USF Position Previews: Defensive Line

With USF's season on the horizon, we look to breakdown the strengths, weaknesses, and expectations of each position. Today, we look at the core front of Tom Allen's new 4-2-5 system, the defensive line.

Heading into the 2015 season, a load of anticipation and excitement surrounds the arrival of the energetic Tom Allen as South Florida’s new defensive coordinator. Replacing Chuck Bresnahan as Bulls DC, the former Ole Miss linebackers coach will hope to duplicate the success of the Rebel “Land Shark” defense in Tampa with what players and coaches are already dubbing the “Bull Shark” defense through the implementation of the 4-2-5 scheme. A stark contrast from Bresnahan’s 3-4, the 4-2-5 utilizes an extra safety or the “husky” position to anticipate and neutralize the spread, which runs prevalent in the wide open AAC. For Allen’s Bull Sharks to reign supreme over opposing offenses, the pressure of course has to start up front with coach Eric Mathies’ defensive line.

The 2015 installment of line will tasked with replacing tons of production from the previous season. Gone are defensive tackles Todd Chandler and Elkino Watson. Chandler racked up 37 tackles in 2014, while Watson achieved 36 tackles and two sacks in his final season with the Bulls. The biggest blow to the unit came in July when Derrick Calloway withdrew from USF for academic reasons. Calloway, who had 30 tackles and three sacks, was poised to anchor the defensive line heading into his junior year.

Listed as the starting edge rushers are senior defensive ends Zack Bullock and Eric Lee, who added 15 pounds during the offseason and is expected to play a critical role in the new defense. Holding down the defensive tackle position on the early depth charts are senior James Hamilton and sophomore Deadrin Senat. Breaking out as an emerging force in the spring, the 300 pound Senat is another young Bull to watch in 2015 as his career at South Florida unfolds. The Immokalee, FL native is also billed as one of the strongest players in the weight room, so it will be seen if his strength can overpower opposing offensive lineman and bring doom upon running backs. Others to keep watch for are defensive ends Mike Love and Josh Black alongside defensive tackles Kevin Bronson and Bruce Hector.

Willie Taggart’s defense, which was ranked 69th in total defense in 2014, would like to utilize the new 4-2-5 scheme to create chaos and snuff out opposing offenses at every opportunity. To accomplish that, it has to start with getting better production from the line. Doing so means getting off the field and preventing long methodical drives. The Bulls allowed 45.3% 3rd down conversions last season, netting them near the bottom of the nation at 110th in that category. Even more telling of their inability to stop the run in its tracts was the Football Outsiders advanced stat Stuff Rate (percentage of runs that are stopped at or before the line of scrimmage) where the USF defensive line posted an abysmal 16.9%, landing them 102nd in the entire country. It is hoped that the change in overall scheme and personnel will fare for better results as the Bulls battle a variety of attacks this season.

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