Preview 2008 - Offense
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2008 USF Defense
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2007 CFN USF Preview
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.
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
of the offense:
Junior QB Matt Grothe
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore RB
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.