Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

South Florida Bulls are deep on defense but not star-studded

TAMPA — As an offensive tackle at USF, Jake Sims has had his share of long practices in recent years, regularly lining up against an All-American in George Selvie or a first-round NFL draft pick in Jason Pierre-Paul.

And while the Bulls don't have any single defensive end to match the talent of either starter last season, Sims has instead found himself up against a veritable throng of pass rushers, with seemingly a different hand in the dirt in front of him each time he takes his stance.

"We have five or six ends that can really contribute. You're not getting a play off, let's put it that way," Sims said after practice Thursday. "Out here at practice, it's full-go like you're going up against a (starter) every play."

Much of the talk surrounding USF's defense is the challenge in replacing five starters who are in NFL camps now — Pierre-Paul, Selvie, linebacker Kion Wilson, cornerback Jerome Murphy and safety Nate Allen. And as is the case at end, the initial response from USF will be to replace one great player with a rotation of good ones, placing a value on fresh legs until a worthy successor can establish himself as the next standout on defense.

"The good thing is those guys all bring something different to the table," said first-year defensive coordinator Mark Snyder, who was the linebackers coach on Ohio State's national championship team in 2002. "You look at a 12-game season, we're going to play different kinds of teams. That's why I'm excited about this group."

Take cornerback, where coach Skip Holtz's depth chart has co-starters listed at both positions — senior Mistral Raymond is battling junior Quenton Washington on one side, and sophomores Kayvon Webster and George Baker are too close to call on the other end. That allows for more substitutions without exposing the kind of liabilities that often come with backups taking the field.

"I'll be honest with you, if they have their (No.) 1 corners or their 2 corners in, I don't notice a lot of difference," offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said. "Usually, you see a dropoff. 'Oh, we're going against the (No.) 2 defense today. We can go pick on this corner, wear him out.' That kind of thing. You don't notice a major dropoff, which is a good thing. What sticks out the most is that they all come at you fresh. They're all racing to the ball, and it's hard to break a big play, because they have the makeup speed to correct itself, even when they make a mistake."

For all the talent on USF's defense last season, the high number of plays by the starters could have resulted in fatigue. In seven Big East games, the Bulls allowed more than twice as many points in the second quarter (77) as in the first (38). And forget about making it to the fourth quarter — that was barely relevant for the Bulls (see chart), as the outcome after three quarters in all 13 games matched the final outcome. The only game in which the Bulls saw a lead change in the fourth quarter was a loss at Connecticut, when the defense, staked to a lead with 40 seconds to play after a comeback, let the Huskies to go 31 yards for the winning field goal as time expired.

Holtz is well aware that the lack of established returning stars on defense is a concern. The team's top returning tackler is senior linebacker Sabbath Joseph, who had 48 last season, the lowest total for a top returning tackler in USF's 13-year history.

"Bobby Bowden used to say 'I've got three tailbacks. That just means I don't have one great one.' He used to say that all the time," Holtz said. "To say we have three or four, we don't have the Pierre-Paul. We don't have that guy who's going to play 80 snaps and be a first-round draft pick. We may have to do it by committee"

Talent remains. Senior end Craig Marshall had more sacks than Selvie last season, and there are promising members of USF's 2009 recruiting class all over, starting with sophomores Webster and Sam Barrington, who could both start, to redshirt freshmen like ends Ryne Giddins (Armwood) and Julius Forte (Boca Ciega), linebacker DeDe Lattimore and safety JaQuez Jenkins (Lakewood). But the secondary will miss Allen and Murphy, who each had four interceptions last season — in contrast, all the returning players on defense have combined for five in their USF careers.

"I do like our depth on defense," Holtz said. "I don't think we're there. … I think they'll continue to get better."

. fast facts

Fourth quarter, game over

USF's football players hold up four fingers at the end of the third quarter as a reminder to play all 60 minutes, but the final quarter was rarely relevant for the Bulls last year. The leader after three quarters in all 13 games was the same as the winner, with a margin of at least six points entering the fourth in all games.

Here are the seven Big East games from last year, with the score entering the fourth and the final.

Syracuse up 34-13 won 34-20

Cincinnati down 24-17 lost 34-17

Pittsburgh down 34-7 lost 41-14

West Virginia up 27-19 won 30-19

Rutgers down 21-0 lost 31-0

Louisville up 27-16 won 34-22

Connecticut down 20-14 lost 29-27

South Florida Bulls are deep on defense but not star-studded 08/29/10 [Last modified: Sunday, August 29, 2010 8:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. NFL Week 3: What we learned


    Take the knee … well, not NOW

     1. Photo of Roger Mooney for Times Sports.
  2. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Sunday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    RHP Chris Archer's primary problem Sunday, as in much of September, was a lack of slider command. When he can't throw it where he wants, and doesn't have the confidence in the changeup to throw it often, he can't win with just his fastball.

  3. Somehow, Rays' Chris Archer remains just shy of being an ace

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Chris Archer had another bad game Sunday.

    Chris Archer is sputtering to the finish line, his rough start on Sunday his fourth in his past five in which he hasn’t gotten past four innings.
  4. Bradenton high school senior Chasten Whitfield inspires young anglers


    MADEIRA BEACH — The kids lined up single file, snow cones in hand, a procession of sweaty, excited grade schoolers watching Chasten Whitfield throw a cast net.

    Whitfield, a senior at Bradenton Manatee, demonstrates how to throw a cast net at the FishKids tournament in Madeira Beach. She also taught knot tying.
  5. Wreck helps Kyle Busch take control of Monster Cup's ISM 300

    Auto racing

    LOUDON, N.H. — Kyle Busch saw little but billowing white smoke that engulfed the track and blinded enough drivers that it caused a tremendous wreck that notably altered the race running order.

    Kyle Busch celebrates with a burnout after his third victory of the season that earns a berth in the second round of NASCAR’s playoffs. He also has some fun with Loudon the Lobster.