In this series we will look at the Mids football opponents for the 2016 season. Today the school we are looking at is South Florida.
Date/time/location/TV: October 28, 7:00pm EST, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa FL, ESPN2.
2015 Record: 8-5 (6-2 The American). Lost to #25 WKU 45-35 in the Miami Beach Bowl.
Head Coach: Willie Taggart. Fourth year at USF (14-23).
Series History: Navy leads the series 1-0.
Last Meeting: The first meeting between the two schools (2015) went the way of the Mids Keenan Reynolds scored twice in the .final quarter to tie the NCAA career rushing mark and lead the team to a 29-17 win.
Top Returners: QB Quinton Flowers (Jr.) 2,290 yards passing and 22 TDs, 173 yards rushing and 12 TDs. RB Marion Mack (Jr.) 1,381 yards rushing and 8 TDs. WR Rodney Adams (Sr.) 816 yards and a 64% catch rate. MLB Auggie Sanchez (Jr.) 94 tackles, 8.5 TFLS, and 0.5 sacks.
Key Losses: LG Thor Jozwiak (2nd-Team All-AAC) and C Brynjar Gudmundsson, 65 career starts. DE Eric Lee, 40.5 tackles, 12 TFLs, and 5 sacks. S Jamie Byrd, 74.5 tackles, 11 TFLs, 5 sacks, 3 INTs.
What You Need To Know: USF was 1-3 and headed into oblivion last fall, before a stunning turnaround saw the school finish the season on an 8-2 tear with the only league loss in that stretch coming at the hands of Navy.
Willie Taggart had been pulling in good to great (for the level) recruiting classes for a couple of years when the breakout suddenly occurred. Offensively the Bulls are an explosive team blessed with a quarterback/running back duo that can make a highlight play for a long touchdown at any moment.
Quinton Flowers is far from the most efficient quarterback in the country, but he is a dual-threat guy who can gun the ball downfield and who is very adept at finding holes around the goal line to sneak over for a score. Marion Mack gained 340 more yards on only seven more carries as a sophomore than a freshman and, if some offensive line holes are filled, he could be a breakout star in 2016.
The Bulls also return every wide receiver that was targeted with a pass last year, plus highly regarded NC State transfer Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Throw in a four-star freshman recruit in Darnell Salomon and it is hard to see the exciting USF offense taking any steps backward.
The defense will be the question for USF this year. Defensive coordinator Tom Allen jumped ship to Indiana after just one year in Tampa, but his 4-2-5 defense will remain the base of what USF does. The Bulls though lose five of their seven defensive linemen with at least four TFLs last fall, raising questions about the ability of the line to stand up in 2016.
The other key loss for USF will be the rare ability of STRIKER safety Jamie Byrd. Players that account for 11 TFLs and 7 PBUs are rare, but the rest of the unit is back intact. If another STRIKER can be found to play at or near Byrd's level, the back end will be fine.
2015 Stats That Matter: Offensive points per game, 41st; Defensive points per game, 35th.
Fun Fact: USF is the eight largest university in the US with an enrollment of almost 48,000 students.
Famous Alumni: Aasif Mandvi (Actor), Pam Iorio (Politician/Author), Hulk Hogan (Wrestler)