Bender's 2014 Breakout Player: Auggie Sanchez

There were several players that caught my attention throughout South Florida's 15 spring practices over the past month. On the defensive side of the ball, converted linebacker and former St. Petersburg (Fla.) Northeast standout, Auggie Sanchez, is my selection for the Bulls' defensive player who'll make a big jump in 2014.

When you have to replace a four-year contributor who's No. 2 all-time in a Bulls' uniform with 337 career tackles, it's never an easy thing to do. Several linebackers will arrive in Tampa Bay this summer for team camp, but in my opinion, there's already a leader in the clubhouse for the No. 1 spot at middle linebacker.

An athletic specimen at 6-foot-3, 240-pounds, Auggie Sanchez redshirted in his first year at the University of South Florida in 2013, while lining up in the offensive backfield at fullback. It's been a smooth transition for the former St. Petersburg (Fla.) Northeast standout, who says his passion is on the defensive side of the ball at linebacker.

Defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan calls the redshirt freshman a natural at linebacker with a ton of upside. He's a terrific athlete who moves well laterally, and has met Bulls' ball carriers at the line of scrimmage with a significant blow all spring.

"This kid does stuff so quick that you can say you coach and it's reads and keys, but some guys have it more natural than other guys and Auggie is one of those guys," Bresnahan said during the spring.

"He really does a great job of just dissecting what the offense is trying to do. I think he understands formation tendencies. He picks it up very quick mentally. So the first time our offense runs something, the very next time, he's one step ahead of them."

Junior college transfer, LeGrande Harley, as well as Josh Black and Nick Holman, will provide significant depth in the middle of Bresnahan's defensive attack, but I don't think it'll be enough to beat out the redshirt freshman.

Sanchez has a year in the program and is familiar with the playbook, while possessing the size, athletic ability, and football IQ to be a highly productive player in the American Athletic Conference in 2014.

Sanchez led the White Team with seven tackles in the spring game two weekends ago, and was instinctive for all four quarters. If all goes well this fall, the local product has a chance to be a multi-year starter in the green and gold when his career comes to a close.

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