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2008 South Florida Preview - Offense
USF QB Matt Grothe
USF QB Matt Grothe
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 16, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - South Florida Bulls Offense

South Florida Bulls

Preview 2008 - Offense

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

What you need to know: Although Matt Grothe is a one-man gang for the South Florida offense, the coaching staff would prefer to spread the ball around a little more, taking some heat off its quarterback. That shouldn’t be a problem, considering 10 starters return from the most prolific attack in school history. After a solid rookie debut, RB Mike Ford is poised for a breakthrough season, and the ensemble of receivers is raw, but very deep and athletic. While new offensive coordinator Greg Gregory is excited about the talent he inherited, he also knows the offense can be far more potent if it cuts down on turnovers and improves in the red zone. That’s an indirect way of telling Grothe that it’s time to elevate the level of his play as a passer.         

Returning Leaders
Passing: Matt Grothe
232-392, 2,670 yds, 14 TD, 14 INT
Rushing: Matt Grothe
198 carries, 872 yds, 10 TD
Receiving: Carlton Mitchell
37 catches, 537 yds, 4 TD

Star of the offense: Junior QB Matt Grothe
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore RB Mike Ford
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Carlton Mitchell
Best pro prospect: Ford
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Senior G Ryan Schmidt  2) Ford  3) Grothe
Strength of the offense: Skill position talent, the left side of the line
Weakness of the offense: Turnovers

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter: Junior Matt Grothe took the next step in his evolution as the program’s MVP and became one of the most overworked players in America leading the Bulls in passing and rushing for the second straight year.  While hardly the quarterback archetype at 6-0 and 213 pounds, he’s an effective improviser that won’t shy away from contact, a trait that inspires his teammates. Grothe ran for 872 yards and 10 touchdowns on 198 carries, often extending drives and frustrating opposing defenses. However, his passing skills still need plenty of work. Grothe went 232-of-392 for 2,670 yards and 14 touchdowns, but also threw 14 interceptions for the second year in-a-row and takes too many sacks. Still not a complete player, he needs to start making better decisions in the second half of his Bull career.

Projected Top Reserves: While no threat to Grothe’s job, Grant Gregory is a luxury for the offense, a senior whose father is offensive coordinator Greg Gregory.  A poor man’s Grothe, he’s only 6-1 and 205 pounds, has adequate arm strength, and good atheticism. If pressed into action, Gregory is capable of doing a rather believable impression of the starter. 

In two years, the heir apparent to Grothe is expected to be redshirt freshman Alton Voss, who used last season to learn the offense and hit the weights.  Yet another multi-dimensional quarterback, the 6-2, 225-pounder has a quick release and some of the passion and intensity that have helped make Grothe an icon around campus.     

Watch Out For… a little less running from Grothe. It’s a dimension of the offense that certainly isn’t going away, but with the development of RB Mike Ford, the Bulls would prefer that their undersized franchise quarterback absorb a few less hits over the next two seasons.
Strength: Mobility. The common thread that runs through Grothe, Gregory, and Voss is that they’re all tough and capable of making plays with their legs, both by design on quarterback draws and when protection breaks down.
Weakness: Turnovers. In the Bulls’ four losses in 2007, Grothe threw three touchdown passes and nine interceptions, a disturbing trend that must be reversed if the quarterback and the program are going to get to reach a new level.
Outlook: Grothe is a winner as the catalyst for the entire USF program. However, with two years of experience in the vault, it’s time he becomes more consistent as a passer after finishing second to last in Big East passer efficiency rating.
Rating: 8

Running Backs

Projected Starters: In his debut, sophomore Mike Ford gave hints of why he’s considered one of the most decorated recruits in South Florida’s brief history. The 6-2, 225-pound blend of power and deceptive speed ran for 645 yards and a team-high 12 touchdowns on 138 carries. Best of all, he improved as the season wound down, rushing for six touchdowns and his first two 100-yard days in the last three games of the regular season. His bruising, north-south running style is a good fit for an offense that’s aiming to spend more time working between the tackles this season.   

Projected Top Reserves: Senior Benjamin Williams isn’t your typical No. 2 back, a veteran of 22 starts and one of the most underrated blocking backs in the Big East.  While only 5-7, do not label him small or undersized.  At 200 pounds, he’s uncommonly strong, particularly in the lower body, and great at picking up blitzes.  Williams also has the best hands among the backs, catching 25 balls for 239 yards to go along with 425 yards rushing and six touchdowns on 105 carries. 

When the running game needs a jolt of electricity, it turns to sophomore Aston Samuels and his 4.42 wheels. At 5-10 and 176 pounds, he offers a dramatic change-of-pace to the rest of the backfield. 

Sophomore Jamar Taylor turned a few heads a year ago, playing in all 12 games and rushing for 140 yards and two scores to go along with eight receptions.  A former Alabama commit that’s cut from the same mold as Williams, the 5-9, 205-pounder won’t go down with arm tackles. 

Watch Out For… an expanded role for Ford. South Florida took it easy on their prized back in 2007, but if November is any indication, the program is ready to put more miles on their Ford.  Provided conditioning isn’t an issue, look for the sophomore to get about 100 more touches than a year ago.
Strength: The one-two punch of Ford and Williams.  While Ford is almost ready to go into orbit, Williams is a steady vet who can give the starter breathers and wear down defenses on a sultry Florida night. Together, they form the best backfield duo that the Bulls have ever had.
Weakness: A lack of proven electricity. The running game is somewhat methodical, with the top three rushers averaging less than five yards a carry. The closest thing USF has to a homerun hitter is Samuels, but it’s doubtful he’ll steal too many carries from Grothe, Ford, and Williams.
Outlook: Ford is about to enjoy his coming-out party, taking over the lead role and running behind an experienced line. He should crank out more than 1,000 yards with a slew of short-yardage touchdowns, while getting occasional support from Williams.
Rating: 7.5

Receivers

Projected Starters: The Bulls bring back seven of last year’s top eight pass-catchers after showing its youth on a regular basis last season. The alpha dog is sophomore Carlton Mitchell, who led the offense as a rookie with 37 catches for 537 yards and four scores. The starter at X receiver, he’s a 6-4 and 210-pound load with great wheels and a scary upside once he fine-tunes the fundamentals. 

At the Y, senior Taurus Johnson will be looking to improve on last year’s 34 catches for 407 yards and four touchdowns. At 6-1 and 204 pounds, he’s the unit’s most dynamic playmaker, boasting 4.4 speed and the ability to sky above defenders and pluck balls out of the air. 

The steady veteran of the group is 5-11, 164-pound senior Marcus Edwards, who started 23 career games and plays bigger than his size.  From the Z spot, the frequent team captain caught 22 passes for 231 yards and a touchdown. 

When the offense passes on a tight end for a fourth receiver, 6-0, 174-pound junior Jessie Hester Jr. gets the call. A burner who caught 35 passes for 418 yards and four scores, the son of the former NFL receiver by the same name improved more than any other Bull wideout.        

Senior Cedric Hill lines up at tight end, but at an athletic 6-3 and 240 pounds, he’s really a well-sized receiver who can create mismatches against opposing tight ends. Coming off a career-high 23 catches for 264 yards and a touchdown, he’s a nice all-around athlete who’ll again work the middle of the field as defenses focus on USF’s outside speed.

Projected Top Reserves: One of the few true freshmen who earned playing time in 2007, sophomore Dontavia Bogan will work behind Johnson for one more season before supplanting him in 2009. At 6-1 and 180 pounds, he’s a sleek sprinter with some of the best hands on the team.  Bogan debuted with 12 receptions for 190 yards and his first career touchdown.

Injuries also created an opportunity for A.J. Love, another raw sophomore who’s a big part of the future in the Bull passing game. He responded with eight catches for 111 yards and a touchdown, flashing 4.4 speed in a 6-2, 196-pound frame.  

Reliable 6-3 and 242-pound junior Ben Busbee will again be Hill’s backup at tight end.  A veteran of 22 games and five starts, his four career receptions for 32 yards are evidence that he’s used more for his blocking than his hands. 
 
Watch Out For… the emergence of Mitchell. He didn’t become a starter until late in the year, but flourished in November, earning the experience and confidence that’ll get him one step closer to being the star of this ensemble.
Strength: Depth. If opposing defenses focus on stopping one Bull receiver, there are three or four quality athletes capable of making them pay for it. South Florida is the only Big East school that boasts three returning receivers that caught at least four touchdown passes last year.
Weakness: Consistency.  For the second straight year, the raw talent is enough to make NFL scouts drool, but, the Bull receivers still need to reduce their number of dropped balls and tighten up their fundamentals if the passing is going to improve.
Outlook: Although the physical ability and the athleticism are enough to run most defenses out of the stadium, the Bull receiving corps has a way to go before being considered a polished unit.  If the group turns the corner, it’ll be reflected in QB Matt Grothe’s passer rating.
Rating: 7

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: A nice mix of youth and veterans, the Bulls have four returning starters and one big hole at right tackle. For the moment, sophomore Jacob Sims is penciled in as Walter Walker’s successor, but he’s hardly being handed the job. Although the 6-5, 290-pound former walk-on has done well to add muscle and scale the depth chart, it’s not likely he’s ready to handle some of the Big East’s better pass rushers. 

USF can rest easy at left tackle with the return of senior Marc Dile, who enters his third year as the starter. A nimble athlete at 6-4 and 309 pounds, he responded to the cries to get more physical by leading the Bulls with 80 knockdowns.

Senior Jake Griffin was the line’s biggest surprise a year ago, rebounding from an injury-plagued sophomore year to grade out higher than any other lineman.  More physical than most centers at 6-4 and 307 pounds, he’s strong up top, allowing him to drive tackles off the ball on running plays.       

Senior Ryan Schmidt has started 20 consecutive games since transferring from Kansas State, arriving as a center, settling in at left guard, and remaining open to another relocation.  A nasty, bordering on dirty, 6-5, 327-pounder, the All-Big East Second Teamer has earned a reputation as an enforcer in the trenches. 

On the right side will be 6-3, 313-pound sophomore Zach Hermann, who played exceptionally well for a wide-eyed rookie.  Very physical at the point of attack, he was third on the team with a 72% grade and second with 70 knockdowns. Hermann served notice that he has the tools and the intensity to be a four-year starter in Tampa.  

Projected Top Reserves: The return of senior G Matt Huners from an ACL tear is like bringing in a top recruit with a full year of experience. He rehabbed in time to play the final three games of 2007, reminding the coaching staff why it graded him tops among the Bull linemen two years ago.  A healthy Huners adds depth to the interior, while giving flexibility to how the coaches juggle the line. 

His redshirt year now behind him, freshman Kevin McCaskill is ready to study behind Griffin at center before taking the position over in 2009.  One of the top recruits at his position a year ago, he’s 6-2 and 300 pounds with terrific athletic ability for an interior lineman.  

Watch Out For… Schmidt to shift to left tackle if Sims can’t handle the promotion. Schmidt has the size and the long arms to handle the position while the quick recovery of Huners gives the Bulls a talented veteran capable of sliding into the resulting opening at guard.
Strength: The left side. If Schmidt stays put, the Bulls will boast a pair of all-conference caliber linemen to the left of a center that graded out better than anyone a year ago.
Weakness: The second unit. After Huners, assuming he remains a backup, the reserves are young and frighteningly short on experience.  If anything happens to one of the starters, the Bull offense might hinge on the ability of kids, like sophomore Joe Herzhauser and redshirt freshman Jeremiah Warren, Chaz Hine, and Thomas Edenfield, to quickly adapt to the speed of the game. 
Outlook: Head coach Jim Leavitt wants South Florida to eventually be a pipeline to the NFL for offensive linemen.  He’s getting close. This could be his best unit to date, provided it doesn’t get stretched too thin and a decent tackle can be developed on the right side.
Rating: 7.5