After leading the nation in tackles for loss last season, after destroying a school record for sacks, George Selvie did the awards show circuit, wore his tux to ceremonies in Orlando, Ohio, North Carolina and Connecticut, even earned a trip to Arizona for the Playboy All-America team photo shoot. But the Bulls' first-ever consensus All-American didn't fully appreciate all of the attention lavished on him until the first two games this season. Opposing offenses have honored the junior defensive end with nonstop star treatment: double-teams, triple-teams and a steady parade of tight ends and backs keeping him from quarterbacks, who often roll away from his side.
"They're throwing a lot more people at me … just doing stuff to keep me from making plays," said Selvie, still seeking his first sack as the No. 19 Bulls play host to No. 13 Kansas tonight at Raymond James Stadium. "It was a big thing for me, but it doesn't matter. We're still winning football games."
Perhaps the most pivotal matchup tonight has Selvie, 6 feet 4, 245 pounds, against 6-6, 314-pound Jeff Spikes, a redshirt freshman making his third career start at left tackle.
If the Bulls are to win, Selvie and his linemates must get to Todd Reesing, who threw 33 touchdowns last season in leading the Jayhawks to a 12-1 record that included a victory in the Orange Bowl.
After two games last season, Selvie had 51/2 sacks as part of 91/2 tackles for loss on his way to 141/2 and 311/2, respectively.
Now he has just one tackle for loss, but USF's coaches say he might be playing at a higher level.
"He's taking up two blockers, and a lot of times, he's just a step away from getting a sack," defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said. "They're doing special schemes on him, and he's still succeeding. If people sprint away from him, what's he going to do?"
Kansas is certainly aware of Selvie, but coach Mark Mangino said he's careful not to overstack too much on him, leaving his quarterback vulnerable at other points.
"(Selvie) is awfully talented and a really good football player, but we feel pretty good in our matchup," Mangino said. "We aren't going to spend the whole night focusing on George Selvie. When you focus on one aspect of a team's defense, if they have enough good players, they will hurt you somewhere else."
That should be the case, but USF wants more from the rest of the line. And Burnham called out a few players this week. Senior end Jarriett Buie, the starter opposite Selvie, has yet to get so much as a tackle.
"We're still waiting on somebody after two games. We need somebody to step up," Burnham said.
Tackle Terrell McClain had a solid game against Central Florida, getting a stop on third and 1 in overtime on the game's next-to-last play.
"He had a real good game," Burnham said. "It's the first time he's shown he's breathing around here."
Burnham said he expects a short passing attack from Kansas: three-step drops, quick reads, screens and dump-off passes.
"If they're going to go three steps, they're not going to run long routes," he said. "So it's on the linebackers and the secondary when they start doing that."
USF has allowed just 135 rushing yards in two games, and Kansas has thrown for more than twice as many yards as it has run for. Burnham said Reesing is "probably the most accurate passer" he has faced in nine seasons at USF. But the priority is stopping the run and making Kansas' offense more predictable.
"You say … you might not want Kansas being one-dimensional. Well, we do," Burnham said. "We'll take our chances. If somebody runs the ball on you, then you're in trouble."
Defensive line coach John Hendrick said his focus has been keeping Selvie's attitude positive, not letting him get frustrated by a lack of gaudy statistics.
"As long as he stays positive and consistent, with the ability he has, he'll overcome that," Hendrick said. "If we continue to beat up the run like we have, eventually he'll shine because he works so hard."
For USF to beat a ranked team such as Kansas, it needs Selvie to break loose, to rise above the extra attention being devoted to containing him. He recognizes the platform both teams have tonight, the importance to USF's season.
"Both of us have something to prove. The nation doesn't know if we're for real," he said. "They're going to be for real. They're going to come out to play.
"They have to prove themselves just like we do."