Within Tom Allen’s 4-2-5 system, the unit most primed to emerge as leaders both verbally and statistically for South Florida are coach Raymond Woodie’s linebackers. Naturally, the linebacking unit are the ones to set the tone of the entire defense, reading opposing offenses and playing a heavy role in both run and pass protection. The success of Allen’s new scheme and the entire USF defense will hinge upon the talent and leadership returning to this staff once the season officially kicks off.
The 2015 linebacking corps loses the production of Reshard Cliett, who was taken in the sixth round of this year’s NFL Draft by the Houston Texans. Cliett amounted 38 tackles (7.5 for losses) and a team leading six sacks during the 2014 campaign, quietly flying under the radar as a solid late round draft prospect. Returning to the fray as main linebackers are stingers Nigel Harris and Tashon Whitehurst alongside Auggie Sanchez in the “Mike” position. These three individuals each offer a different element that will play a critical role on the field for the Bulls in 2015. Whitehurst proved himself as a machine during spring practice and is poised to shine as a name opposing running backs and receivers will become familiar with. The senior recorded a walloping 19 tackles during the spring game and looks to continue impacting every play this season. Coinciding with him at stinger is the junior Harris, whose 77 tackles and nation leading six forced fumbles is exactly the destructive force needed for the 4-2-5 to work.
Finally, quickly rising up as a team leader on defense is redshirt sophomore Auggie Sanchez. The St. Pete native recorded 66 tackles in his first season as a starter and looks to yield even better results in 2015. Sanchez has not only taken the role of being the “QB” of the defense in calling audibles and defensive alignments, but has also shown the vocal passion and urgency to return the Bulls to being a dominant force. When asked about USF being picked fifth in the AAC East, he responded, “That’s embarrassing. Yeah, that definitely fires me up.”
Also playing a role will be Zack Bullock, Josh Black and C.J. Garye, who will be playing in the “Bull” position, a defensive end/linebacker hybrid position utilized in the new scheme. If the production stays the same, expect for USF LBs to be all over the field once the season opener against Florida A&M commences.