American Athletic

COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#102 Tulsa Golden Hurricane

NATIONAL FORECAST

#102

American Athletic PREDICTION

#11

HEAD COACH: Bill Blankenship, 22-17 (3 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Denver Johnson | DEF. COORDINATOR: Brent Guy

The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 102 Tulsa.

Previewing Tulsa’s Offense for 2014

Tulsa’s football program took a huge step backward in 2013, with offense the main culprit. The Golden Hurricane scored more than 30 points only twice en route to a 3–9 season. In 2012, when Tulsa captured the Conference USA championship and a Liberty Bowl victory, the offense surpassed that mark eight times.

“We have to be more physical and simply get more production on offense,” fourth-year coach Bill Blankenship says.

Part-time starting quarterback Dane Evans gets the first opportunity to guide the unit. Evans started five games last season and completed only 84-of-195 passes for 898 yards. He had four touchdown passes compared to 10 interceptions. He is expected to get pressed by Joseph Calcagni and true freshman Jabe Burgess.

Tulsa has had stability at running back since 2005, but that changes as the Hurricane must replace Trey Watts, who finished with 3,515 career yards, and backup Ja’Terian Douglas. A pair of sophomores will get close looks. James Flanders only had two carries last season but enters fall camp atop the depth chart. He is expected to be challenged by highly touted junior college transfer Tavarreon Dickerson.

Keyarris Garrett, who suffered a season-ending leg injury in the second game last year, is expected to anchor the wide receiver position. Garrett had 67 catches for 845 yards and nine touchdowns in 2012. Talented sophomore Keevan Lucas (32 catches, 442 yards, one TD) returns. Look for Derek Patterson and Zach Epps to contribute as well.

The offensive line, so inexperienced last season, is looking for improvement. Garrett Stafford (left tackle), Dylan Foxworth (center) and Davis Walton (right tackle) will form the unit’s nucleus.

Previewing Tulsa’s Defense for 2014

Nine starters return for the Hurricane, but the one who doesn’t is C-USA Defensive Player of the Year Shawn Jackson. “He is one of the greatest players we’ve had here, but we have 10 other spots where we are returning depth and not just individual starters,” Blankenship says. “The secondary has a chance to be special.”

Tulsa traditionally has fought a numbers game on the defensive line, but Blankenship should be able to rotate more players at the position this season. Defensive ends Derrick Alexander (team-high 6.5 sacks) and Chris Hummingbird (three sacks) should provide a steady pass rush, while Derrick Luetjen (49 tackles) has proven himself a run-stopper on the line.

Many different faces could get looks at linebacker. Trent Martin, who played in only five games last year, will be expected to provide leadership. Mitchell Osborne had 83 tackles last year, and Donnell Hawkins added 50 stops.

The secondary will be highlighted by the return of free safety Demarco Nelson, who sat out 2013 to focus on academics. Nelson, a preseason first-team All-C-USA pick last year, has 239 career tackles and eight interceptions. Strong safety Michael Mudoh had a team-high 133 tackles. 

Previewing Tulsa’s Specialists for 2014

Carl Salazar solved Tulsa’s two-year search for a placekicker by connecting on 16-of-19 field-goal attempts last season, including an early season game-winner at Colorado State. Dalton Parks will return for punting duties.

Final Analysis

Tulsa won a conference championship in 2012 and finished with only three victories in 2013, the lowest total since a one-win campaign in 2002. TU will try to regroup in its inaugural season in the American Athletic Conference. The defense should be improved, but there are concerns on offense, especially at quarterback. Tulsa appears headed toward a second straight losing season.




COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#88 UConn Huskies

NATIONAL FORECAST

#88

American Athletic PREDICTION

#6

HEAD COACH: Bob Diaco, First Year | OFF. COORDINATOR: Mike Cummings | DEF. COORDINATOR: Vincent Brown, Anthony Poindexter

The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 88 UConn.

Previewing UConn’s Offense for 2014:

Three quarterbacks split the starting duties at UConn in 2013, each making four starts. Spring camp ended with the same three in the running for the starting job again. Casey Cochran, Chandler Whitmer and Tim Boyle will enter preseason practice battling it out for the No. 1 spot, but first-year coach Bob Diaco wants the situation settled no later than two weeks before the Aug. 29 opener against BYU. Cochran directed the Huskies to victories in the last three games of 2013, including a record-breaking 461-yard, four-touchdown performance against Memphis.

The starting quarterback will be blessed with a talented group of wide receivers who should form the strength of this offense. The most prolific of the bunch is senior Geremy Davis, who last season became the first 1,000-yard receiver at UConn in the FBS era. Davis will be joined by Deshon Foxx, who could be an impact player in his final season. Diaco hopes to have his tight ends heavily involved in the offense. Sean McQuillan and Tommy Myers headline another deep position.

Tailback Lyle McCombs, who ranked fourth all-time at UConn with 2,681 rushing yards, won't return to the team in 2014. UConn ranked No. 119 in the nation in rushing offense last season and needs production from backup Max DeLorenzo and incoming freshman Arkeel Newsome, as well as fullbacks Jazzmar Clax and Matt Walsh, to help replace McCombs.

The Huskies essentially are starting from scratch on the line, where senior center Alex Mateas is the only returning starter. One of the most pleasant surprises of the spring was sophomore Andreas Knappe, who made the switch from defense and could earn the starting nod at right tackle.

Previewing UConn’s Defense for 2014: 

Any success the Huskies had after upgrading their program and joining the Big East was built on defense. That reputation took a bit of a hit in 2013 when UConn slipped to No. 51 in the nation in total defense after a No. 9 ranking in 2012. The Huskies still shut down the rush but ranked 70th in turnover margin and 107th in team sacks.

Diaco, who built his reputation as a defensive coordinator at Cincinnati and Notre Dame, will have a nucleus of five returning starters and four talented defensive backs. The problem is depth behind the starters — corners Byron Jones and Jhavon Williams and safeties Obi Melifonwu and Andrew Adams. True freshman Jamar Summers could develop into a contributor.

Starters Angelo Pruitt and Julian Campenni return to anchor the defensive line. Senior tackle B.J. McBryde had a good spring, highlighted by an impressive spring game. Yawin Smallwood, UConn’s leading tackler, departed for the NFL, leaving questions at the linebacker spot. Jefferson Ashiru and Marquise Vann bring the most experience, but Graham Stewart could emerge as an impact player.

Previewing UConn’s Specialists for 2014:

Redshirt sophomore Bobby Puyol has waited patiently in the wings and finally gets his chance to handle the kicking duties, replacing consistent and reliable Chad Christen. There’s a new punter as well. Justin Wain will take over for Cole Wagner. Diaco may go against tradition at the holder spot, opting for a skilled ball-handler to bring the threat of fakes into play.

Final Analysis 

Diaco is working tirelessly to change the culture of UConn football, which has won a total of 13 games in the last three seasons — down from 24 in the previous three. He inherits a team that likely will reside in the bottom half of the American Athletic Conference. Diaco hopes to build off the brand created by the men’s and women’s national championship basketball teams, but this is not a one-year job. That’s why Diaco was given a five-year contract worth $8 million.




COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#100 Temple Owls

NATIONAL FORECAST

#100

American Athletic PREDICTION

#10

HEAD COACH: Matt Rhule, 2-10 (1 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Marcus Satterfield | DEF. COORDINATOR: Phil Snow

The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 100 Temple.

Previewing Temple’s Offense for 2014

The Owls, who’ve been looking for a long-term solution at quarterback for what feels like forever, appear to have finally found their guy in P.J. Walker. He took over as a true freshman last October, and the offense gradually improved as the year progressed. Walker averaged 330 passing yards with a combined nine touchdowns and three interceptions in the last three games.

Now, Temple must put more playmakers around him, especially since Robbie Anderson — who led the team with nine touchdown catches — is no longer around. Sophomore Khalif Herbin, who redshirted last year after playing as a true freshman in 2012, could be one of the answers. But there’s no shortage of candidates. Senior Jalen Fitzpatrick (38 receptions) is the leading returning receiver statistically.

A consistent running game would obviously ease the burden on Walker and the passing attack. The Owls had their issues there, particularly in short-yardage situations. Senior Kenny Harper and sophomore Zaire Williams combined for 1,146 yards and 12 scores, but this is far from an area of strength.

Coming up with a cohesive unit up front will be a work in progress, and bodies figure to get moved around as part of that effort. Junior Kyle Friend is the anchor at center. Redshirt freshman Leon Johnson is being counted on at left tackle. Depth is a concern.

Previewing Temple’s Defense for 2014

The most glaring needs — and these have been familiar themes in recent years — are developing a pass rush and improving secondary play, primarily at safety. Those deficiencies cost the Owls in several big spots last year. So Sharif Finch, who was a linebacker, is now an end on a line that has seven freshmen and sophomores listed among the two-deep. The coaching staff is high on newcomer Michael Dogbe on the edge.

Linebacker Tyler Matakevich led the nation in solo tackles (106) in 2013 as a sophomore. Nate D. Smith, who patrols the middle, was second on the team with 81 total tackles.

Cornerback Anthony Robey had his moments, but as a group the defensive backs have to do better than three interceptions. Several mid-year junior college transfers — most notably Shahid Lovett and Alex Wells — are being counted on to provide immediate help for the much-maligned back line.

Previewing Temple’s Specialists for 2014

Amazingly, the Owls made only 3-of-9 field goals. And two were in the final game. They also missed five extra points. Nick Visco, who hit all three of the team’s field goals, left the program after his freshman season. That means the job is sophomore Jim Cooper’s to lose. The Owls also have to replace dependable punter Paul Layton, who spent one season on North Broad as a graduate transfer. The return game could use a boost; the Owls ranked eighth in the league in both punt and kick returns.

Final Analysis

The Owls made the switch from Steve Addazio’s run-first philosophy to Matt Rhule’s more wide-open approach, and the transition was far from smooth. Temple slumped to 2–10, the program’s worst record since 2006. But it wasn’t a complete disaster: Seven of the losses were by 10 points or fewer and four by three or fewer, including three on long, late passes. The Owls led by 21 in two losses. A few defensive plays at the right time could have led to another win or two.

Rhule was on the staff when Temple won 26 games while in the MAC from 2009-11. He’s confident that it can happen again, perhaps even soon. A lot depends on Walker’s continued progress. And the defense, which ranked last — by a wide margin — in the league, must improve considerably for Temple to take a step forward in the American Athletic Conference.




COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#99 Tulane Green Wave

NATIONAL FORECAST

#99

American Athletic PREDICTION

#9

HEAD COACH: Curtis Johnson, 9-16 (2 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Eric Price | DEF. COORDINATOR: Jon Sumrall, Lionel Washington

The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 99 Tulane.
Previewing Tulane’s Offense for 2014

Look at the anemic offensive numbers, and it’s hard to believe Tulane won seven games to end a 10-year string of losing seasons. Then look at the two key players who won’t be back from that offense, and it’s easy to see how the Green Wave could fall short of .500 this season as they move from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference.

Tulane finished 115th nationally in total offense and lost leading running back Orleans Darkwa (863 yards) along with top receiver Ryan Grant (1,039 yards). The Green Wave need dramatic improvement at quarterback, where redshirt freshman Tanner Lee emerged as the frontrunner in the spring. Lee has a quicker release and more arm strength than senior Nick Montana and better accuracy than sophomore Devin Powell. Montana looked nothing like his legendary father Joe in 11 starts last season. Playing most of the season with an injured throwing shoulder, he completed only 53.4 percent of his throws and was benched during the New Orleans Bowl.

Redshirt freshman running back Sherman Badie provides the breakaway threat Tulane lacked in coach Curtis Johnson’s first two seasons. He could form an effective tandem with senior Rob Kelley, a power back who sat out spring drills for academic reasons. Justyn Shackleford heads a group of returning receivers who regressed from 2012, due in large part to the poor quarterback play.

The offensive line improved significantly from 2012, when Tulane rushed for the second-fewest yards (475) of any team this century, but the blocking still needs to get better.

Previewing Tulane’s Defense for 2014

Tulane had one of the best defenses in school history, ranking 22rd nationally in yards allowed (352.1 ypg), sixth in yards per carry allowed (3.2) and tied for second in turnovers forced (35). It was a remarkable improvement from 2012, when the Wave ranked 114th (482.6 ypg) in total defense.

With six of the top nine tacklers gone, a slight drop-off is likely. It will not be easy to replace talented tackle Julius Warmsley and mammoth nose guard Chris Davenport. The unexpected dismissal of versatile nickel corner Jordan Batiste, who led the team with seven sacks and four forced fumbles, will hurt, too.

Still, plenty of talent remains. Big-play cornerback Lorenzo Doss was a first-team all-conference selection after intercepting seven passes, running his two-year total to 12. Senior safety Sam Scofield led the Green Wave with 104 tackles, including 9.5 for a loss.

Conference USA co-Freshman of the Year Nico Marley, the grandson of reggae singer Bob Marley and the son of former Miami star Rohan Marley, is a 5'8", 180-pound linebacker — yes, linebacker — who had 67 tackles. Junior end Royce LaFrance is primed for a big year after registering 6.5 sacks in his first season as a starter.

Previewing Tulane’s Specialists for 2014

Tulane will miss 2012 Lou Groza Award winner Cairo Santos, although he was not as consistent as in 2012, when he was perfect on field goals. The Wave are counting on freshman Andrew DiRocco to replace him. Punter Peter Picerelli averaged 41.5 yards per kick. 

Final Analysis

Was the 2013 success a legitimate breakthrough or the product of a weak schedule? Tulane’s move to the more competitive American Athletic Conference will provide that answer. On paper, the Green Wave could be an underdog to eight or nine of their 2014 opponents. Of course, the Wave were favored only three times last year, so Johnson is used to that role. Recruiting heavily in South Louisiana, he and his staff have upgraded the talent level significantly. The program is on the upswing, but the record may not reflect that growth as Tulane moves to an on-campus stadium (Yulman Stadium) for the first time in 40 years.




COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#98 Memphis Tigers

NATIONAL FORECAST

#98

American Athletic PREDICTION

#8

HEAD COACH: Justin Fuente, 7-17 (2 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Darrell Dickey | DEF. COORDINATOR: Barry Odom

The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 98 Memphis.
Previewing Memphis’ Offense for 2014

Can a 6'6" quarterback encounter growing pains? It seems that’s what Paxton Lynch went through last season as a redshirt freshman. Lynch was intercepted 10 times in 12 games and threw only nine touchdown passes. The strong-armed Florida native should be much more comfortable and productive this fall in an offense that is expected to play at an increased tempo. Lynch has worked on being more vocal and appears to have a firm grasp on an offense with returning starters throughout.

At running back, the Tigers will be led Brandon Hayes, who was granted a sixth year by the NCAA during the offseason. Hayes ­doesn’t possess breakaway speed, but he’s a candidate to approach 1,000 yards because of his gritty, hard-nosed running style. Sophomore Doroland Dorceus was the team’s third-leading rusher and will push Hayes for the starting job. He isn’t afraid to gain the punishing yards inside the tackles. Coach Justin Fuente also plans to give sophomore Sam Craft, mainly a receiver last fall, some additional carries. Craft, savvy beyond his years, tied Hayes for the team lead in rushing touchdowns (five) in 2013.

The receivers struggled to hang onto the football but should be improved. Joe Craig, Craft, Keiwone Malone and Tevin Jones — the team’s top four wideouts — are back. Craig, a former Clemson player, gave the unit much-needed speed to stretch the field, yet he averaged only 9.1 yards per reception. Malone, an ex-Alabama player, averaged 12.4 yards per catch and appears primed for a breakout. The Tigers are intrigued by the potential of 6'5" junior college transfer Greg McKillion, the tallest of the wideouts, and 26-year-old sophomore tight end Tyler Kolodny, a former minor league baseball player, although neither has cracked the two-deep.

Previewing Memphis’ Defense for 2014

Word is out on the coaching ability of defensive coordinator Barry Odom, who has been pursued by major conference programs the past two seasons. Yet, Odom has remained on the Memphis staff to continue molding this unit, lifting it from the depths three years ago (117th in total defense) to 39th last fall.

Odom will have to replace his starting safeties but returns a majority of the defense. Most of the key contributors in the front seven are back, including defensive ends Ricky Hunter and Martin Ifedi and linebackers Charles Harris, Ryan Coleman and Jackson Dillon. Ifedi ranked among the nation’s leaders in sacks, and he and Hunter should benefit from the hiring of defensive line coach Ricky Hunley, a former NFL player and assistant coach.

In the secondary, starting cornerbacks Bobby McCain and Andrew Gaines are back. McCain picked off six passes — the most in a single season at Memphis in 25 years — and returned two for touchdowns, including a 75-yarder against Duke.

Previewing Memphis’ Specialists for 2014

Memphis must replace a consensus All-America punter in Tom Hornsey, but the Tigers return sophomore kicker Jake Elliott, who made an impression as a rookie. Elliott connected on 16-of-18 field goal attempts, including a school-record 56-yarder in a league win at South Florida, and earned first-team all-conference honors. The return game should be solid. Malone averaged 6.4 yards per punt return, and Craig averaged 26.8 yards per kickoff return. Memphis hasn’t returned a kickoff for a touchdown since 1996.

Final Analysis

It appears all the elements are in place for the Tigers to make a move in the American Athletic Conference. Fuente has increased the tempo of his offense and has a quarterback who he believes can lead the charge. Defensively, the Tigers likely will improve further under the direction of Odom and make a run at bowl-eligibility for the first time since 2008.




COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#96 SMU Mustangs

NATIONAL FORECAST

#96

American Athletic PREDICTION

#7

HEAD COACH: June Jones, 36-41 (6 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: June Jones, Jason Phillips | DEF. COORDINATOR: Tom Mason

The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 96 SMU.

Previewing SMU’s Offense for 2014

Having revived the passing game just in time for Garrett Gilbert’s departure, the Mustangs must do the same with new quarterback Neal Burcham. The playbook will undergo significant revision. Burcham does not have the running ability or arm strength that made Gilbert No. 2 nationally in total offense. Burcham at least started the final two games for the injured Gilbert last season. Although he struggled in the no-huddle scheme in his first start against Houston (three interceptions in a 34–0 loss), he looked much better in the finale versus UCF with the offense tailored for him.

The young quarterback could benefit from an experienced line, but the Mustangs are thin up front with the loss of starters Ben Gottschalk and Sam Rice. Coach June Jones is counting on some freshmen, such as William Barns, to fill gaps.

The Mustangs also lack a proven running threat. Prescott Line, whose brother Zach ranks second on SMU’s all-time yardage list, averaged 3.7 yards per carry as a freshman. But Kevin Pope, No. 2 in tackles at linebacker last season, finished the spring as the top back. He was granted another year of eligibility because of a medical hardship. True freshman Daniel Gresham, a powerful runner who was rated as the nation’s No. 1 fullback, could make an immediate impact. Gresham originally committed to Louisville.

With the loss of two 1,000-yard receivers, senior Der’rikk Thompson and junior Darius Joseph will be Burcham’s primary targets. Speedy Cedric Lancaster made a big impression in the spring. He and Jeremiah Gaines, who played a lot as a freshman, will assume bigger roles.

Previewing SMU’s Defense for 2014

Inexperience figured heavily in last year’s defensive woes. With lessons learned from surrendering big plays, the secondary will at least have depth.  Youngsters Darrion Richardson, Ajee Montes and A.J. Justice have flashed positive signs. At 6'5", 201, junior Shakiel Randolph has the tools to be among the league’s best safeties, and senior Hayden Greenbauer provides a security blanket with his smart play.

The loss of leading tackler Randall Joyner was big because of his leadership skills. Linebackers Stephon Sanders, Jonathan Yenga and Robert Seals have the speed to force turnovers at the line or by dropping into coverage. Sophomore Nick Horton takes over for Pope at one of the middle spots.

Up front, Beau Barnes had a breakout junior season, spending much time in opposing backfields. He led the team with 13.0 tackles for a loss. Barnes and fellow veterans Zach Wood and Darrian Wright will blend well with sophomores Zelt Minor and Elie Nabushosi. Both of the youngsters got experience as rookies and should flourish in more prominent roles.

Previewing SMU’s Specialists for 2014

Aside from kicker Chase Hover, who tied the school record for field goals (18), the Mustangs were brutal on special teams last year. The loss of Hover means they must improve in every area while breaking in a new kicker and punter. Cody Rademacher is a candidate to take over both roles. A transfer from Air Force, he played in six games as a holder last season.

Final Analysis

The Mustangs came close to playing in their fifth straight bowl game despite a porous defense and virtually no running game in 2013. But they face even tougher obstacles with a new quarterback, a patchwork line and no proven running back. Best-case scenario, the defense plays over its head, buying some time for Burcham to develop, and the incoming class is better than advertised. A tough non-conference schedule complicates matters. The Mustangs open at Baylor’s new stadium and then face other former Southwest Conference rivals Texas A&M and TCU.




COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#81 South Florida Bulls

NATIONAL FORECAST

#81

American Athletic PREDICTION

#5

HEAD COACH: Willie Taggart, 2-10 (1 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Paul Wulff | DEF. COORDINATOR: Chuck Bresnahan

The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 81 South Florida.

Previewing South Florida’s Offense for 2014:

Willie Taggart’s mantra — “Do Something!’’ — seemed like a hollow promise through most of last season. Offensively, USF did very little. The Bulls managed just 11 offensive touchdowns.

Taggart, in his first season after arriving from Western Kentucky, was stunned by that development. In retrospect, he was mostly coaching players he didn’t recruit, athletes who came to USF expecting to play a different style. The first season is over, though, and Taggart has promised vast improvement.

It starts with the quarterback, where Taggart wants to see intelligence, mobility and toughness. Sophomore Mike White, seemingly ticketed for a redshirt year, started the last five games and showed enough flashes to make Taggart believe better days were ahead.
Without a running game, Taggart’s bruising style won’t get off the ground. It’s still not known whether USF possesses a go-to runner, although senior Michael Pierre and sophomore Darius Tice had promising moments. It looks like a position-by-committee.
Taggart believes the offensive line will be better after an offseason in the weight room. Four starters return, paced by three-year starting center Austin Reiter.

Although the Bulls hope to become a run-first offense, Taggart wants to take his shots down the field. Senior receiver Andre Davis is the team’s primary option. The continued development at tight end, with junior Sean Price and senior Mike ­McFarland, also bears watching.

Previewing South Florida’s Defense for 2014: 

By the end of last season, the Bulls’ defense was playing exceptionally well, finishing the year ranked No. 21 in the nation. Learning the system of Chuck Bresnahan, while incorporating a handful of young players, the Bulls matured into a unit that ran to the ball and created turnovers.

It began up front with pressure, but after losing much of their defensive line depth, the Bulls must hope for more youthful contributions. Sophomore Derrick Calloway, the prize of Taggart’s first recruiting class in 2013, is expected to rule the interior while getting help from experienced junior Todd Chandler.

Senior outside linebacker Reshard Cliett, last season’s second-leading tackler, is expected to help fill the leadership chasm created by the loss of middle linebacker DeDe Lattimore, a four-year starter. The Bulls are equally enthused by the emergence of Nigel Harris, who became a freshman starter and showed no sign of nerves.

At one point late last season, the secondary played with four freshmen. That’s bound to pay off with sophomores such as Nate Godwin, Johnny Ward, Hassan Childs and Lamar Robbins playing with unmistakable confidence. But the biggest impact might come from junior college transfer Jamie Byrd, a take-no-prisoners strong safety.

Previewing South Florida’s Specialists for 2014:

Placekicker Marvin Kloss began last season trying to replace Maikon Bonani, the school’s all-time leading scorer. Kloss ended last season as one of three finalists for the Lou Groza Award. Meanwhile, Mattias Ciabatti had a successful first season as the starting punter, averaging 40.2 yards, getting 20 punts inside the 20 and having 14 of 50 yards or greater.

Final Analysis

Give Taggart credit for this: Even after a horrendous 53–21 home loss against McNeese State to open the season, even after watching his offense struggle mightily just to move the chains, he remained undaunted. He insists his approach will work. It just needs patience and hard work.

The up-and-coming program that once upset the likes of Notre Dame, Auburn, Clemson and West Virginia? That’s now ancient history. USF must rebuild from the ground up. The intermediate goal is obvious. If Taggart can coax USF’s first bowl trip since 2010, then the Bulls are definitely on their way back.




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