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2008 South Florida Preview - Defense
USF LB Tyrone McKenzie
USF LB Tyrone McKenzie
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 16, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - South Florida Bulls Defense

South Florida Bulls

Preview 2008 - Defense

- 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: The defense, the cornerstone of South Florida’s recent boom, is undergoing some changes, particularly up the middle and at cornerback. Exhausted eligibility took a bite out the interior of the defensive line, while marking the end of the careers of three all-league standouts, LB Ben Moffitt and corners Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams. Good recruiting and even better coaching ensure that Wally Burnham’s speedy defense will land on its feet. Of course, it doesn’t hurt getting back All-American DE George Selvie, a disruptive force and one of the best pass rushers in the country. He’ll be joined by six other starters and emerging stars, such as NT Terrell McClain and CB Jerome Murphy, who’ll work to keep the Bulls among the Big East’s stingiest defenses.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Tyrone McKenzie, 121
Sacks: George Selvie, 14.5
Interceptions: Nate Allen, 4

Star of the defense: Junior DE George Selvie
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior CB Jerome Murphy
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore NT Terrell McClain
Best pro prospect: Selvie
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Selvie 2) Senior LB Tyrone McKenzie 3) Junior S Nate Allen
Strength of the defense: The defensive line, the safeties
Weakness of the defense: The middle of the defense, inexperience at cornerback

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: George Selvie is one of the nation’s premier pass rushers and a disruptive force who must be accounted for at all times, but now he has to be more consistent. Long and lean at 6-4 and 242 pounds, the junior erupted last year for a nation’s-high 31.5 tackles for loss and a Big East-best 14.5 sacks, routinely blowing past helpless tackles.  He’s a rare talent who attracts so much attention, others around him are allowed to roam free with fewer obstacles, but he has to prove he can handle the double and triple teaming. Once the spotlight was on, he struggled a bit over the second half of the year coming up with only one sack in the final five games, one tackle for loss in the final three, and did next to nothing against Oregon in the bowl loss.

One of the beneficiaries of all the concern about Selvie is senior Jarriett Buie, who has finally overcome injury and academic woes to become a productive complement at the opposite end.  One of the defense’s strongest players at 6-4 and 255 pounds, he started nine games a year ago, making 26 tackles, six tackles for loss, and a sack.     

Taking over at the nose for Richard Clebert is sophomore Terrell McClain, an emerging talent who received a crash course as a rookie playing in 12 games and contributing seven tackles and three tackles for loss. The biggest of the interior linemen at 6-3 and 306 pounds, he’s also surprisingly light on his feet, a combination that signals a promising future. 

Junior Aaron Harris arrived last season, even if it was impossible for a lineman other than Selvie to earn recognition.  While he’ll never have prototypical size for an inside lineman, the 6-4, 275-pounder use his speed and quickness to make 24 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks.  A spot on the All-Big East team awaits Harris if he continues improving his technique and conditioning.  

Projected Top Reserves: To address the glaring lack of depth at tackle, the Bulls have imported 6-1, 308-pound sophomore Sampson Genus from the offensive line. One of the strongest South Florida players, he’s hoping to channel Selvie by going from unheralded center to defensive stalwart. If Genus can show he can play on the outside, the staff may move him there.

There’s an opportunity for redshirt freshman Patrick Hampton to earn a spot in a rotation that’s unsettled after Selvie and Buie. At 6-3 and 225 pounds, he’s really an outside linebacker that has the closing speed to be a factor as a situational pass rusher on third downs.     

Watch Out For… Buie to put up big numbers in his final season.  With Selvie facing constant double-teams, Buie will pick up some of the slack using his power and acceleration to blow past last year’s modest production.
Strength: Selvie. A machine of a pass rusher, he blows up opposing gameplans while making everyone around him more effective at their own jobs. He has to keep producing to help out the young line.
Weakness: Depth. This is a huge issue for a line that had a wealth of veteran reserves a year ago.  The Bulls don’t have a single backup with any relevant minutes, which could haunt the defense and exhaust the starters throughout the season.
Outlook: As long as the line doesn’t have to dig too deep for new bodies, it’ll be one of the most effective units in the Big East.  While Selvie will make his plays, it’s incumbent upon Buie, Harris, and McClain to stuff the run and take some heat off their All-American linemate.  
Rating: 7.5

Linebackers

Projected Starters: South Florida loses just one regular, but it’s a huge one: all-league middle linebacker Ben Moffitt.  First dibs on his old job belong to 6-1, 255-pound sophomore Alonzo McQueen, a prized get from 2006 who’s ready to make all those recruiting trips to Jacksonville worthwhile. At 6-1 and 255 pounds, he has the size to be a run stopper and notable athleticism, popping off a 38-inch vertical leap in the offseason. Now he must show that he’s got the instincts to hold on to this job through the summer. 

Leading tackler Tyrone McKenzie will be back at strongside unless the coaches feel a need to move him inside.  In his first season removed from Iowa State, the 6-2, 235-pound senior rung up 121 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, and two fumble recoveries, en route to a spot on the All-Big East team.  McKenzie is the next in a growing line of star USF linebackers, a complete package looking for his third straight season with more than 100 stops. 

An ace on special teams for the first half of his career, senior Brouce Mompremier went on to become one of 2007’s pleasant surprises, winning the weakside job and racking up 83 tackles and six tackles for loss.  One of the quickest members of the group at 6-1 and 227 pounds, he’s active in pass defense and a candidate to be turned loose on the blitz.         

Projected Top Reserves: McQueen’s biggest threat in the middle will come from junior Kion Wilson, a product of Pearl River (Miss.) Community College. Hotly pursued by the likes of Miami and Louisville over the past year, he’s an athletic 6-2, 235-pounder with the upper body strength to battle linemen that reach the second level. 

Behind McKenzie, junior Chris Robinson has become a forgotten man, but it was just two years ago that he was one of the Bulls’ super subs.  An outstanding pass rusher at 6-3 and 233 pounds, he was ruined last season by nagging injuries and an experimental shift to defensive end.  Robinson is too disruptive to not get more playing time in 2008 at one of the two positions. 

At weakside, 6-0, 230-pound sophomore Sabbath Joseph will back up Mompremier for a second straight year.  In his first game experience, he pitched in on special teams and added 14 solo tackles on defense.      
 
Watch Out For… Robinson to demand a larger role on a defense that’s pining for pass rushers other than ends George Selvie and Jarriett Buie. Although nothing went right for him last year, this is the same player that came off the bench for seven sacks as a freshman in 2006.
Strength: Depth. The only member of the two-deep that hasn’t lettered for South Florida is Wilson, and he might wind up being the opening day starter at middle linebacker.  If someone goes down or needs a blow, the staff is confident in every one of the players on the second unit.
Weakness: Inexperience inside. Between McQueen and Wilson, the Bulls will eventually be fine, but replacing a middle man of Moffitt’s caliber and experience doesn’t happen overnight.
Outlook: While it might take a month for the unit to get used to life without Moffitt, there’s enough talent inside and out for it to work through the rough patches. Now that Moffitt, Stephen Nicholas, and Pat St. Louis are all gone, it’s time for McKenzie to evolve into the leading man of the USF linebacker corps.
Rating: 7

Secondary

Projected Starters: The glass is half empty—or half full—in the South Florida secondary, depending on where you’re standing. While the Bulls are set at safety, they must replace Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams, one of the nation’s best corner tandems.  Stepping into the spotlight are senior Tyller Roberts and junior Jerome Murphy, who’ve got one career start apiece. 

Roberts has earned a letter and broken up four passes in each of the last three years, playing extensively as a second-teamer. At 6-1 and 185 pounds, he’s a leaper who won’t get beaten on jump balls versus the Big East’s taller receivers. 

If Murphy can tighten up his cover skills and adjust to the promotion, he has the physical attributes to be NFL-ready by the end of 2009. The nickel back as a sophomore, he’s a fantastic all-around athlete that’s as fast as any Bull and can jump out of the stadium. He flashed some of his playmaking skills last season, making 37 tackles, picking off two passes, and forcing two fumbles.  

Junior Nate Allen and senior Carlton Williams have a chance to be at safety what Jenkins and Williams were at corner. Allen is ready for more national pub a year after flashing the athleticism and playmaking skills of a former high school quarterback. In his first as a starter, the 6-2, 200-pound free safety made 76 tackles, picked off four passes, recovered three fumbles, and scored a pair of touchdowns. 

Allen is a special talent that’ll keep getting better in the second half of his career. At strong safety, Williams is a 6-4, 214-pound enforcer entering his fourth season as a starter. Especially tough in run defense, he had 69 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and recovered a couple of fumbles.

Projected Top Reserves: The Bulls’ second team safeties could start for a number of schools.  Strong safety Louis Gachette may be no threat to Williams’ job, but his 38 games of experience make for a nice insurance policy. The 6-3, 215-pounder had a career-high 23 tackles a year ago, adding a pair of interceptions. 

Senior free safety Danny Verpaele is making his return to the squad after getting suspended for all of last season. A part-time starter in 2004 and 2006, he has the quickness and change-of-direction to overcome being just 5-11 and 200 pounds.  

With two new starters at cornerback, the backups will take on a particularly important role.  The most experienced of the reserves was sophomore Dylan Douglas, who got his feet wet on special teams and in one-sided games. At 5-10 and 182 pounds, he had track speed and the playmaking ability to contribute in the return game, but he's off the team leaving a big hole.    

Watch Out For… Murphy. If the staff can coach him up to become more disciplined and instinctive, he has the physical skill set to be South Florida’s next lockdown corner.
Strength: The safeties. Among the Bulls’ top four safeties are 122 games of experience, 59 starts, and two players, Allen and Williams, good enough to be on the All-Big East team.
Weakness: Youth at cornerback. Murphy is preparing for lift-off, but two new starters and a dearth of experience on the second and third teams are ingredients for problems in pass defense.
Outlook: While you don’t get better by losing NFL corners Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams, South Florida is hardly destitute in the defensive backfield. The safeties are talented enough to cheat over at times, and Roberts and Murphy might surprise people with their ball skills and athletic ability. The first real test will be Sept. 12, when Kansas travels to Raymond James Stadium.
Rating: 7.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: The same cast that comprised the South Florida special teams unit last season is back again in 2008. Junior Delbert Alvarado will handle placekicking, while his backup in both areas, senior Justin Teachey, will be in charge of kickoffs. After a potentially disastrous game against Auburn, Alvarado rebounded, making 17-of-27 field goal attempts and 51-of-52 extra points.  As a punter, he averaged more than 41 yards, or seven yards better than the previous season, and improved on his hang time.  If necessary, Teachey has the experience to pitch in at both positions.

Also returning are last year’s top punt returner and kickoff returner, senior Marcus Edwards and junior  Jerome Murphy.  Edwards was No. 4 in the Big East at 7.4 yards a return, as was Murphy, who popped off a respectable 24.3 yards each time he touched the ball.             

Watch Out For… Alvarado. Once he got comfortable after the rocky start, he settled down to become a steady two-way performer.  If he builds on what he did in ‘07, he’ll be among the most valuable specialists in the Big East.
Strength: Versatility. In Alvarado and Teachey, USF possesses a rarity, two strong-legged kickers who have the experience as both kickers and punters.
Weakness: Consistency. While the Bulls have certainly made strides since the implosions of 2006, this is still a special teams unit that had three kicks and a punt blocked, and got only 6-of-11 field goals converted outside 40 yards. 
Outlook: Although there are steadier units in the Big East, as long as Alvarado keeps growing and gaining confidence, the Bulls will still be light years ahead of where they were two years ago.
Rating: 8