Preview 2008 - Defense
2008 USF Preview
2008 USF Defense
USF Depth Chart
2007 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.
George Selvie, 14.5
Interceptions: Nate Allen, 4
of the defense:
Junior DE George Selvie
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior CB
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.