The 22nd preseason in USF football history commences Friday. As a prelude of sorts, we're spending the preceding days examining various players, trends, issues and records to watch this season. Today: four players poised to break through in 2018.
In a sense, breakthrough seasons are like hurricanes: You know they're coming, but it's darn tough to ascertain from where they'll originate.
Who saw Tyre McCants going off for 15 catches in the final two games of 2017 after totaling only 14 in the first eight? Who pegged Marlon Mack to run for 1,000 yards as a rookie? Anyone project Marvin Kloss to nearly kick his way to the Lou Groza Award in '13?
As sure as parking space remains at a premium on campus, a previously unheralded or overshadowed Bull will emerge this autumn. Who will it be? All we can do is offer some educated guesses, based on what we've heard and observed the last several months. Here goes.
DT Kevin Bronson. This imposing (6-foot-4) senior has spent the better part of three seasons teasing fans, appearing indomitable at times and inconspicuous at others. "(Bronson) has got all the talent in the world," USF defensive coordinator Brian Jean-Mary said during spring drills. "We've just got to get it on a more consistent basis." They need that consistency more than ever, now that Bruce Hector and Deadrin Senat have graduated to the NFL.
TE Mitch Wilcox. Wait, hasn't this guy already broken through? Statistically, not yet. The Tarpon Springs High alumnus has only 29 catches through his first two seasons, but can equal that in '18 if coaches make a concerted effort to get him the ball. Wilcox, who made the Mackey Award watch list, had arguably the best spring of any Bulls offensive player, and Charlie Strong has been hyping him this preseason. That said, we've been listening for years about coaches wanting to get tight ends more involved in the scheme.
WR Stanley Clerveaux. The most snake-bitten guy on the roster (shoulder surgery, torn ACL) enters his fifth season at USF with three career catches. We wouldn't be shocked if he equaled that total in Game One. Clerveaux, recently granted a sixth year of eligibility, currently is healthy and atop the depth chart at a receiver spot. A breakthrough season for this Miami native would represent one of USF's top feel-good stories of '18.
WLB Khalid McGee. Bear in mind, "breakthrough" can be a relative term. McGee had a solid year (51 tackles) as the primary nickel back two seasons ago, but we wouldn't be shocked if he threatened to double that number this fall, when he again starts regularly and plays closer to the line of scrimmage. Remember, McGee was a de facto linebacker in the UCF game last year, and led the Bulls with 10 tackles.