Between now and the September 2nd season kick-off, Danny Hobrock will be previewing all the major college football teams with new teams being released daily.
2009 final record (overall, conference): 8-5, 3-4
Bowl Game: International Bowl (W 27-3 vs. Northern Illinois)
Final Ranking (AP, Coaches'): NR, NR
Conference finish: 6th Big East
Offensive rank: 71
Defensive rank: 24
2009 Individual Statistical Leaders
Rushing: B.J. Daniels, 772 yards, 9 TD; Moise Plancher, 581 yards, 5 TD
Passing: B.J. Daniels, 1,983 yards, 14 TD, 9 INT
Receiving: Carlton Mitchell, 706 yards, 4 TD
Tackles: Kion Wilson, 105 total tackles
Sacks: Jason Pierre-Paul, 6.5 sacks (6 solo, 1 assisted)(9 solo, 1 assisted)
Interceptions: Jerome Murphy, 4 interceptions; Nate Allen, 4 interceptions
2010 Season Outlook
September 11 @ Florida: How is this not a key matchup? The Bulls have not shied away from playing some of the game's most storied programs. They took on the Sooners in their second season at the Div. 1-A level, and have played Alabama, Penn State, Miami and Florida State in regular season non-conference games. They even defeated 13th ranked Kansas in 2008 and beat the Seminoles in their matchup last year.
November 27 @ Miami: This will mark the third meeting of the two schools, who are locked to play on Thanksgiving weekend until the 2013 season. Miami took the first two games, 27-7 and 31-7 in 2005 and 2009, respectively. The Bulls are 10-2 against teams from Florida and some use the series against Miami as an indicator of "how far [the] program really has to go" to be mentioned in the same breath as the 'Canes, Seminoles (who they beat last season) and Gators.
CONFERENCE PLAY:Yes, there are conference games that are more 'key' than others, but as a whole, the Bulls must be better against teams in the Big East. As the St. Petersburg Times article that is linked above mentions, "You can't go 9-0 in August and September, and then limp through October and November at 5-9, as USF has done the past two seasons." The Bulls have finished above .500 in conference play three times in the five seasons they've been in the Big East, but each time finished just one game over.
To challenge for the Big East title and thus a spot in a BCS bowl game, the Bulls will have to beat their conference foes more consistently. In the last two years, they are just 1-5 against the big three of the conference (West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati). Also recall in 2007, as a top five football team, the Bulls went on a three game losing streak within their conference that effectively ruined any shot they had at a national title or conference title.
Preseason Rankings (will not officially be released until August)
Mike Ford, RB; Carlton Mitchell, WR; Jason Pierre-Paul, DE; George Selvie, DE; Kion Wilson, LB; Jerome Murphy, CB; Nate Allen, S
Key Returning Players
B.J. Daniels, QB; Moise Plancher, RB; Lamar Lindsey WR/RB; Dontavia Bogan, WR; Craig Marshall, DE; Sam Barrington, LB
The South Florida offense returns nine starters from last season, but lose last year's leading receiver, Carlton Mitchell, after he decided to leave college a year early to enter the NFL Draft. To make matters worse, A.J. Love went down with an ACL injury in the spring game, further thinning the depth at wide receiver. Dontavia Bogan leads the unit following an impressive spring, and Lindsey Lamar moves to the wide receiver position and is expected to be a spark on offense for the Bulls.
B.J. Daniels was no contact in spring after undergoing shoulder surgery. He is expected to be back in the fall, but with a starting quarterback returning from shoulder surgery and very limited experience behind him, one bad hit could change the course of the Bulls season. Of course, Daniels played well last season after taking over for Matt Grothe when he was injured in the third game against Charleston Southern. Evan Landi is the only other player besides Daniels on the team with experience under center (5 passing attempts), but played the wide receiver position this spring.
The running game is in a bit of turmoil, although that may be a little exaggeration. Mike Ford was dismissed from the team and Jamar Taylor is no longer a member of the program, but Moise Plancher, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility, is considered poised for a great farewell campaign for the Bulls.
On defense, the Bulls lose seven starters; and they're significant losses at that. Jason Pierre-Paul is the most recognizable name on the list of Bull defenders drafted this past April, but perhaps the most troublesome losses came in the secondary. Safety Nate Allen was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the second round, while cornerback Jerome Murphy was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the third round. There isn't a lack of experience at the corner position, though, as Quenton Washington started 11 games last season and Kayvon Webster started six.
Don't forget about Mistral Raymond, either. The former walk-on became a force on the defensive side of the ball in 2009, starting four times and recording 40 tackles from the safety and nickel back positions. There is a good deal of depth in the secondary and USF has some talented athletes that will allow them to keep up and compete with some of the more athletic teams in and out of the conference.
Sabbath Johnson is the only starting linebacker from last year's squad who is returning, while Terrell McClain and Keith McCaskill return to the middle of the defensive line. Defensive ends George Selvie and Pierre-Paul must be replaced with Craig Marshall and David Bedford, both seniors, at the front of the pack after spring. At middle linebacker, Sam Barrington impressed from his backup role a year ago, and is one of the more exciting players set to assume a starting role. Both defensive line and linebacker are a bit of a mystery entering 2010, but each show enough promise to have fans feeling confident about their Bulls D.
Special Teams Overview
Maikon Bonani started at kicker in 2008, but missed 2009 after an injury he sustained after a 35 foot fall at Busch Gardens in Tampa. He's battling Eric Schwartz for playing time this season. Schwartz assumed kicking duties in the middle of last season with Delbert Alvarado struggling.
A new punter is needed in Tampa with the graduation of Alvarado, who also started at punter. Perhaps of greater importance is improving in punt coverage. The Bulls allowed an average of 21 yards per punt return last season, the highest total in the nation.
In the return game, USF will presumably send Faron Hornes and Dontavia Bogan deep. Hornes averaged five yards per punt return, while Bogan averaged 21.39 yards per kick return. Neither has secured return duties and the summer and fall may provide further insight as to who can provide a spark in the return game.
Head Coach: Skip Holtz
It can't be easy being the son of a coaching legend plying your trade in the same profession, but Skip Holtz has blossomed as a big time collegiate coach. Skip coached under his dad Lou at Notre Dame, his alma mater, and South Carolina, serving as offensive coordinator at both schools. Holtz served as head coach at the University of Connecticut before they became a Division 1-A school, and served as head coach at East Carolina after he was not retained when Steve Spurrier took over at South Carolina.
At East Carolina, Holtz led the Pirates to a 28-12 conference record, and won Conference USA in his final two seasons at the school. He also took the Pirates to four straight bowl games. Since arriving at South Florida, Holtz has been well-received. Not to take anything away from Jim Leavitt and his tenure at USF, but Holtz has reenergized the team and the fan base. Holtz's hiring in Tampa could turn out to be the best decision of any program this offseason.
Top 2011 Draft Prospects
Sampson Genus, C; Craig Marshall, DE
6th Big East
What Leavitt did for the Bulls will never, and should never, be forgotten. He is a local guy who grew up in St. Petersburg and guided the Bulls from Division I-AA into Division I-A and put the program into the position it's in today. USF is attracting a higher caliber athlete, regularly plays some of the nation's top programs and has went to a bowl game in every season since joining the Big East in 2005.
This season, though, marks the beginning of the Skip Holtz era and expectations are high. Holtz closed a recruiting class that includes four star defensive tackle Todd Chandler. Cornerback Terrence Mitchell backed out of his commitment to Florida State in late January and instead committed to South Florida, giving Holtz another marquee athlete in his first USF recruiting class.
The Bulls return most of their offense, but lose most of their defense. They are not short of talent, though, and Holtz begins his tenure at USF with enough in the cupboards to compete right away. Keys this season will be maintaining the success on defense with a number of new regular starters and finding a spark on offense, in addition to Daniels, and in the return game. - Danny Hobrock
Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.