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South Florida Bulls to focus on replacing lineman after bowl

Jake Griffin, right, is one of four USF senior starters on the offensive line playing his college finale on Saturday.

BRIAN CASSELLA | Times (2007)

Jake Griffin, right, is one of four USF senior starters on the offensive line playing his college finale on Saturday.

TAMPA — With four senior starters playing their final game Saturday, finding a new offensive line will be a major priority in USF's offseason, with 2009's starting five coming together from several different sources.

The Bulls will lose C Jake Griffin, G Matt Huners and Ts Marc Dile and Ryan Schmidt, but the cupboard isn't entirely bare. Sophomores Zach Hermann and Jake Sims have 17 and nine career starts, respectively, and freshmen Danous Estenor and Jeremiah Warren will compete for starting jobs as well.

Recruits? There's a potential starter on the way in former Florida State T Daron Rose, who plans to transfer this summer, and the Bulls hosted two top junior college linemen last weekend.

Jamar Bass, a 6-foot-4, 290-pound recruit from Hutchinson JC in Kansas, will visit Illinois this weekend, then choose between the Illini and Bulls. And 6-7, 305-pound Carlos Savala, from the College of the Desert in California, has USF as his top choice after his official visit. Bass will enroll in January, while Savala would join with the incoming class next summer.

Another option is DT Sampson Genus, who played on the offensive line in 2007 but switched over to help provide depth on defense. Genus has eight tackles this season, but with both starters returning at defensive tackle, could shift back to offense; coach Jim Leavitt said he'll leave that decision up to Genus.

The challenge of protecting QB Matt Grothe in his senior season will go to a young, largely untested group, but by signing day the Bulls should know more about how the line might stack up.

2-FOR-1: USF, having sold its initial allotment for the St. Petersburg Bowl and gotten an extra 1,000 tickets Tuesday, added a promotion giving fans who purchase a bowl ticket a voucher for a free ticket to the men's basketball Big East opener Jan. 2 against Syracuse.

Memphis returned a majority of its allotment of 10,000 tickets, according to USF, freeing up more lower-level seats for Bulls fans.

NOT FALLING: Free-throw shooting has been a major concern for Stan Heath's team. After Tuesday's loss to Vanderbilt, the Bulls are hitting 57 percent (94-of-165) at the line, down from 63.8 last season. It's a teamwide problem, as the best shooter is G Dominique Jones, at 71.7 percent.

Senior G Jesus Verdejo is leading the team in scoring despite struggling at the line. After hitting a team-best 80 percent last season, Verdejo has hit 9 of 20 attempts, good for 45 percent.

THIS AND THAT: Auburn's hiring of former Iowa State coach Gene Chizik should increase the Tigers' recruiting presence in the bay area. Chizik, a Clearwater native who spent three seasons coaching at Seminole High, should go up against the Bulls often on local recruits. … The past three men's basketball home games have had crowds announced at fewer than 2,900. The Bulls didn't do that once in Heath's first season.

Greg Auman can be reached at auman@sptimes.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf.

FAST FACTS

St. Petersburg Bowl

USF vs. Memphis: 4:30 Saturday, Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg

TV: ESPN2

Tickets: ticketmaster.com or gousfbulls.com

South Florida Bulls to focus on replacing lineman after bowl 12/16/08 [Last modified: Thursday, December 18, 2008 9:27am]

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