2009 CFN South Florida Preview
South Florida DE George Selvie
South Florida DE George Selvie
Posted May 27, 2009

Is South Florida in rebuilding mode, or are the athletes in place to come up with a surprising year and a Big East title? The hot team of two years ago has work to do, but as Richard Cirminiello points out, this Bulls will be dangerous and worth watching. Check out the CFN 2009 USF preview.

South Florida Bulls

Preview 2009

By Richard Cirminiello

- 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

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Head coach: Jim Leavitt
13h season: 87-52
Returning Lettermen: 40
Lettermen Lost: 20
Ten Best USF Players
1. DE George Selvie, Sr.
2. QB Matt Grothe, Sr.
3. DT Terrell McClain, Jr.
4. CB Jerome Murphy, Sr.
5. LB Kion Wilson, Sr.
6. WR Jessie Hester, Sr.
7. FS Nate Allen, Sr.
8. RB Mike Ford, Jr.
9. DE Aaron Harris, Sr.
10. OG Zach Hermann, Jr.

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2009 Record:

9/5 Wofford
9/12 at West. Kentucky
9/19 Charleston Southern
9/26 at Florida State
10/3 at Syracuse
10/15 Cincinnati
10/24 at Pitt
10/30 West Virginia
11/12 at Rutgers
11/21 Louisville
11/28 Miami
12/5 at Connecticut

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record:

8/30 UT Martin W 56-7
9/5 at UCF W 31-24 OT
9/12 Kansas W 37-34
9/20 at FIU W 17-9
9/27 at NC St W 41-10
10/2 Pitt L 26-21
10/18 Syracuse W 45-13
10/25 at Louisville L 24-20
10/30 at Cincinnati L 24-10
11/15 Rutgers L 49-16
11/22 Connecticut W 17-13
12/6 at West Virginia L 13-7
St. Petersburg Bowl
12/20 Memphis W 41-14

Now that South Florida has hit a wall and a little bit of adversity, where does it go from here?

Maybe the neophyte program grew too quickly, rising to No. 2 nationally in the middle of 2007 because since then, it failed to fulfill inflated expectations. There have been no Big East titles and a pedestrian 10-9 record in the last 19 games with FBS opponents. In fact, the Bulls slid all the way to sixth place in an eight-team league, hardly the trajectory of one of the country’s fastest rising entities.

While South Florida is no doubt on solid footing, it’s fair to wonder if Jim Leavitt, the excitable head coach, has reached a plateau with the school. By all measures, the Bulls have the talent to match up with any other Big East school, yet they’ve won just five of their last 13 league games. That’s a troubling statistic for a school that believes it’s ready to graduate from December bowl invitations.

On paper, this year’s edition, too, appears capable of competing for a crown. The best offensive player in school history, QB Matt Grothe, returns. So does the best defensive player in school history, end George Selvie. Sure, there are concerns, such as the offensive line, but the supporting cast is solid and depth isn’t a major issue. South Florida is ready for the next step in its evolution. Or is it? Another magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl won’t kill the Bulls, but it sure will raise questions about the direction that their headed.  

What to watch for on offense: The growth of Grothe. Every staff member in Tampa is labeling the quarterback a new man, who’s finally become a better student of the game. Let’s see it. For the last three years, he’s tended to rely exclusively on his athletic ability, which has been at the root of many of his mistakes. A more cerebral Grothe, however, would presumably make better reads and fewer errors. You hope so if you’re a Bull because the program can’t a fourth consecutive season with 14 interceptions.

What to watch for on defense: The defensive line. George Selvie is the headliner, but he’s hardly a solo act. Just about everyone is back from last season, which means South Florida will be home to one of the nation’s nastiest front fours. If opponents dedicate too many resources to No. 95, any number of Bulls, including Terrell McClain and Aaron Harris, are capable of making them suffer. South Florida will set the tone up front, making life so much easier for the linebackers and defensive backs.

The team will be far better if… it generates more big plays …on offense and defense. This was a major problem last season, which prompted changes with both coordinators. On offense, the Bulls were far too methodical, lacking the long ball in the running or passing game. On defense, they had a hard time finishing their sacks and were 97th nationally in takeaways. There are way too many good athletes in Tampa for South Florida to remain so quiet and passive on both sides of the ball.

The Schedule
The Bulls have a three week preseason against Wofford, at Western Kentucky, and Charleston Southern before finally starting off the real portion of the season at Florida State. The showdown with the Seminoles, combined with a late November date with Miami, could be the type of games that can change around the program. While West Virginia and Cincinnati have to go to Tampa, the Bulls have to go to Connecticut in the cold on December 5th. There are four Big East road games in all, but one is at Syracuse. The Rutgers game in mid-November could be sneaky-tough weather-wise.

Best offensive player: Senior QB Matt Grothe. Forget the fact that Grothe doesn’t project well at the next level. All South Florida knows is that he’s a multi-dimensional playmaker and one of the most experienced returning quarterbacks in the country. Yes, he has to step up his game this fall and cut down on the turnovers, but when he gets outside the pocket and heads up field, he’ll drive defensive coordinators batty.   

Best defensive player: Senior DE George Selvie. Although Selvie had an off year based on where he put the bar in 2007, he’s still one of the most disruptive forces off the edge in the country. Playing with a sudden burst off the snap and non-stop energy, he’s earned First Team All-Big East honors following each of the last two seasons. With the chance of being a first round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft hanging out there, he has more motivation than ever before to toy with opposing tackles. 

Key players to a successful season: The offensive line. This is the biggest spoke in the wheel for the program heading into 2009. Four starters are gone from last season, and in their place are a slew of unproven underclassmen. These guys have a shot to be real good, but that might not happen until 2010 or 2011. For the time being, it’ll be a patchwork unit and a potential liability throughout the year.   

The season will be a success if ... South Florida wins the Big East championship. Does anyone clearly have more talent than the Bulls? Defending champion Cincinnati needs to rebuild its defense. West Virginia and Rutgers must replace the best quarterback to ever play at either school. Syracuse and Louisville don’t belong in the discussion. In other words, the Bulls have as good a chance as anyone of playing in a BCS bowl game. Now, they’ve got to just go out and get it done.

Key game: Oct. 30 vs. West Virginia. Yeah, the Bulls have a couple of sexy games with Florida State and Miami that’ll have national appeal, but winning the Big East trumps winning any mythical state titles. This has become an interesting little rivalry over the last four seasons, with the teams splitting the games. While the outcome won’t decide the league championship, it could go a long way toward that end.

2008 Fun Stats: 
- Penalties: South Florida 111 for 882 yards - Opponents 96 for 791 yards
- Average yards per carry: South Florida 4.2 - Opponents 2.8
- First quarter scoring: South Florida 108 - Opponents 54