USF spring preview: Bulls must replenish interior d-line

The Bulls must find replacements for NFL Draft prospects Deadrin Senat and Bruce Hector.
OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times 
USF defensive tackle Kevin Bronson (99) has appeared in 33 career games.
OCTAVIO JONES | Times USF defensive tackle Kevin Bronson (99) has appeared in 33 career games.
Published Feb. 28, 2018

All week, we're examining the most interesting position battles entering USF's spring practice, which begins Monday.

Today: interior defensive line (On deck: middle linebacker)

2017 starters: Bruce Hector/Deadrin Senat
These dudes, both of whom we fully expect to see in an NFL rookie camp in a couple of months, were the key cogs in the Bulls' 2017 defensive resurrection. Senat, one of the most powerful players ever to squeeze into a USF jersey, was an absolute beast down the stretch (13 tackles vs. Tulsa, three sacks in Birmingham Bowl) and earned first-team All-American Athletic Conference honors. Hector, a second-team pick, led the Bulls in sacks (seven) and finished second behind Greg Reaves in overall tackles for loss (13).

Related: As NFL combine dawns, Deadrin Senat projected as USF's top draft pick

2018 starters? While the Bulls aren't lacking quality bodies at this spot, Senat and Hector have left a leadership vacuum, and depth must be developed. Though converted end Kevin Bronson is coming off a modest 2017 season (12 tackles, half a sack), few would be stunned if he broke through in '18. Additionally, sophomores Kelvin Pinkney and Kevin Kegler (26 combined tackles) are coming off promising rookie seasons. Speaking of breakthrough years, the Bulls could use one from junior Marlon Gonzalez, who appeared in one game last season. Duke transfer Brandon Boyce, who sat out the 2017 season, was expected to fortify the depth chart but his status is uncertain going forward (We're hoping Charlie Strong will elaborate Monday). The Bulls signed a trio of three-star tackles — Port Charlotte's Devin Leacock, Venice's Tyrone Barber and Admiral Farragut's John Waller — during the '18 signing periods. Like Pinkney and Kegler last year, they'll almost certainly get a shot to contribute immediately.

Related: New USF signee Devin Leacock strong in mind, body