This Saturday's the Bulls open the 2007 season with the Elon Phoenix. The game will be the third meeting between USF and Elon on the gridiron. Each school has won on its home field in the two previous meetings, with Elon taking a win in 1997 (during USF's inaugural season) and the Bulls winning the nest year in 1998 at Raymond James Stadium. Elon is USF's only Championship Subdivision opponent on the schedule, while the Bulls are the only Bowl Subdivision opponent for Elon. Since becoming a Bowl Subdivision member in 2000, USF has gone 17-0 against Championship Subdivision schools. USF is 10-0 in home openers during in the programs history.
USF begins its 11th year of football following the team's most successful season in school history. The Bulls went 9-4 last season, including a 4-3 mark in BIG EAST play, and defeated the East Carolina Pirates in the PapaJohn's.com Bowl for the program's first bowl victory. USF has appeared in a bowl game in each of the last two seasons in the BIG EAST.
The Bulls are led by sophomore sensation QB Matt Grothe, who was the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year in 2006. Grothe led the conference in total offense (3,198 yards) and accounted for 24 touchdowns (15 passing, nine rushing) in his rookie year.
Most of the starting offensive line from last season returns practically intact in 2007 with Marc Dile, Walter Walker, Nick Capogna, Jake Griffin, and Ryan Schmidt all returning, plus freshmen Zach Hermann, Jacob Sims and true freshmen Sampson Genus have had a great summer. In the off season the Bulls also promoted former NFL lineman and very successful local HS coach Mike Simmonds to offensive line coach.
The Bulls brought back Coach Mike Canales as receiver coach/passing game coordinator in the off season and return three veterans wide receivers Taurus Johnson, Amarri Jackson, and Marcus Edwards who are all capable of big plays. The Bulls also expect big things from redshirt Freshmen Carlton Mitchell, Jessie Hester Jr., and true freshmen Dontavia Bogan.
Grothe should have some help this year as the Bulls have bolstered the running attack in the off-season. The Bulls return Ben Williams the MVP of the PapaJohns Bowl and Aston Samuels, but the additions of former
USF's forte has always been their defense coached by Wally Burnham. The Bulls return 8 starters from their top ranked defense with 96 players from the state of Florida. The Bulls lost Stephen Nicholas and Pat St. Louis, but return the teams leading tackler and Butkus watch list LB Ben Moffitt in the middle. On the outside is Brouce Mompremier, and freshman All-American Chris Robinson. The Bull also added transfer Tyrone McKenzie who was 8th in the country with 126 tackles in '06 and Donte Spires who both had great camps.
The defensive secondary, which features senior CB Trae Williams and senior CB Mike Jenkins, is one of the best in college. Williams, an All-BIG EAST First Team pick last year, had seven interceptions and nine pass breakups, while Jenkins knocked away 15 passes. They are joined by safeties Carlton Williams and Nate Allen.
The Bulls defensive line is anchored by Freshmen All-American George Selvie, seniors Richard Clebert, Allen Cray, Jarriett Buie, and sophomore Aaron Harris. The defense was solid last year and looks to set the tone against Elon to start the 2007 season. The Bulls also brought in coach Dan McCarney from Iowa in the off-season as assistant head coach and to work with the D-line.
Quick Look at Elon::
The Elon Phoenix went 5-6 last year under first-year head coach Pete Lembo. Elon tied for fifth place in the Southern Conference last season, the conference that produced NCAA champion Appalachian State. Junior LB Corey Weaver is the top player on the roster after he registered 93 tackles as a sophomore. Weaver leads a group of eight returning starters on defense. The
When Elon has the ball:
The pressure will be on for Elon freshman quarterback Scott Riddle, who takes control of the
When USF has the ball:
On offense, the Bulls will look to establish a running game. To do this, the Bulls must account for Elon linebacker Corey Weaver. The junior had 93 tackles last season and tallied 10 tackles in four games. Weaver also displayed his ability to take over a game with a 25-tackle performance against eventual FCS National Champion Appalachian State. In the passing game, Bulls quarterback Matt Grothe will have to keep an eye on Elon defensive back Chris Bland. The senior had an impressive 124 return yards on his team-high four interceptions in 2006.
Saturday's game will be the fourth meeting between Elon and USF. The Bulls lost 41-13 to the
Correspondent Eric Moeller contributed to this report.
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