Pitt-South Florida Preview

When the Pitt coaching staff and defensive players saw South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels on tape, they probably cringed.

Some might even have had nightmares the next time they tried to sleep after watching the 6-foot-1, 215-pound redshirt freshman play the past few weeks. A three-game starter for veteran Matt Grothe at USF, B.J. Daniels leads the Bulls in rushing and passing yardage.

And he's extremely similar to North Carolina State's Russell Wilson, who tortured the Panthers and primarily was responsible for their only loss this season. Now, Pittsburgh (6-1 overall, 3-0 in the Big East) gets another shot against an athletic quarterback when it plays host to South Florida (5-1, 1-1) in a key Conference matchup today at noon at Heinz Field.

"Daniels, he's probably the most athletic quarterback we'll see all year,'' Pitt fifth-year defensive tackle Gus Mustakas said. "He's extremely athletic, but a difference is that he'll scramble to find more time before he runs. So, it's going to be a real test to stop him. We really have to contain him.

"We didn't think the N.C. State quarterback was going to scramble that much. So, we're definitely more prepared for the scramble this time to keep Daniels in the pocket and not let him scramble for time. ... It's tough for a DB to cover a receiver for 6-7 seconds, so it's on us to make sure he stays in the pocket.''

The key for Pitt will be to contain Daniels, keep him in the pocket and not let him control the tempo. So, the Panthers' defensive line pressure will be crucial, while the secondary has to stay in their coverage and not take a peak into the backfield to try to make a big play.

"We can't get caught looking into the backfield,'' Pitt redshirt freshman safety Jarred Holley said, "and we need to stay in our coverage or else he'll beat you with a long pass. He can scramble and throw the ball down field.

"He has a strong arm and can beat you if you don't contain him and keep him in the pocket. We just have to stay with our guys in the secondary and don't let anybody get loose. (And) we can't get faked out.''

According to Pitt defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, while Daniels leads USF in rushing and passing yardage -- with 365 yards rushing (5.7 yards per carry) and four touchdowns and has completed 53.4 percent of his passes for 810 yards and seven scores with four interceptions and eight sacks -- the Bulls running backs are just as tough.

"Ford, the big back, No. 26, and Plancher, we call it a read option with three wideouts and a tight end,'' Bennett said. "And almost every play it's either a give or a keep, read, and (Daniels) has lead blockers. You don't see many teams run quarterback counters, and that's probably their biggest play.''

Moise Plancher has run for 276 yards (4.8 average) and four touchdowns, while Lindsey Lamar has 149 (5.0) and two scores. Mike Ford has played just four games and has 134 yards rushing (4.2) and three touchdowns. USF has run for 1,122 yards (4.8) and 13 touchdowns.

The top receivers for Daniels, who has a strong arm and can throw on the run, are Carl Mitchell with 23 catches (17.6) and three touchdowns, Dontavia Bogan with 13 (16.5) and two scores and A.J. Love with 11 catches (13.4).

Defensively, ends George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul get a lot of accolades, but free safety Nate Allen actually is the leading tackler for USF with 36 stops, including 17 solo, three interceptions, four pass breakups, one forced fumble and one recovery. The senior is a big-play performer.

Selvie (three) and Pierre-Paul (two) have combined for five sacks, but tackles Craig Marshall (four) and Aaron Harris (three) have seven combined quarterback sacks. So, the entire D-line is dangerous. And what they don't hit, middle linebacker Kion Wilson -- 35 tackles (16 solo), two stops behind the line, one pass breakup, one forced fumble and one recovery.

"They're probably the fastest team we'll play all year,'' Pitt frosh tailback Dion Lewis said. "They've got a great D-line, kind of like our team, with a great middle linebacker and safety who can come up and hit you. But I know our offensive line, they'll have to be on their game, but they'll be ready.''

Pitt senior offensive guard John Malecki assured Lewis that the Panthers would come through up front for him.

"Dion works so hard that we enjoy blocking for him,'' Malecki said. "South Florida has a great D-line, but we go against the best every day in practice. So, we'll definitely be ready for anything they bring at us.''

And as long as Pitt's defense does the same, the Panthers shouldn't have a repeat of the North Carolina State game.

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