Preview: Linebackers

With camp set to kick into gear on Monday morning at the Frank Morsani Football Complex, takes a closer at the University of South Florida's depth in the middle of the defense at linebacker.

Reshard Cliett posted 56 tackles (36 solo) for the Bulls in 2013, only trailing three time all-conference middle linebacker and current Chicago Bear Devekeyan ‘DeDe’ Lattimore. Cliett is the clear-cut starter at strong-side linebacker and look for the Georgia native to have a breakout season in 2014.

Chuck Bresnahan will look to redshirt freshman Auggie Sanchez, who made the switch from fullback in the spring, to fill the opening left by Lattimore at middle linebacker come fall. Sanchez, from nearby St. Petersburg, stands at 6’2 241-pounds and will have no problem plugging the gaps to stop the run.

At weak-side linebacker the Bulls return Tampa’s own Nigel Harris, who is coming off of a standout performance in 2013. As a true freshman Harris started all 12 games, seemingly with ice in his veins, amassing 35 total tackles (18 solo), 2.5 TFL and forced a fumble. Harris is certainly a youthful bright spot that I foresee as a four-year starter.

Taggart specifically mentioned both Josh Black and Juwuan Brown during the 2014 American Athletic Conference Media Conference in Newport, RI stating, “On the defensive side of the ball, we have some skill guys we are excited about. Josh Black, Juwuan Brown, linebackers for us.”

Look for Brown to push for playing time in 2014. Jimmy Bayes was Willie Taggart’s first commit for the class of 2014 and was the first Bull to fax in his LOI on national signing day. Bayes, hailing from 239 powerhouse Immokalee, will also push to plant his cleats in the turf this fall.

USF lost former Plant standout linebacker Mitchell Wright who posted five sacks during a victorious Panthers 2011 state final appearance against Miramar. Wright was forced to give up the game after he was medically disqualified from competition due to persistent neck and shoulder injuries.

Have faith in linebackers coach Raymond Woodie. The former 2012 Sun Belt recruiter of the year was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship program. In gest, Woodie is a leader and a killer on the recruiting trail.

USF returns five of the top six tacklers from a season ago and Woodie will look to capitalize on the experience gained in 2013 to asphyxiate the opposition in 2014.

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