Notes: Where Bulls rank in returning tackles
Lots of little notes to get to, and I'll start with an interesting read from the Orlando Sentinel's new college football contributor, Phil Steele, who ranks all 120 Division I-A teams in order of what percentage of last year's tackles are from players returning this fall.
It's a reminder of how much USF is missing from last year's defense -- the top five senior tacklers last season, (linebacker Tyrone McKenzie, safeties Carlton Williams and Louis Gachette, cornerback Tyller Roberts and defensive Jarriett Buie) accounted for more than 35 percent of USF's total tackles.
By Steele's math, USF returns just 58.1 percent of its tackles (my count has it at 57.8), which ranks the Bulls at No. 88 out of 120 schools. It can be a telling statistic -- Florida, for instance, has a ridiculous 98.9 percent of its tackles back, by his count. But there are other relevant schools to USF ranked lower than the Bulls -- Pittsburgh is No. 100, Florida State is No. 111 and Cincinnati, which lost all but one starter from its defense, is next to last at 119th. It's also worth noting that no Big East school is ranked higher than No. 48, which is where Connecticut checks in, two spots ahead of West Virginia.
The key to USF offsetting this statistic's importance is how well first-year starters can handle themselves, especially two starting outside linebackers who should be counted for 100 tackles between them. Jerrell Young, Jon Lejiste and Quenton Washington, projected first-year starters in USF's nickel defensive secondary, combined for 39 tackles last season and could easily double that total this fall.
-- There's been a share of jokes made at the expense of USF kicker Maikon Bonani, who cracked a vertebra in a 35-foot fall while working at Busch Gardens on Saturday. I'm a bit surprised to see it coming from another former player -- ex-Connecticut lineman Rob Lunn, who writes the often-clever "Thoughts From a Fat White Guy" blog.
"Apparently Self-Preservation 101 is not a class offered at USF. Its like a bad "You know your degree is useless when..." joke," Lunn writes.
UPDATE: Lunn has since pulled that post and issued an apology for his comments. "They were in poor taste and I'd like to retract them," he writes. "I never should have posted it. Insensitive of me. ... I'd like to wish him a full recovery---and a few missed kicks against UConn."
-- More from the Sentinel, with a note that USF is in the final two (with Georgia) for Frostproof cornerback Nickell Robey. ranked as the No. 15 recruit in the state by the Sentinel.
-- With Lindsey Lamar and Derrick Hopkins bringing sprinters' speed to USF football this fall, there's another impressively fast recruit to keep an eye on. Plant coach Robert Weiner said USF has shown an interest in T.J. Glover, a little-used slot receiver who could be in for a big senior season at Plant. Glover turned heads at USF's Sling & Shoot camp, and Weiner says he has 4.3 speed: "He's probably the fastest guy we've ever had," he says. He's small at 5-9, 175 pounds, and his only offers right now are from I-AA programs, but USF, Central Florida and Florida Atlantic are showing interest and will be watching him this fall ...
-- Another illustration of how difficult it is to find a presumptive favorite in the Big East: The new odds to win the national championship from VegasInsider.com are out, and four Big East schools -- USF, Pitt, Rutgers and West Virginia -- have the same 60-to-1 odds to win. Cincinnati is down at 125-1 and UConn and Louisville at 150-1, with Syracuse not getting a line. For the over-under on total wins, West Virginia is at 8.5, just ahead of USF and Rutgers at eight each.