1. Will the offense look different under new Offensive Coordinator Mike Canales?
New OC Mike Canales biggest challenges was to improve the Bulls offense, and this spring his focus has been to get more consistent play from the quarterbacks, improve the red zone efficiency which was sixth in the Big East in 2008. The Bulls offense is similar in appearance, but the influences of Coach Canales could be seen from the opening day of spring ball. The staff isn't giving away anything away before the season, but every offensive player, from the quarterbacks, receivers and running backs, to the O-line were beaming with excitement over the tweaks to the offense.
Canales has molded the Bulls offense to tailor fit Grothe's style of play to get better production out of the offense, cut down the turnovers and score points, a lot of points. Grothe had his best spring to date, with no interceptions thrown until the final week of spring ball, and both B.J. Daniels and Evan Landi had superb springs. The running backs are being incorporated in various ways to improve the completion percentage, the receivers are being used to stretch the field, and Canales will get the ball in the hands of his skilled players. If it's any indication of what's in store the Bulls scored more points in the spring game with a vanilla offense then the last two combined. Without knowing exactly what the Bulls offense will look like on game day, one thing is for sure, and that it should be very exciting to watch.
2. How much influence will new DC Tresey have on the Bulls defense?
Coach Tresey had some very big shoes to fill replacing Wally Burnham, but when he arrived he had his own impressive resume and hit the ground running. Tresey made goals are to return the Bulls to the ball hawking defense they were in 2007 and to improve in all areas including scoring defense. The Bulls defense has a great foundation with seniors like George Selvie, Jerome Murphy, Nate Allen, and Kion Wilson, and Tresey is looking to take them to the next level. He wants his defense to be fast, physical and play with a high intensity level for four quarters.
With Tresey as Cincinnati's defense coordinator last year the Bearcats led the Big East in sacks and tackles for losses, and were known for big plays. This is the same philosophy he's installing at USF, and communication between his players is the main key. Tresey wants his players to be better on third downs and simply out score his opponents. During the spring game, cornerbacks Quenton Washington and Tyson Butler, and LB Chris Robinson all had interceptions with Washington taking his for an exciting 95 yard score. He's only been on campus for 7-weeks, but is already making his presence known.
3. What players will step up and emerge as starters on the offensive line?
There were many position battles to watch this spring, but none as important as the offensive line. The Bulls graduated four senior linemen last year, and with several spots open, all eyes are on what players will step up and emerge as starters on the offensive line.
Only three returning lineman have started for USF, Zach Hermann, (18), Jake Sims (10), and Danous Estenor (1). Hermann will most likely start, but missed a good portion of the spring with a concussion, and Sims is a likely starter, but where he'll play isn't certain. Estenor who is still recovering from a knee injury didn't have the best spring and still has a ways to go this summer. At tackle Jeremiah Warren who saw action in 2008 missed the whole spring to work on academics and his availability is still unknown. Mark Popek is a very big, strong and imposing player that had a good spring starting almost the entire time, but is still learning. After that is Mike McGowan who's made strides, and redshirt Damien Edwards. Both have improved, but aren't being looked at as starters.
On the inside Chaz Hine had a very good spring and has made his case at guard. Sampson Genus who switched back to offense this spring is an immovable force and looked very good at guard and center, but got dinged up as well. Behind them are redshirts Josh Garvin who missed a good part of the spring with an illness and Jatavious Jackson who switched from the d-line and isn't quite there yet. A lot of different players have taking snaps at center but Jake Sims, Sampson Genus, and Kevin McCaskill, have taken the most snaps and are the top three. The starting lineup has been the similar most of the spring but with all the injuries players have moved around and coach Leavitt has said more than once that there are a host of players coming in, and the offensive line will be wide-open in August.
Stay tuned for the next series of answers