TAMPA — USF DT Todd Chandler hadn't played in a football game since 2009, so the sophomore's Bulls debut in Saturday's win against Chattanooga was everything he'd been waiting for, and then some.
"When we ran out of the tunnel, I just looked up to God and said 'Thank you, God,' because I've been waiting for that feeling for so long," said Chandler, one of 30 players to make their USF debut against the Mocs. "When I got out and turned around and saw my pastor and his wife, my mom and my daughter and all my brothers out there to support me, I was like, 'This is what I've been waiting for.' I was excited."
Chandler had a team-best three tackles for loss in limited action. He could barely contain his excitement after one sack, slapping his helmet wildly and jumping in celebration.
"It was a big ball of emotions," said Chandler, who redshirted the 2010 season and was ineligible last year. "I don't just want to limit myself to this game. I want to keep that emotion through this whole season, through my whole career. I know football can be taken away from me at any time. It's just seizing the moment."
USF has two solid starters in senior Cory Grissom (who had seven tackles in the first half Saturday) and junior Luke Sager, but coach Skip Holtz said a key will be developing Chandler into a force off the bench for about 20 snaps a game.
"If we can do that, we're a better defensive front," Holtz said. "He's strong, he's powerful, he has a low center of gravity. His leverage is so good. You look at what he did in that game, it's great to see."
UP TO NO. 2: The men's soccer team, coming off of an appearance in the NCAA Elite Eight and off to a 3-0 start, is ranked as high as No. 2 nationally, in the NSCAA coaches' poll and College Soccer News. It's the highest ranking in program history.
The Bulls play South Carolina at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Corbett Stadium in the USF Soccer Tournament, with another home game Saturday night against Iona.
Defender Ben Sweat, a junior from Palm Harbor, has two goals in three games, including the winner in USF's opener against Michigan. He was named this week's national player of the week by website topdrawersoccer.com after scoring the winner Friday against Tulsa.
THIS AND THAT: Want a sense of USF football's commitment to using key players on special teams? On the Bulls' opening kickoff, all three starting linebackers were on the coverage unit, as well as all four starting defensive backs. The two primary up-the-middle blockers on USF's first punt? Starting DEs Ryne Giddins and Tevin Mims. … There's a big USF presence on the coaching staff at Youngstown State, which upset Big East member Pittsburgh 31-14 on Saturday. Head coach Eric Wolford was a USF assistant from 1997-99, and his assistants include former Bulls defensive coordinator Joe Tresey and former USF player and graduate assistant Glenn Davis. … Former Bulls QB Marquel Blackwell is the offensive graduate assistant at Western Kentucky, which faces No. 1 Alabama's vaunted defense Saturday.
Greg Auman can be reached at email@example.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bulls and follow him at Twitter.com/gregauman.