Position breakdown: Defensive line
Gameday is here, and we're still trying to squeeze these in before kickoff, if only to make next week a little less cluttered. Defensive line might have the most change of any position this side of cornerback -- new coaches, two new full-time starters, same high expectations.
THE STARTERS: It all begins with end George Selvie (left), who became USF's first consensus All-American after leading the nation in tackles for loss. Selvie got off to an amazing start, then tapered off as offenses began gameplanning around him with double-teams and keen awareness of his whereabouts at all time. As a result, he had just four sacks in seven Big East games, still winning the league's Defensive Player of the Year honors. He's setting his sights higher, and another season like his 2007 would likely make him a first-round pick if he left for the NFL Draft. The question for USF is how the rest of the defensive line can exploit the extra attention given to Selvie.
On the opposite side, senior Jarriett Buie has plenty of room for improvement after getting just one sack in nine starts last season. Buie had a strong spring game, but that was with a quick whistle and quarterbacks who weren't allowed to scramble -- touch sacks won't cut it this fall. He'll have chances early, facing a first-year starter against Kansas and a converted tight end protecting Michael Greco's blindside in the UCF game. If he can't get to the quarterback, there are promising younger players who will push for his job.
Inside, the Bulls are young, with junior Aaron Harris (left) as the only player older than a sophomore. Harris started 11 games and had 9.5 tackles for loss, including 5.5 sacks. He got a brief look at end, so he could shift outside in some looks as well. At nose tackle, there are two promising but unproven sophomores in Sampson Genus and Terrell McClain. Genus is a converted offensive lineman we've written a lot about in preseason, one of the team's strongest players and a key to USF's interior run defense. McClain, known as "Dancing Bear" to teammates, played as a true freshman to gain experience as coaches knew that seniors Richard Clebert, Allen Cray and Julian Riley would be graduating. Defensive coordinator Wally Burnham has raved about his upside, once McClain can get some experience and understanding of the defense.
NEXT IN THE ROTATION: Sophomore defensive ends Craig Marshall and David Bedford came in from junior college this fall with high expectations, and Marshall -- with size that could eventually move him inside -- is working with the second team at end. Bedford has huge potential but spent this summer in the classroom taking 20 credits to allow him to enroll this fall, so he came in behind from a conditioning perspective, missing out on key time during the summer B semester. He should be able to make significant progress in the first month of the season in preparation for Big East play.
Who would USF's fourth defensive tackle be? Right now, it's redshirt freshman Keith McCaskill, who played defensive end in high school and played linebacker initially at USF, but has bulked up to 263 pounds. If he can get healthy in the next few weeks, it's likely true freshman Cory Grissom, who drew high praise from coaches early in preseason before suffering a high ankle sprain. He's already recovered quicker than expected, so don't be surprised if he's in the rotation as a regular by the Pittsburgh game. The other second-team end right now is redshirt freshman Patrick Hampton, who had a strong spring game but is still undersized at 225 pounds. USF now has two coaches devoted to the defensive line in veteran John Hendrick and former USF assistant Kevin Patrick, back with the Bulls after a decade away from coaching.
THE REST: Jim Leavitt has taken a liking to redshirt freshman David Fonua, who has been limited by an elbow injury but could push for a spot in the top four defensive tackles, challenging McCaskill and Grissom. ... Coaches had hoped that linebacker Chris Robinson would step up as the starting strongside linebacker but he didn't have a good summer and now is working as the backup at weakside. Robinson shined as a third-down defensive end in 2006 and could still get a chance there if he's not needed at linebacker. Redshirt freshman Darren Powe, listed as a nose tackle, hasn't been able to get higher than third team on the depth chart so far, and junior Shane McElwain, something of a project when he was signed three years ago as a hockey prospect with only one year of football experience, has been limited to special-teams contributions in his first two seasons. ... Defensive tackle Jatavious Jackson, a former FSU signee, is due to redshirt but looks promising, getting in shape quickly after a year away from football. ... Walk-on Kenneth Luberice, competing for the starting "up back" role on punt team, moved to end when Quincy Okolie was lost for the season, and another walk-on, Rony DeLisca of Wharton, joined the team after two-a-days in the first week of school.