South Florida (1-3, 0-1) enters a critical point of their season as bowl eligibility and possibly the future of Willie Taggart will be determined over the next few games, beginning with a date with former Big East foe Syracuse (3-1, 1-0). Here is an in depth scouting report of the Bulls.
Scouting the Offense
New to South Florida in 2015 is the implementation of an up-tempo, spread based attack. The offense hinges on the ability of their quarterback to make quick reads on screens and slants while also utilizing his speed and elusiveness to make plays with his legs. So far, the three stand-out running backs on the Bulls’ roster have made the most impact in not only pounding the rock on the ground, but also utilizing their speed as receivers in the passing game. Mostly a conservative strategy from Willie Taggart as you won’t see the offense take too many risks.
RB Marlon Mack: Mack burst onto the scene in 2014, rushing for over 1,000 yards and was named AAC Rookie of the Year. The now sophomore is having another productive season, rushing for 392 yards and one TD so far while averaging 5.4 ypc.
RB D'Ernest Johnson: The surprise of the season has been the running back Johnson emerging as South Florida’s top receiver in four games. The sophomore has 14 catches, 223 yards, and 4 TDs in four games and has been the biggest benefactor of the switch to the spread.
QB Quinton Flowers: For being a first year starter, Flowers has managed the offense well in his first four outings, not committing too many ill-advised mistakes. He has a 60% completion percentage with 525 yards passing and 6 TDs through the air, while posting 209 yards and 2 TDs on the ground.
Despite being a spread based offense, USF simply does not take too many shots down the field. The Bulls rank in the bottom fifteen in passing statistics including attempts, yards, and average yards per catch per game. This is the result of a combination of simplifying the offense for Flowers who is still limited in accuracy/throwing ability and Taggart’s overall conservative tendencies on offense. For this, receivers such as Rodney Adams and Ryshene Bronson have not made any type of considerable impact on the season so far.
USF also ranks an abysmal 126th out of 128 FBS teams in 3rd down conversion percentage.
USF’s bread and butter is their rushing attack, throttling opposing defenses with the three headed attack of Marlon Mack, D’Ernest Johnson, and Darius Tice in all aspects of the offense. However, because of their limited ability through the air, several Bulls drives are prone to stall as they do not score many points against quality opponents.
Scouting the Defense
With the arrival of new DC Tom Allen comes the unveiling of the 4-2-5 base defense, the same system Allen previously executed as Ole Miss’ LB coach. The defense is predicated on utilizing the overall speed of defenders to fly towards the ball and create havoc in forcing turnovers. Taking away a LB, an extra safety or “Husky” is used to defend both the run and pass, posing the threat to blitz or dropping back into coverage depending on the play. The “Bull” defensive end also serves as a swift DE/LB hybrid primed to be used in a variety of scenarios as well.
Husky/S Jamie Byrd: The returning leader in tackles from 2014, Jamie Byrd’s speed and knack for scoping out whoever has the ball lands him on the left side of the defense at the critical Husky safety position within Allen’s 4-2-5.
MLB Auggie Sanchez: Redshirt sophomore Auggie Sanchez has emerged as the physical and verbal leader within the “Bull Shark” defense. Through four contests this season, he leads the team in tackles with 28 including an impressive career high twelve vs. the high octane Memphis offense last week.
DT Deadrin Senat: The redshirt sophomore has proven himself to be the anchor of the Bull Shark’s defensive line in just his first season as a starter. 23 tackles (2.5 for loss) in four games this season. Tom Allen described him as “an SEC talent who was a bit undersized.”
The secondary has been prone to giving up huge chunks of passing yards all season long. The USF defense has given up 8.2 yards per pass, ranking them 109th in the nation in that category. For an aggressive unit, they are only averaging one takeaway per game, which they certainly want to produce more as the season wears on.
Tom Allen’s Bull Sharks will be looking to build on the momentum of containing Paxton Lynch and Memphis when they take on the Orange this Saturday. As anticipated, expect major pressure from the defensive front to try to rattle Eric Dungey from the opening whistle.
Scouting the Special Teams
P Mattias Ciabatti: A first team All-Conference punter and a Ray Guy Watch lister, Ciabatti has served as a valuable tool in setting up opposing offense deep within their own territory throughout his career at USF. Averaging a career high 46 yards per punt on 27 punts this season.
K Emilio Nadelman: Sophomore making his taking over this season for departed all-conference kicker Marvin Kloss. He is a perfect 3 for 3 in attempts this season.