Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pre-Season Preview: South Florida Bulls

2009 Record: 8-5 (3-4 in Big East)
2009 Bowl: International Bowl (beat Northern Illinois 27-3)
Final 2009 AP Ranking: Not Ranke
Head Coach: Skip Holtz (First Year at USF, 72-50 All-Time)
Non-Conference Schedule: Stony Brook (9/4), Florida (9/11), Western Kentucky (9/25), Florida Atlantic (10/2)

2009 Offensive Statistics
Scoring: 26.5 points per game (5th in Big East)
Rushing Yards/Game: 170 (3rd in Big East)
Passing Yards/Game: 194 (6th in Big East)
Total Yards/Game: 365 (5th in Big East) 

2009 Defensive Statistics
Scoring: 19.8 points per game (2nd in Big East, 19th in Nation)
Rushing Yards/Game: 135 (6th in Big East)
Passing Yards/Game: 186 (1st in Big East)
Total Yards/Game: 321 (3rd in Big East)

2009 Misc Stats
Turnover Margin: 0.00 per game (5th in Big East)
Penalties: 57 yards per game (7th in Big East)

Returning Starters
Offense: 9
Defense: 4
Kicker/Punter: 1

Top Returning Statistical Leaders
Passing: QB B.J. Daniels, Soph (122 of 227 for 1983 yds, 14 TD, 9 INT, 152 ypg)
Rushing: QB B.J Daniels, Soph (175 carries for 772 yds, 9 TD, 4.4 ypc, 59 ypg)
Receiving: WR Dontavia Bogan, Sr (22 rec, 305 yds, 4 TD, 1.7 rec/game)
Tackles: LB Sabbath Joseph, Sr (48)
Sacks: DE Craig Marshall, Sr (3)
Interceptions:3 tied with 1

2010 Big East Unit Rankings
QB- Athlon Sports #1; Phil Steele #1
RB- Athlon Sports #8 ; Phil Steele #8
WR/TE- Athlon Sports #5; Phil Steele #5
OL- Athlon Sports #3; Phil Steele #2
DL- Athlon Sports #6; Phil Steele #5
LB- Athlon Sports #7; Phil Steele #6
DB- Athlon Sports #4; Phil Steele #3
ST- Phil Steele #7

2010 Pre-Season Rankings
Athlon Sports: #45

Phil Steele: #49
Sporting News: #52

2010 Pre-Season Big East Prediction:
Athlon Sports: #6
Phil Steele: #3 (tied with Cincinnati)

Bowl Prediction:
Phil Steele: St Petersburg Bowl (vs.Southern Miss)

South Florida won their first 5 games by picking off some very easy teams and beating FSU (then ranked #18) 17-7. USF struggled in Big East play as they fell to Cincinnati and Pitt back-to-back after beating Syracuse. USF ended up 3-4 in Big East play before going bowling and beating Northern Illinois. It was on the job training for B.J. Daniels as he had to step in for injured Matt Grothe in the 3rd game of the year and then lead the team for the remainder of the season. USF had some bumps and bruises in the off-season and HC Jim Leavitt (who was the first HC in USF history) was fired in January. Skip Holtz, son of Lou, takes over the reigns after guiding East Carolina to 4 consecutive bowl games. We touched base with The Bull Gator to see how things are looking for USF in 2010.

What are the major strengths and weaknesses of the team?

With a new coach bringing in new schemes, it’s really hard to say. We can look over East Carolina game tape until we’re blue in the face and we still wouldn’t have a perfect idea of what we’ll see in the fall. But based on what we know, USF’s biggest strength may be B.J. Daniels. The talented quarterback has star written all over him and is easily the most important part of the team. As Matt Grothe went the last few seasons, so went the Bulls. When Grothe looked spectacular, USF looked great. When he was throwing the ball up for grabs and trying to win it all on one play, the Bulls crashed to the ground. As Daniels transitions to a new coach, he must keep the mistakes to a minimum. He will carry USF on and off the field.

As for weaknesses, the biggest one is inconsistency. The Bulls could be one of the most frustrating teams in the nation to watch. Over the last few years, they’ve look like world-beaters at times and like downright losers at others. It’s always been hard to know which USF team you were going to get from game to game. The one that starts each season strong? Or the one that finishes each season by throwing itself off a cliff?

Looking at the schedule who will be the first major test and why?

Florida. Last year USF travelled to FSU and came away with a victory. The same thing won’t happen against the Gators, but it’s still a test for a number of reasons. Florida has gone 26-2 over the last two seasons. Heading into The Swamp and coming out with a loss won’t derail the Bulls season, but how they lose will be an indicator of how far away Skip Holtz is from pushing USF to the next step. No one expects too much from Holtz and the Bulls in this game. It will only be his second game as the head coach so even a blowout loss will be forgiven, BUT if USF can make it respectable, it’ll say a lot about where they are as a program. The Gators are breaking in a lot of new parts as well. I don’t see a surprise victory for the Bulls, but how they come out of this game could help shape the season.

What team on the schedule do you fear the most?

Normally I would say Rutgers (no USF fan ever likes playing Rutgers), but the way the schedule is structured this year, I’ll go with West Virginia. By all accounts, the Bulls should enter the game against the Mountaineers at 4-1. That game (and eight days later against Cincinnati) could define the season. Does USF get a win and momentum heading into the second half of the season? Or does the Big East “murderer’s row” knock the Bulls out of conference title contention early?

Who is the best player on your team that nobody talks about?

I’m going with local boy Ryne Giddins. Giddins was the first recruit to be down to USF and Florida that ended up a Bull. He was also the highest ranked recruit USF had ever pulled in at the time (if you’re not counting Mike Ford since he didn’t technically come straight from high school). Giddins was a huge get for the Bulls, but some may have forgotten about him after a year learning more about the college game. For those that mostly remember the players they’ve actually seen on the field, don’t forget out Giddins. He could be the next USF defensive lineman to have a big impact.

Who is the best offensive player on the team?

B.J. Daniels. The best and, obviously, the most important.

Who is the most impactful defensive player on the team?

I’ll answer this one a little differently and say who NEEDS to be the most impactful. The secondary. It’s been a while now since Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams locked down pretty much every receiver they went up against. Then along came Nate Allen and Jerome Murphy and while the two were talented, the unit as a whole was extremely inconsistent. They’d follow up a great play on the ball with a bad pass interference penalty or a missed assignment. Although a lot of it starts with the seven up front, the secondary could make or break this team. Discipline is the key. If they are disciplined, they will be much more impactful than the occasional big play or hard hit.

What player(s) needs to step up this year in order for the team to reach it's full capability?

I think this is the third time I’ve had this answer, but it’s B.J. Daniels again. Daniels needs to take his game to the next level. Don’t panic when pressured. Don’t try to make the throw when it isn’t there. And use his running ability, but don’t try to do too much with it. A big year from Daniels and the Bulls will be heading in the right direction.

Who is the top offensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

Bradley Battles. Battles was a 4-star athlete coming out of high school and due to depth issues (Mike Ford and Jamar Taylor are gone and Tiger Powell won’t be coming to USF for another season or two) at running back, he’ll be one of the top backups as a redshirt freshman this season. He’s a speed back who can provide a change of pace for the Bulls and should get valuable carries this season.

Who is the top defensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

Although tempted to say Giddins again, I’ll go with Terrence Mitchell. Another local product, Mitchell decided to stay home and bring his talents to the Bulls. Mitchell was a big get (just as big as Giddins the previous year) for USF and more importantly for Holtz. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a defensive back. Mitchell should be able to come in a play right away and give the Bulls a playmaker in the secondary from day one.

Gut feeling on the teams final record at the end of the regular season and what makes this a successful season in your eyes?

Some people think this could be a down year as Holtz “rebuilds” the program (he’s not really rebuilding, just restructuring), but I still think this team has bowl game potential. Looking at the schedule realistically, USF could start 4-1 and finish 1-1. It’s those other five games that are the biggest question marks. There’s no reason the Bulls can’t get through them going 3-2. There’s also a chance they could go 1-4. It’s really anyone’s guess with those five (I’m talking about October 14 to November 20 when the Bulls face West Virginia, Cincinnati, Rutgers, Louisville, and Pittsburgh).

I’ll go on the low side if only because of having a new coach and say 7-5. I’d love to say eight wins is within reach (and it is), but guessing Holtz will be making adjustments throughout the year, it’s hard to imagine USF being able to take a step forward until 2011.

Going back to a bowl makes it a successful season for me. Holtz would be forgiven if the Bulls don’t go bowling, but falling too much makes 2011 and beyond that much harder. If he can get USF a winning season in his first year, 2010 will be marked as a success.

Thanks again to The Bull Gator. Check out his site this year as he covers both the USF Bulls and the Florida Gators. You can also follow him on twitter @TheBullGator

2010 Previews
ACC- Maryland Terrapins
Big 12- Kansas State Wildcats, Missouri Tigers, Texas Tech Red Raiders
Big East- Cincinnati Bearcats, Pittsburgh Panthers, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, West Virginia Mountaineers
Big Ten- Michigan WolverinesMinnesota Golden Gophers, Northwestern Wildcats, Purdue Boilermakers
Conference USA- Houston CougarsTulane Green Wave, UTEP Miners
MAC- Ball State Cardinals, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, Temple Owls, Toledo Rockets
Mountain West- Utah Utes
Pac-10- Oregon Ducks, USC Trojans, Washington Huskies
SEC- Auburn Tigers, Kentucky Wildcats, Mississippi Rebels, South Carolina Gamecocks, Vanderbilt Commodores
Sun Belt- Troy Trojans
WAC- New Mexico State Aggies


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