TAMPA — You have not read much about Marc Dile here. At USF games, short of the starting lineups, you likely haven't heard his name called at Raymond James Stadium. And that suits the Bulls' senior right tackle just fine.
"With offensive linemen, it correlates with defensive backs: Nobody ever knows we're doing our job unless we get beat," line coach Mike Simmonds said. "We never want our named called. Marc doesn't get his name called much, and that's a good thing."
At the risk of jinxing that, halfway through the Bulls' 2008 season, Dile has yet to be flagged for a single penalty.
"I guess I'm 0-for," said Dile, volunteering — if only for good karma — that twice he has been guilty of false starts on plays in which fellow tackle Ryan Schmidt was penalized for the same thing.
You don't hear much about Dile, and you don't hear much from him, either. He calls himself a "quiet giant" off the field, "polite" even, but that doesn't take away from his leadership role as a fourth-year starter.
"You want to lead by example," Dile said. "I remember one time (Bucs linebacker) Derrick Brooks came out here and said being a leader is showing up every day, not talking about it but being about it. I just wanted to take that approach and be a leader."
On an offensive line that has four senior starters, he has tried to set the tone in games, in practice and in the weight room. As the Bulls prepared for today's noon game against Syracuse after a 16-day layoff, Simmonds said he barely recognized Dile while watching tape of last year's 41-10 Bulls win.
Dile said it's simply him responding to USF coach Jim Leavitt, who called out a deep, experienced senior class and demanded that it stay on edge and demand more of the class in its final college season.
"I had to change my body type, get lighter, get more lean but keep the mean streak," Dile said. "I look at myself on tape and I'm proud of where I came from. Playing five years in the trenches, banging all day, you want to take some weight off your knees."
Dile dropped 20 pounds to his current 295 but still added 20 pounds to his maximum bench press, now at 380 pounds.
"You want to show that you play O-line, but you're an athlete at the same time," said Dile, who was also a power forward in basketball at Miami Edison High.
Dile was limited to five and seven starts his first two seasons at USF because of nagging injuries, but he hasn't missed a start since the end of the 2006 season. That's not to say he hasn't played through nagging injuries — "if you feel good now, you're probably not playing," Simmonds said.
Dile led the offensive line with 80 knockdown blocks last season, and graded out at 73 percent, the line's second-highest score. This season, he consistently has graded between 80 and 90 percent, "his best year," his coach said.
"That's a winning grade for us, a good grade. It's hard to get a grade like that," Simmonds said. "He's been a consistent performer for us, a big leader not only on the offensive line but with the team."
Today's opponent is the kind an offensive lineman should like to face. Syracuse has a league-low six sacks, and in last year's win, the Bulls rushed for 346 yards. Dile, while respectful of a Syracuse team that has played close in losses to Pittsburgh and West Virginia, said he feels best about the offense after a long drive, "just taking the wind out of teams, pounding the defense."
This season, the line has helped the Bulls pile up the most yards (427.8) and points (33.4) per game in the Big East, but it also has allowed 12 sacks in six games, the second-highest total in the league.
"I can't say we've played too great or good," Dile said. "I think we've managed. There's always room for improvement. It's never as bad as it looks or as good as it looks, so we just to go practice trying to make progress and improve."
Dile and senior linebacker Brouce Mompremier came to USF in 2004 as the "Edison Five," all graduating from the same school. Running back Chad Simpson, who spent his final two seasons at Morgan State, is now in the NFL with the Colts. Jackie Chambers is at Lane College in Tennessee, and defensive tackle Richard Clebert finished his Bulls career last season.
When those five arrived at USF, the Bulls had never played in a bowl game; now they're one win from being eligible for their fourth bowl in Dile and Mompremier's four seasons. That's something Dile is happy to have his name associated with.
"To be the final two, we're just trying to finish off what we started," Dile said. "That was the whole key to what we came here to do."