Rounding out South Florida’s 4-2-5 defensive set is Alonzo Hampton’s secondary, a unit that collectively bears an ample amount of previous playing time and experience between each individual involved. This experience will play a key factor in executing Willie Taggart and Tom Allen’s brand new defensive scheme, as in place of a third linebacker, the all-important “Husky” position has been installed into the secondary to serve as vital role in defending the run and the pass. The Bulls must demand better production out of this unit for successful results once the season kicks off on September 5th against Florida A&M.
Returning as regular starters are safeties Jamie Byrd and Nate Godwin, while the ball hawk Johnny Ward returns at corner. The junior Godwin has played in all 24 games during his time in South Florida, while making an impact finishing third in team tackles last season with 72. Ward, also a junior, recorded 36 tackles and 2 interceptions in 2014 and looks to utilize the spread out 4-2-5 scheme to become an even more disruptive once the season starts. Also returning at corner are Deatrick Nichols and Lamar Robbins, both of whom have already seen a fair share of playing time and numerous starts in their young tenures with the Bulls. Sophomore free safety Tajee Fullwood will also join the fray of young players stepping up into important roles in 2015. The Tampa native turned heads during spring practice and has already shown his knack for flying towards the ball during fall camp. Fullwood says that the defense challenges themselves to record five turnovers during fall practice and runs themselves when they don’t achieve that goal.
Possibly the most vital role to be played within the entire Bulls defense is Jamie Byrd’s role at safety. The “Angry Byrd” led the entire team in tackles last season with 95, while also tallying two interceptions, three pass breakups, and a forced fumble. The senior Pasco County native’s importance increases even more playing the Husky position in the 4-2-5. The position will put Byrd near the line of scrimmage where he’ll line up in the box and can either provide run support, pressure opposing offenses with blitzes, or drop back into coverage to defend against the pass, all depending on his reads. It’s an added bonus for the USF defense that Byrd already has previous experience with the new scheme, having spent one year at TCU, where Gary Patterson operated the 4-2-5 to great success for the Horned Frogs.
Overall, the name of the game for the secondary will be to become better at defending the pass and preventing 3rd down conversions that would often grind the defense down during games last season. According to NCAA advanced statistics, USF ranked 108th in the nation in Pass Defense Efficiency, a stat that incorporates passing yards allowed, completion percentage, TDs allowed, and interceptions. The secondary must do a more effective job in being a staunch, disruptive force in order to counter great passing offenses such as Cincinnati and East Carolina.