners who formed one of the best tandems in the nation. The Bulls gave up yards a year ago, but also picked off 23 passes and were No. 8 nationally in pass efficiency defense. The good news is that Murphy and Roberts have 62 games of experience between them. The bad news is that they’ve started just one game apiece.

The season will be a success if ... South Florida plays in a name brand bowl game. Although it doesn’t necessarily have to be a BCS bowl game, the Bulls are good enough to finish second in the Big East, and contend for a spot in the Gator Bowl. After starting so fast a year ago, USF faded, finishing in a third place tie with Cincinnati. This year’s objective is to avoid the peaks and valleys, while remaining in the league title hunt late in November.   

Key game: Dec. 6 at West Virginia.  South Florida has reached a point in its evolution where it can legitimately dream about a Big East championship and a BCS bowl game.  To get there, however, the Bulls will have to go through Morgantown and league favorite West Virginia.  They’ve won the last two meetings with the ‘eers, so intimidation is not going to be a factor.

2007 Fun Stats: 
- Rushing TDs: USF 30 – Opponents 8
- First quarter: USF 112 – Opponents 65
- Penalties: USF 112 for 937 yards – Opponents 95 for 780 yards