Position breakdown: Defensive line
Jim Leavitt will tell you defensive success starts at the line of scrimmage, so for all the experience in USF's secondary, for the sheer athletes competing for three starting linebacker spots, USF's ability to contain some high-powered Big East offenses this fall will hinge on its experienced defensive line, now under the direction of longtime Iowa State coach Dan McCarney. D-line, as much as any position at USF, requires depth, with as many as eight regulars rotating into four positions to keep the pass rush fresh.
STARTERS: Two starters -- sophomore end George Selvie and senior tackle Richard Clebert -- are well entrenched. Selvie was a force last fall, totaling 84 tackles as a freshman, including 14.5 for losses, one half behind team leader Stephen Nicholas. Clebert played through a painful groin injury last year but has had a strong summer, especially in the weight room, where Leavitt said he can bench-press 225 pounds 29 times, a number that should turn some NFL heads. The other two spots are more up for grabs, with seniors Jarriett Buie and Woody George battling for what would have been Josh Julmiste's spot opposite Selvie, and senior Allen Cray and sophomore Aaron Harris close on the other interior spot. Sophomore Chris Robinson is primarily an outside linebacker, but he'll line up as an end in USF's nickel defense.
POSITION BATTLES: George started 12 games at tackle but will now play end, and the roster lists him at 250 pounds, which is 25 pounds less than he was listed at last season. Buie -- who as a former non-qualifier could earn another season if he can graduate this school year -- showed promise last year with 17 tackles, so both will see plenty of time at end. Harris started USF's final five games last season, but Cray is USF's most experienced linemen and could regain the starting job he had early last year. The wild cards at tackle are redshirt freshman Brandon Peguese, a weight-room standout who put on considerable bulk his first year on campus, and talented true freshman Terrell McClain, who could step in immediately as Harris did last year.
THE REST: Senior Julian Riley, the transfer from Florida, didn't get a single tackle last season, but Leavitt has sung his praises this summer. A strong class of true freshmen -- Darren Powe, Corrian Garrison, Kyle Dampier, Patrick Hampton and David Fonua -- is likely headed for redshirts, but that's more a function of the depth ahead of them. With five seniors graduating after this season, some of those freshmen will be pressed into major roles in 2008. Two walk-ons, Matt Aycox and Frank D'Amico, could see spot time late in games.
Thoughts? Questions? The easy pick for the team's sack leader would be Selvie, but could Robinson top him? Can Clebert stay healthy and be a force inside? Will another freshman show enough to shed his redshirt? And most importantly, should I address special teams before breaking down the offense?
-- A few links. The Orlando Sentinel reports that C-USA commish Britton Banowsky shockingly is siding with UCF, saying he can't understand why USF wouldn't want to play the Knights. And again to offset all this preseason dizziness, a well-written Sunday Morning Quarterback blog, complete with multi-color charts, suggests that USF and Cincinnati aren't that different, warning fans to "Choose Your Bandwagon Carefully."