Navy Opponent Preview: USF

The Mids face off against the University of South Florida Bulls in Annapolis on Halloween night looking to avoid a scare in the teams bid to win the AAC West. This cross divisional game is something of a trap as the next week Navy travels to division favorites Memphis.

2014 Record: 4-8 (3-5 The American) – No Bowl game.

Series Record: The schools have met a grand total of zero times on the football field. This is not all that shocking as although Navy has been around forever the Bulls only started up their football program in 1997 and have only been an FBS member since 2001.

Last Meeting: See above.

Head Coach: Willie Taggart (photo above) is entering his third season as the Bulls head coach with a 6-18 (.250) win/loss record. Taggart was previously the head coach of Western Kentucky and this South Florida position is proving to be quite the rebuilding job after the program fell apart in the last two years under Skip Holtz.

Spring News: The USF spring game was not a highly contested battle between two offensive juggernauts. Instead the affair was a dour 10-9 victory for the Green Team in a game which saw more penalties, turnovers, bad offensive line play and ineffective passing than points. That this was supposed to be the start of a new era for the Bulls, one with a brand new up-tempo spread offense, has to be somewhat concerning for all involved.

Projected Strengths: South Florida has issues one both sides of the ball, but they certainly have found a productive player in the backfield. Marlon Mack was the AAC Rookie of the Year in 2014 and there is no reason to think that his output will go anywhere but upward in the new system. Last fall Mack rushed for 1,041 yards and nine touchdowns, using patience above his years to read and develop blocks before electrifying in space.

The Bulls defense has been retooled this year to run a 4-2-5 with a hybrid linebacker spot. This is a great position for South Florida to be in as the majority of their talent on defense is at the linebacker position. Junior linebacker Nigel Harris led the nation in forced fumbles per game, while senior ‘backer Tashon Whitehurst had a ridiculous spring game with 19 tackles. There are other linebackers with different skill sets, such as Auggie Sanchez and Jimmy Bayes, who will also figure into the mix.

Projected Weaknesses: Quarterback is going to be an issue for the Bulls as they transition to this new offensive system. Drop-back quarterback Mike White transferred out of the program, leaving the job open for a number of candidates. Of all those in the running sophomore Quinton Flowers looks like the best fit for what the Bulls are trying to do, but it is to be determined if his running ability will make up for his sometimes poor decision making.

The work of the Bulls linebackers may all be to no avail if the team cannot improve their pass rush from last year. The Bulls twice gave up 589 yards in a game, mainly because the men up front put no pressure on opposing quarterbacks. If this is to change USF will need more from senior defensive end Eric Lee, along with more interior push from the defensive tackle spot. Much of this will fall on the shoulders of highly recruited junior Derrick Calloway.

Prediction: Navy catches a team in transition here as USF tries to change its schemes on both sides of the ball in the same season. This is never usually a good thing, as neither part can be relied on, and you have to expect there will be plenty of growing pains through this. This is a must win for the Mids if they are serious about challenging for the division or conference crown. Navy to win by 10+ points. Top Stories