Allen: SMU's cast of skill players best Bulls have seen
Though his unit already has been exposed to a pair of ranked teams (FSU, Memphis), Bulls defensive coordinator Tom Allen insists neither possesses the best ensemble of skill players he has studied on tape so far this year.
That distinction belongs to 1-5 SMU, which arrives Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.
"It's the most talented group of skill guys, collectively, that we've seen," Allen said Wednesday. "From receivers to running backs to quarterback, the whole combined group to me really has stood out."
First-year Mustangs coach Chad Morris, who spent the past four seasons as Clemson's offensive coordinator, has rebuilt around junior dual-threat QB Matt Davis (1,856 total yards, 18 TDs), who already has exceeded his total yardage output (in 10 games) from last season.
First- or second-year players have caught 59 of Davis' 109 completions, led by 6-foot-4 redshirt freshman Courtland Sutton (27 catches, 498 yards, six TDs).
"(Sutton) is the best we've seen -- and big," Allen said. "He just absolutely goes and gets the ball. He got after TCU (four catches, 115 yards), which I know they've got athletes. He was excellent in that game and many many games."
MACK UPDATE: Sophomore TB Marlon Mack (hamstring) suited up Wednesday morning with the Bulls -- who practiced in shorts, helmets and shoulder pads -- though it's unclear how much he participated. Co-offensive coordinator Danny Hope deferred questions about Mack to Coach Willie Taggart, who won't address reporters again until Thursday.
ADVANTAGE, BULLS? USF's offense, which has faced three distinctly different defenses in its last three contests, is expected to encounter something a bit more familiar Saturday.
SMU employs essentially the same alignment (4-2-5) as the Bulls, albeit to contrasting results. The Mustangs rank 117th nationally in passing yards allowed (297.7 ypg) and 125th in total defense (570.7), figures that can be attributed primarily to the fact they've already played No. 2 Baylor, No. 4 TCU and No. 21 Houston.
"They're big. Big guys, tough guys," Hope said. "They have kind of a two-sided coin in some ways where, in some games they'll come out and they'll play kind of vanilla. They'll bring some blitzes and some movement, but not quite as much as some of the others that we've seen. ... But some games they come out and they blitz and pressure more than others."
ODDS AND ENDS: Eamon McAnaney (play-by-play) and Rocky Boiman (analysis) will handle the call of Saturday's game for ESPNews. ... If Mack (1,730 career rushing yards) can play Saturday, he'll need only 58 yards to move into the top five on USF's all-time rushing list. ... USF, coming off a season-best five sacks at Connecticut, ranks third in the American Athletic Conference with 17 sacks. SMU has allowed the most in the league (26).
AUDIBLE: "That quarterback makes the show go. He's a player. He's an athlete and he does a lot of good things." Bulls MLB Auggie Sanchez on Davis