South Florida Preview: Defense

USF has some very obvious strengths and weaknesses defensively. The DL has athletes, but due to some unfortunate circumstance the depth is relatively thin. The LB corps is arguably the best in the Big East and one of the better units in the country. The CBs are very good and the safeties are fundamentally sound.

Expect USF to play 8 in the box in order to stop the run and force Mike Teel to beat them with the pass. Rutgers must win the battle at the line of scrimmage and hope that Teel can manage the offense. While USF has some great talent, there are enough holes that can be exploited for Rutgers to have success.

DL - The defensive line has some talent, but an injury and a key suspension have kept this unit shuffling. DT Richard Clebert, who is known by most Rutgers fans as "the guy who knocked Ryan Hart out of the game" is himself out with an injury. He was one of their top returning interior linemen. Pre-season starting DE Josh Julmiste, who at 6'6" 265 is considered a freak of an athlete, is still serving suspension for a 2nd failed drug test. Thus, Belle-Glade product Woody George moves inside from his starting DE spot to replace Clebert, and DE Jarrett Buie gets his 2nd start at DE at George's former spot. Fr. George Selvie has played in Julmiste's spot and has been a pleasant surprise. He leads the DL in tackles with 26, tackles-for-loss with 5.5 and is 2nd in sacks with 2.5. Meanwhile, Buie, who was a national recruit out of high-school, has suffered some early injuries in his career and is off to a slow start. This year he has only tallied 3 tackles and 1 sack. The one real consistent player is the rock in the middle, Jr. Allan Cray. Cray, who stands at 6'0 295 lbs, has been getting in the backfield of the opposition. He leads the team with 3.5 sacks and has 4.5 tackles for loss. The back-ups to the 4-starters are very inexperienced. If RU can pound the football on the ground, this DL can fatigue during the latter parts of the game.

LB - This will be the best LB corp the Scarlet Knights face all year. Heck, this is the best LB corp in the state of Florida.

All 3-starters are fantastic. They are big, can run and tackle very well. The unit is led by Stephen Nicholas (see image below), who is a Butkus Award and Nagurski candidate. In last year's contest, USF had the 6'3" 230 lb Nicholas shadow Brian Leonard for most of the game. And the scary thing is this big-man ran with him stride for stride. He took Leonard out of the passing game and is a strategy USF may try to implement again this game. Nicholas leads USF in tackles with 32. Ben Moffitt is a player with great instincts and is always around the ball. His high football IQ has allowed him to be 2nd on the team in tackles with 28. Patrick St. Louis is the other dangerous playmaker. He has accounted for 22 tackles. Overall, these three guys are outstanding against both the run and pass. But specifically against the run, as USF has only allowed 364 yards against the run this entire year. This will be the key match-up of the game, namely the RU RB's against the USF LB's.

DB - The CB tandem of Trae Williams and Mike Jenkins are among the better tandems in the Big East. They are both physical, fast cover corners. Williams has already accumulated 4 interceptions and has recorded 18 tackles, whereas Jenkins is credited with 6 pass break-ups. Oregon transfer Ryan Gilliam was considered a top 10 CB as a high school athlete and is the #3 CB in the rotation. Sr. SS Jeremy Burnett is very good in run support and has accounted for 23 tackles. FS Danny Verpaele is the ball hawk. Expect USF to bring Jeremy Burnett up close to the line of scrimmage in an attempt to slow down the run. In addition, they will play a lot of man coverage in order to make Mike Teel beat these stellar CB's. Mike Teel needs to convert on some of these match-ups and not make mistakes. This secondary has the potential to make him pay.

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