After a four-year starter in B.J. Daniels, USF begins another chapter with uncertainty — sophomore Matt Floyd beat out senior Bobby Eveld and newcomers Steven Bench and Mike White for the starting job. A QB for coach Willie Taggart must be a smart, careful leader as much as a passer — limit mistakes and they'll stay on the field a lot longer.
Taggart has had a 1,500-yard rusher every season going back to his Stanford assistant days, but he'll run by committee this fall. Senior Marcus Shaw (left) tiny at 5-9, 178 pounds, has big-play potential, and freshmen Darius Tice and Sta'fon McCray will do more as the year progresses. Expect lots more passing to backs who come out in motion.
Andre Davis (below) caught six touchdowns last year, so he's a given, but a handful of transfers leave the Bulls without much established depth. Watch for junior Deonte Welch and speedy 5-5 senior Derrick Hopkins. Tight ends will be a big part of the offense, which means Sean Price or Mike McFarland could challenge Davis for the team lead in catches and touchdowns.
C Austin Reiter and RT Quinterrius Eatmon (below) are established starters, and the line will be central in Taggart's emphasis on power running. G Thor Jozwiak has been sidelined with heart problems, but another sophomore, Brynjar Gudmundsson, should step in as a starter. Is junior Darrell Williams ready to step in at left tackle? We'll see.
The strength on the team, especially at end, where seniors Tevin Mims and Ryne Giddins (above) will rotate with super sophomore Aaron Lynch. Inside, senior Luke Sager is a leader, and junior Elkino Watson turned heads with a strong camp. Expect more rotation — perhaps with huge freshman Derrick Calloway — to keep fresh legs in late in games. This is the key to the defense, if not the team's success this season.
Two spots are locked in — senior DeDe Lattimore (left) in the middle as a fourth-year starter, and junior Reshard Cliett, a converted safety, at weakside. Sophomore Zack Bullock edged out Tashon Whitehurst for the starting strongside job. Expect the Bulls to use a lot of nickel packages in likely passing situations.
Here's a question mark, as the Bulls totaled two interceptions last year. Both of last year's starting corners are in NFL camps. Kenneth Durden and walk-on Brandon Salinas will start until freshman Lamar Robbins takes over. At safety there are two solid veterans in Mark Joyce and JaQuez Jenkins. They'll benefit from the improved pass rush up front.
K Maikon Bonani and P Justin Brockhaus-Kann graduated. Former walk-ons Marvin Kloss and Mattias Ciabatti are in position to take over, though freshman Emilio Nadelman has a shot to kick as well. Sophomore David Burdetsky is back as long snapper, and the return spots are wide-open but almost have to be better than the nonfactor they were a year ago.
Greg Auman, Times staff writer