Game 1: Florida A&M (0-0) at South Florida (0-0).
When/Where: Saturday September 5th at 7 p.m. ET-Raymond James Stadium (Tampa, FL)
Radio: USF-IMG Network (820 AM)/www.GoUSFBulls.com
All-time series: USF leads 2-0.
Last meeting: 2011. USF won 70-17 in Tampa.
Main Storylines After an offseason of mass changes to schemes and the coaching staff, head coach Willie Taggart will lead his Bulls out for the first time in a season several people are labeling bowl or bust for the now third year head coach. Knowing he must improve upon his 6-18 record in Tampa, Taggart understands the pressure to win immediately in 2015, but has remained enthusiastic and confident in his guys. “I’m really excited to watch this team compete,” Taggart said during his Wednesday press conference. "They are a different team than what we’ve seen before and I’m looking forward to see what they can do.”
Offensively, sophomore quarterback Quinton Flowers will take over as the starter within the newly installed up-tempo, spread offense. Flowers was declared the starter last week over senior Steven Bench, so it will be seen how the young QB from Miami Central will handle the task of running the new system. At running back, Marlon Mack starts his sophomore campaign, coming off a year where he rushed for over 1,000 yards and was named AAC rookie of the year. At receiver, the likes of Rodney Adams, Ryshene Bronson, and A.J. Legree will look to establish their speed on quick passes in the flat as USF spreads the ball out this season.
The Bulls will also be debuting a new look defensivly as well when they step on the field against the Rattler offense as new DC Tom Allen brings his 4-2-5 “Bull Shark” scheme down from Ole Miss. The system is designed to neutralize opposing spread offense and create turnovers, so look to see if the unit, particularly Jamie Byrd at the “Husky” position can wreak havoc and force takeaways. Starting linebackers Tashon Whitehurst and Nigel Harris will sit out for this game for violation of team rules.
The Opponent Florida A&M is a relatively young team looking to improve upon their 3-9 record in 2014. Offensively, FAMU was very inefficient in the MEAC, averaging only 17 points and 288.2 yards per game while only scoring 23 touchdowns for the entire season. Defensively, the Rattlers allowed 26 points and 366.7 yards per game while forcing 18 turnovers in 2014.
A few players of note return for FAMU this season. Redshirt junior Carson Royal takes over as the Rattlers’ starting QB. The Jacksonville native was confident when being asked about their chances vs. USF, stating “I don’t see any way they can call us underdogs.” Sophomore Gerald Hearns also returns as FAMU’s leading rusher. Hearns amounted 500 yards rushing during his freshman campaign in 2014.
Finally, the Bulls offense, particularly the running game, will face their first test of the season when going face to face with senior linebacker Akili Blount. Blount enters 2015 as a pre-season All-MEAC team selection, having led the Rattlers in 2014 with 72 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and an interception.