Last season's record: 8-5, went to the Meineke Car Care Bowl, and beat Clemson 31-26
Returning starters/letter winners: 14 starters (4 offense, 6 defense, 4 specialists) 45 returning letter winners
DT Terrell McClain, (Carolina) a first-team All-BIG EAST selection that anchored a USF defense that finished the season ranked 17th nationally in total defense.
DB Mistral Raymond, (Minnesota) went from walk-on to starter and captain as a senior earning second-team All-BIG EAST honors
C Sampson Genus (Green Bay), the anchor of the o-line, a team captain, while starting all 13 games and earning first-team All-BIG EAST honors
LB Jacquian Williams, (Giants) in his first season as a starter in 2010, Williams was voted a team captain and earned second-team All-BIG EAST honors.
WR Dontavia Bogan (San Francisco), a two-year starter and four-year letter winner at USF was the leading receiver in 2010
QB B.J. Daniels – returning starter, was the MVP in the win over Clemson in the bowl game.
LB Sam Barrington – Team leader, finished third in tackles, All Big East candidate
LB DeDe Lattimore - started 12 games as a freshman, finished second on the team with 69 tackles.
CB Quenton Washington –senior corner that played in all 13 games, starting 12, recorded 59 tackles, a TFL, an INT, entering third season as a starter.
Best game: September 3, At Notre Dame – Huge game to open the season – could put the Bulls on the map
Projected finish: 10-2
The Bulls aren’t returning a lot of starters, but are returning a lot of players with experience, and have the potential to vie for the Big East title.
On offense: If QB B.J. Daniels, who will have the same coordinator in successive seasons for the first time in his career, can build upon his bowl game performance, the Bulls will have a shot to go far within the conference. Daniel’s struggled early in the Bulls new offense but, got better as the season went on, saving his best for last, en route to being named MVP of the Meineke Bowl. If Daniels’s regains the freshman form that wowed everyone, the Bulls offense could be dangerous.
USF will have an improved receiver unit boasted by the returns of Sterling Griffin and A.J. Love, to go with Evan Landi, Terrence Mitchell, and several freshmen. The unit has enough speed to give Daniel’s ample targets to throw to, and stretch the field.
The Bulls have a solid running back corps featuring former national recruit Darrell Scott and junior RB Demetris Murray. Along with Dontae Aycock and Marcus Shaw, the Bulls should have the best running game USF fans have seen in years.
Even though the Bulls lost three offensive linemen, they return two starters in Jeremiah Warren and Chaz Hine, and at tackle Mark Popek has plenty of game experience, and freshman Quinterrius Eatmon wowed the coaches all spring. If the offense reduces their margin of turnovers, coupled with everyone being in the same system for consecutive seasons, they should be should be much improved over last season.
On defense: The Bulls finished the season ranked 17th nationally in total defense and the unit should be a strong point again this year in D-coordinator Mark Snyder’s second year. Although the Bulls suffered many key losses on defense, they return quite a few players with meaningful playing experience. They are anchored by one of the best linebacker units in the conference and although losing Jaquian Williams was big. The Bulls have a good amount of depth at the position and should see an improvement over what was already a very good unit.
The depth returning at safety is another strong point for the defense. Four safeties last year earned significant playing time and could all make the case for being starters. All four players are expected to play extensively this season. Sophomore Free Safety Mark Joyce was one of the most improved players this past spring for the Bulls and will push senior starter Jerrell Young for his spot in fall camp.
Even though the Bulls lose three starters on the defensive line, replacing talented players at those positions has not been a problem in recent years. Senior defensive end Patrick Hampton is expected to have a breakout year after earning a few starts last season. Hampton is one of the strongest players on the team and has a quick first step and should put up good numbers. Mega recruit Ryne Giddins will also have an opportunity to show people nationally why he was one of the most coveted players in the class of 2009. Giddins has worked very hard in the weight room and enters fall camp as a starter. The staff expects a big year from Giddins and he certainly has the talent to live up to those expectations.
Replacing DT Terrell McClain will be a tall order for the Bulls but they have more than a few capable bodies led in the interior by Junior NT Cory Grissom. Grissom had a strong spring and the coaching staff plans on relying on him to be a stalwart on the line. Senior Keith McCaskill who has played a ton over the years will be expected to move full time into the starter’s role at defensive tackle. McCaskill has made strong physical gains during the spring and the added size will help him be much stouter against the run. There are several youngsters who should see time in the defensive tackle rotation as Demi Thompson, Luke Sager, Todd Chandler and true freshman Elkino Watson should play important roles this upcoming season
Despite not returning many starters, the Bulls boast quite a few players with significant playing experience and these players should not be phased by their expected increase in playing time. The Bulls defense should be able to build on what they accomplished last season.
Raj Shiwmangal contributed to this article.
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