4. Who will replace the losses of three senior starters on the defensive line this spring?
With defensive tackle Terrell McClain, defensive ends Craig Marshall and David Bedford all gone, it's time for the next great USF D-linemen to step up, and this spring was the first opportunity to take a look at the unit without the recently departed seniors and see if they've can continue the trend and become impact players.
The good news is that the Bulls rotated a lot of players so guys like Patrick Hampton, Cory Grissom and Keith McCaskill have plenty of experience and there are several young linemen like Ryne Giddins, Julius Forte, Luke Sager and Demi Thompson that saw significant action in 2010. Patrick Hampton and Ryne Giddins have definitely stepped it up, and it looks like Cory Grissom is poised to take over as a big D-lineman in the middle, with Keith McCaskill also locked in as starters through the spring.
At the end position fifth year senior P-Hampton has the most experience, playing in 11 games in 2010 with three starts and showed he can get the job done finishing with 20 tackles, 2.5 sacks, seven TFL, two PBU and a fumble recovery. Hampton turned it on towards the second half of the season and carried it over to the spring. He put on a lot of muscle and is one of the strongest linemen and has an air of confidence that led to a great spring.
On the other end is sophomore Ryne Giddins who after missing the opener played in 12 games, with two starts and was named to ESPN.com's All-BIG EAST Freshman team after recording 19 tackles, 3.5 sacks, six TFL and an INT. This spring Giddins seems to have matured as a player and looks more comfortable and shown consistency and confidence to take it to the next level.
Backing up the ends is Claude Davis and JuJu Forte with DT Anthony Hill getting a look at end as well. Davis and Forte both saw action in 2010 and have game experience at end. Forte had 10 tackles, a sack and a PBU, and played well down the stretch and carried it over to the spring. Davis is the wild card that had a great spring and showed out in both spring games recording multiple sacks and pressure on the QB.
On the interior Cory Grissom has the experience after starting all 13 games at defensive tackle recording 16 tackles, a sack, three TFL and a PBU last year. Pork chop looked like he didn't miss a beat this spring and we'll be a force.
McCaskill played in all 13 games at DT in '10 with 14 tackles, a sack and four TFLs, and had starting experience in '09. The fifth year senior is now over 290 pounds and showed that he's continued his development and that he can be a presence in the middle.
Rounding out the interior is Demi Thompson, a sophomore who now up to 277 pounds and looked good this spring as the No. 2 DT. Both Luke Sager and Todd Chandler battled this spring for the top back-up at nose, and will continue to do so through the summer. The d-line unit is actually ten deep and is a fast unit, and will get a nice infusion from the recent signee's this summer and should continue to be a force.
There's no question that Daniels went through the ringer during the early parts of the season while learning the new system, but at the same time there's no denying that he closed the season in a grand way against Clemson. Unlike last spring, the Bulls have two bona fide quarterbacks entering the spring in Daniels and true sophomore Bobby Eveld, who played admirably when Daniels went down. Redshirt Jamius Gunsby missed most the spring for academics and that led to spring enrollee Matt Floyd getting a lot of reps.
With much of the Bulls success depending on the quarterback, all eyes were on the continued development of Daniels in the system and if he would fend off the other QBs. Throughout the spring Daniels has shown a comfort level in understanding the offense and more importantly a confidence level. B.J. is playing much more relaxed than last season, is becoming more secure in the pocket, and when he scrambles is keeping his eyes down field, and is recognizing the bad plays and giving the Bulls more chances to have good plays on a more consistent basis.
The competition level at quarterback is now pushing B.J. to be a better quarterback and a leader, and having the same offensive coordinator for the first time has also been huge for his development. He's responded this spring, the coaches have said he's miles ahead of where he was at last year, but still has room to grow and execute at an even higher level.
The receiving unit was a work in progress last season due mostly to the injuries of A.J. Love (Knee) and Sterling Griffin (Ankle) who both missed the entire season, and Bogan was the bright spot. With him gone how the unit developed is the key to the Bulls passing game.
Both Love and Griffin are healed, but are at different stages in their recovery. Love practiced but was held out of contact throughout the spring. Griffin practiced fully and is noticeably bigger as he put on some muscle and showed flashes that he returned to form, running good routes, showing he has moves and getting open, but also showed some rust in catching the ball, and needs to continue to develop this summer to be a true force.
The Bulls also have Evan Landi as the starting split end, and he showed that he's one of the more sure handed receivers and a big target. Terrence Mitchell, who switched to receiver last season had a great spring and showed speed, talent and playmaking ability to earn a starting spot in the post spring depth chart.
This was the first spring for redshirt freshman Deonte Welch and he didn't disappoint while having a great spring game and leading all receivers, making great catches and showed he can take a hit. Rounding out the two deep are Joel Miller and Victor Marc at the slot position, and Faron Hornes and Derrick Hopkins are both competing as well.
Marc's name was called a lot this spring and showed the most improvement, while Hopkins was able to show his speed on a deep pass in the Bulls first game, but is smaller and needs to focus on his hands. All have another year under their belt and showed improvement and can be used in certain packages. This summer they'll get back Lindsey Lamar, and have several incoming to help bolster the unit and then we can see what kind of a force they can be.
stay tuned for the final set of answers.