Five Players to Watch: USF

Demetrio looks at five USF Bulls that SMU fans have to watch for in the Mustangs' primetime matchup at Ford Stadium Saturday night.

RB Marlon Mack

Mack is a true freshman and a true beast. The 6’0” 195 pound running back has 828 rushing yards on 158 carries over nine games- giving him a 5.2 yards per rush average. He is averaging 92 yards a game and we already know SMU’s run defense is porous. While he isn’t extensively in the passing game, his 11 catches this season are good for fifth on the team. His nine yards per catch average means that when they do throw to him he is almost always picking up a first down. USF has scored only 18 touchdowns this season and Mack has picked up eight on the ground. He is by far the biggest part of the Bulls’ offense and they are going to lean on him as much as they can.

WR Andre Davis

Regardless of who is under center for USF, Davis is the focal point in the passing attack. His 20 catches are second the team, behind Rodney Adams’ 21.Davis is leading the Bulls with 416 receiving yards and five touchdowns. The 6’1” 205 pound senior has only played in five games in 2014, otherwise his totals would be much higher. He owns the longest scoring play of the year for USF- an 85 yard receiving touchdown, and is averaging 20 yards per catch. Davis has the ability to break any game open, but he needs adequate quarterback play to truly be a difference maker.

LB Nigel Harris

Third on the team in total tackles with 56, first in tackles for loss with 7.5, and tied for third with two sacks, Harris is a beast. He may not be the lead dog on this defense, but he is the guy who does all the dirty work and is always around the ball. Harris is a 6’2” 200 pound freshman linebacker from Tampa, Fla.. Perhaps the biggest thing Harris brings to the game is his ability to create turnover; in 2014 he has forced five fumbles- no one else on the team has forced more than one. He is a young player with a high motor and he is out to prove himself- SMU better watch out.

S Jamie Byrd

There is no way anyone talks about this Bulls defense without mentioning Byrd. He spent two seasons at TCU: red-shirting in 2011 and playing in 12 games in 2012. He made one tackle as a Horned Frog. He then left TCU to play for Western Community College, where he was selected to NJCAA second team All-American and MFC first team All-Conference for his 53 tackles, two interceptions, and seven pass break ups in 2013. As a Bull in 2014, the 5’11” defensive back leads the team in total tackles with 75. Byrd also has two tackles for a loss, one interception, and two pass breakups. He isn’t the flashiest of defenders, but he is consistent and shows up to play every game. You know what you are going to get from Byrd and that makes him a tremendous asset on defense.

DB Johnny Ward

If USF’s defense was the 1980’s Celtics, Byrd would be Larry Bird (for obvious reasons) and Ward would be Kevin McHale. The 6’0” 165 pound Ward is probably the best cover man the Bulls have. He has length but is certainly on the light side. All that being said, he is eight on the team with 27 total tackles, leads the team with two interceptions and is second on the team with three pass breakups. Like Byrd, you know what you’re going to get from him every game. And just to clarify- I’ll admit that my Bird-McHale comparison was mostly pun based, but the duo were also known for being solid on the defensive end.

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