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USF football analysis

Mike Ford breaks away against Elon last season, when he had 13 TDs.

TED McLAREN | Times

Mike Ford breaks away against Elon last season, when he had 13 TDs.

QUARTERBACK

Junior Matt Grothe returns for a third year as starter, hoping to reduce his 14 interceptions in each of the past two years. Senior Grant Gregory is a solid backup, and promising freshman B.J. Daniels is the heir apparent but could redshirt.

RUNNING BACK

Senior Ben Williams, a 5-foot-7 former walk-on, might be the team's most respected player, and sophomore Mike Ford, up to 233 pounds, should get more carries after scoring 13 touchdowns as a freshman. There's good depth, with sophomores Jamar Taylor and Richard Kelly.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Again, a ton of talent comes back, as Taurus Johnson, right, Carlton Mitchell and Jessie Hester had 30-plus catches and four touchdowns each. Watch out for sophomores Dontavia Bogan and A.J. Love, as well as speedy junior Colby Erskin, who hopes to return after two knee surgeries.

TIGHT ENDS

Senior Cedric Hill might be the Big East's best tight end and should improve on 23 catches for 264 yards last year. There's a dropoff after him, with junior Ben Busbee getting pushed by sophomore Trent Pupello, a transfer from Florida, and 6-5 sophomore Andrew Ketchel.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Perhaps the team's most experienced position, as five players have at least a year as a starter. Center Jake Griffin is an anchor, and guard Ryan Schmidt might shift to left tackle, allowing guard Matt Huners to start after missing much of last year with a knee injury. The line has slimmed down considerably, with an eye toward more downfield run-blocking.

DEFENSIVE LINE

End George Selvie was a consensus All-American last year after leading the nation with 31.5 tackles for loss; tackle Sampson Genus is a converted offensive lineman who is the team's strongest player. Senior end Jarriett Buie hopes to exploit offenses that focus on stopping Selvie on the other side.

LINEBACKERS

Senior Tyrone McKenzie set a school record with 121 tackles last year and returns at strongside, with senior Brouce Mompremier back at weakside. In the middle, USF turns to junior Kion Wilson, a junior college transfer who was a coveted four-star recruit out of Jacksonville.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Stacked at safety, with sophomore Nate Allen and seniors Carlton Williams and Danny Verpaele, who should all start in nickel packages. The question is cornerback, where Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams went off to the NFL, leaving two seasoned but unproven players in junior Jerome Murphy and senior Tyller Roberts.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Delbert Alvarado could easily hold the kicking and punting jobs, as he did last season, though he'll be pushed on kicks by strong-legged freshman Maikon Bonani. Seniors Justin Teachey and Eric Setser, former walk-ons, should handle kickoffs and long-snapping, respectively.

Greg Auman, Times staff writer

USF football analysis 08/27/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 27, 2008 11:35am]
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