2009 South Florida Preview - Offense
South Florida QB Matt Grothe
South Florida QB Matt Grothe
Posted May 27, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - South Florida Bulls Offense

South Florida Bulls

Preview 2009 - Offense

- 2009 USF Preview | 2009 USF Offense
- 2009 USF Defense | 2009 USF Depth Chart
- 2008 CFN USF Preview | 2007 CFN USF Preview | 2006 CFN USF Preview

What you need to know: The revolving door spun again at offensive coordinator, as Mike Canales was hired to replace Greg Gregory. He inherits a lot issues and a stale offense that struggled mightily to produce big plays, despite having a fair amount of skill position talent. He also inherited fourth-year starting QB Matt Grothe, an enigma who can be magical on one play and maddening on the next two. The coach’s primary job will be to coach up his signal-caller, guiding him to the most prolific season of his Bull career. Forget the fact that South Florida led the Big East in total offense and finished second in scoring. It did most of its damage against lesser opponents, while failing to score more than 20 points in the final five regular season games.  

Returning Leaders
Passing: Matt Grothe
240-380, 2,911 yds, 18 TD, 14 INT
Rushing: Matt Grothe
146 carries, 591 yds, 4 TD
Receiving: Jessie Hester
54 catches, 579 yds, 3 TD

Star of the offense: Junior QB Matt Grothe
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior RB Mike Ford
Unsung star on the rise: Junior WR Dontavia Bogan
Best pro prospect: Ford
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Grothe  2) Senior WR Jessie Hester  3) Ford
Strength of the offense: Experience and versatility at quarterback, the receivers, running back depth
Weakness of the offense: Turnovers, lack of big plays, the offensive line, red zone offense


Projected Starter: Senior Matt Grothe is a living, breathing intangible. At 6-0 and 203 pounds, he is not a next-level quarterback, but does possess many of the characteristics needed for the quarterback position. He’s a tough, experienced gamer, who leads by example and elevates the play of his teammates. While an average passer, he’ll get the job done through the air, while really hurting defenses by scrambling outside the pocket. A year ago, he went 240-of-380 for 2,911 yards, and 18 touchdowns, adding 591 yards and four scores on the ground. However, he has also thrown exactly 14 interceptions in each of the last three seasons, a real drag on the offense that needs to be reversed.   

Projected Top Reserves: Both backups are redshirt freshmen, a particular concern since Grothe is so physical on the move. The No. 2 job belongs to 6-1, 212-pound B.J. Daniels, one of the best all-around athletes on the team. Also a member of the basketball team, he can make something out of nothing with his feet and has underrated arm strength. If he continues to learn and master the finer points of the position, he has a chance to be the quarterback of the future in Tampa.

Running third on the depth chart is 6-3, 214-pound Evan Landi, last year’s offensive scout team player of the year. Another versatile athlete at the position, he’s also a candidate to play some wide receiver, defensive back, and be the holder on kicks. He was so good throughout the spring, the coaches are compelled to get him on the field in some capacity.

Watch Out For… a more polished Grothe. He finished 2008 strong and enters this season as a fourth-year starter. Coordinator Mike Canales is comparing him to Phillip Rivers in terms of film study and understanding the game. Hyperbole? Probably. Still, you get the feeling he’s on the brink of his best season as a Bull.
Strength: Athleticism. Some programs would feel lucky to have Grothe, Daniels, and Landi playing running back rather than quarterback. They’re that good with their feet. Grothe has run for more than 2,000 yards in his career, and Daniels and Landi could easily transfer their talent to another position.
Weakness: Turnovers. In the Bulls’ five losses in 2008, Grothe threw four touchdown passes and 11 interceptions, a recurring theme that has to be addressed if the quarterback and the program are going to reach a new level.
Outlook: Grothe is a really good college quarterback who needs to be a great one if South Florida is to win its first Big East championship. He’s a playmaker, to be sure, but he needs to cut down on the mistakes and achieve a higher level of consistency. Remaining durable is another must, considering the inexperience of his understudies.
Rating: 8

Running Backs

Projected Starters: The Bulls have no feature back, relying on a deep stable of runners to complement the scrambling of QB Matt Grothe. So much more is expected from 6-2, 225-pound junior Mike Ford, who only ran 102 times for 407 yards and five touchdowns. In his defense, he battled a pair of ankle injuries all year, preventing him from properly planting. When healthy, he’s a bruising, north-south runner with the power and leg drive to bowl over tacklers, especially in short-yardage situations.

Senior Mo Plancher has every bit a claim to the starting job as Ford. As a three-game starter a year ago, the 5-9, 200-pounder ran for 322 yards and six touchdowns on only 69 carries. The most reliable of the backs, he has great feet and change of direction, making people miss in the open field. He’s also skilled at picking up the blitz, which makes him a three-down option.

Projected Top Reserves: At the end of last year, no back was playing better than 5-9, 205-pound junior Jamar Taylor, a former Alabama commit. A tough back, who runs with good pad level, he started a pair of games and finished with 300 yards and three scores on 62 carries. He’s behind Plancher for now, but will have no problems sliding into the lineup if needed.

One of the more unique backs on the roster is junior Richard Kelly, who has only logged 24 carries in his first two seasons. The biggest and strongest of the backs at 6-0 and 249 pounds, he always has excellent hands, giving the staff a lot of options on how he can be used. He can block, carry the ball in short yardage, or impersonate an H-back.   

Watch Out For… more throws to the backs. Coordinator Mike Canales would like to get the backs more involved in the passing, which is going to create more opportunities for whichever players display good hands and a knack for picking up yards after the catch.
Strength: Depth. From one to three, there’s almost no drop-off in talent or experience. The Bulls will always have fresh legs at the position, a real luxury in the Sunshine State, and won’t feel it if one player is lost for an extended period of time. 
Weakness: Lack of game-breakers. Unless 4.2 burner Aston Samuels gets in the mix, the Bulls have a serious dearth of electricity in the backfield. None of the returners had a run of more than 34 yards in 2008, a trend that’s likely to continue this season.  
Outlook: It’s time. Time for Ford to blossom into the player that so many SEC schools had to have, and time for this deep stable of backs to take some pressure off Grothe. While depth is always a good thing, South Florida would benefit from one of these guys emerging as a feature back, who warrants 20 touches a game.
Rating: 7


Projected Starters: With four of the Bulls’ top five receivers back in Tampa, the program is on solid footing at the position. Senior Jessie Hester led the team with 54 receptions for 579 yards and three touchdowns, growing into his role as one of the veteran leaders of the offense. While he hasn’t shown a knack for making the big play, he has great hands and is one of the program’s most precise route runners.

The explosive player of this group is 6-4, 212-pound junior Carlton Mitchell, a unique combination of great size, good wheels, and the ability to sky above defenders. In terms of the total physical package, he has few peers on this team, but needs to fine-tune his overall game. After breaking out as a freshman, his numbers dipped as a sophomore to 28 receptions for 405 yards and a score.

One of the rising stars of this unit is 6-1, 185-pound junior Dontavia Bogan, who has an All-Big East upside. A smooth athlete with good speed, he glides effortlessly running routes and has very soft hands. After lettering as a true freshman, he stepped up his game last fall, catching 26 passes for 354 yards and a touchdown.  

Junior Andrew Ketchel has the edge in the race to replace all-league tight end Cedric Hill. A late-bloomer, his role expanded toward the end of the season, culminating in a start in the bowl game. At 6-5 and 240 pounds, he’s a hard-to-miss target and the best pass-catcher of the tight ends.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior A.J. Love was the only Bull receiver to start every game in 2008, catching 31 passes for 370 yards and two touchdowns. He missed spring and is currently in a fight for the job at Z receiver, needing a big summer to match last year’s playing time. A 6-2, 210-pounder, he has the right combination of size and 4.4 speed to once again be a key factor in the passing game.

Going stride for stride with Love is 6-2, 185-pound junior Ed Alcin. In fact, he may have passed him during the spring. A gifted all-around athlete, he gets off the snap quickly and has shown good ball skills during practice. He’s had just three catches in his first two seasons, but he stands on the brink of a breakout year in 2009.

Steady 6-3 and 242-pound senior Ben Busbee will once again be the backup at tight end. A veteran of 36 games and eights starts, his 11 career receptions are proof that he’s used more for his blocking than his hands. 
Watch Out For… Bogan. There are flashing signs that this junior is about ready to become the most dynamic playmaker among the receivers. He’s a cut above athletically, and unlike a Mitchell, he’s rapidly becoming a polished receiver as well.            
Strength: Athleticism. Just about all of the receivers originate from the state of Florida, so the speed and burst is pretty much built in. As a group, these Bulls all move well, jump high, and can make defenders miss in the open field.
Weakness: Production. Although the raw talent is there, the production doesn’t always match it. The receivers still lack consistency and have too many off games. Plus, where are the big plays? Yeah, the quarterback shares some of the blame, but there’s no excuse for not having a single play greater than 50 yards out of this group in 2008.
Outlook: Much like the running backs, USF would like to get more out of a collection of receivers that too often looks better in uniform than on film. Talents like Hester, Mitchell, Bogan, and Alcin are thoroughbreds, who need to break out of the stable this fall.
Rating: 7.5

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: It’s makeover time for a South Florida offensive line that’ll be looking to replace four starters and a pair of all-conference performers. The line will be built around a couple of veterans on the right side, 6-3, 304-pound junior G Zach Hermann and 6-5, 285-pound junior T Jacob Sims. Hermann is a tough, physical throwback, bringing 18 starts into his third season. He’s especially effective as a run blocker, doing whatever is necessary to spring his teammates for extra yards.

A rising blocker on this unit, Sims has been slowed in the offseason by finger surgery, which opened the door for the competition. Once healthy, he’s expected to get back in the hunt for the starting job he held 10 times in 2008. A versatile athlete and former walk-on, he’s shown an ability to play either left tackle or right guard, and could be shifted around. 

The left side? Hold your breath. It’s not that there isn’t upside, rather no experience. The frontrunner to protect Matt Grothe’s blindside is 6-4, 270-pound redshirt freshman Jatavious Jackson. A key recruit from the 2008 class, he has the footwork and athletic ability to eventually be the anchor of this unit. Today, however, he has a lot to learn and some weight to add, concerns that could impact the entire offense.

At guard will be 6-4, 292-pound sophomore Chaz Hine, a little-used reserve from a year ago. A self-made, blue-collar worker, he played well enough throughout the spring to lock down this job. He’s added weight and gotten stronger in the offseason in anticipation of this promotion.

The difficult job of replacing Jake Griffin at center belongs to 6-2, 304-pound sophomore Kevin McCaskill. Another one of the program’s heralded recruits from a couple years back, he’s just now starting to acclimate to his role on the line. A squat lineman with a solid base, he moves well for a big man.

Projected Top Reserves: While Sims rehabbed this spring, redshirt freshman Mark Popek got a lot of reps with the first-stringers. And held up rather well. At 6-7 and 305 pounds, he certainly looked the part for a left tackle. He’s big and strong with a long reach, but needs to show the staff that he can bring it on every down.

Pushing Jackson at left tackle is 6-4, 314-pound sophomore Jeremiah Warren, who played in seven games and lettered in his first season. He has a high ceiling with the program, provided he can maintain his conditioning and his grades. He sat out the spring to concentrate on academics.

If McCaskill falters, the job at center could go to 6-1, 308-pound junior Sampson Genus, a five-game starter on the defensive line last season. Very strong and physical at the point of attack, he shows upside as a run blocker once he gets more snaps.

Watch Out For… Sims to be on the move. The most versatile player on the unit, he gives a lot of options to the coaching staff. If the Bulls plan to get their five best players on the field, he’s capable of shifting positions to open up a slot for another lineman.
Strength: Run blocking. Straight-ahead, no frills blocking is what this unit does best. It isn’t especially fancy or flush with star power, but it can move a pile and open up running lanes for Grothe and the backs.
Weakness: The left side. A strength just one year ago, South Florida is eyeing the left side of the line as a blinking liability. Jackson and Hine have virtually no experience at this level, and their backups are equally green.
Outlook: After peaking as a unit a year ago, the line is bracing itself for a steep decline. There isn’t a single senior—or bona fide all-star—on the roster, which bodes well for 2010 and beyond, but will cause headaches and stalled drives in 2009.
Rating: 6.5