By Pat Taggart, Associate College Football Editor
2009 SEASON IN REVIEW: It is hard to imagine South Florida getting off to a
better start than it did in 2009, winning each of the first five games by
double figures. Jim Leavitt, who literally built the Bulls' program, saw his
team take care of Wofford, Western Kentucky and Charleston Southern before a
trip to Tallahassee to tangle with Florida State. A tremendous defensive
effort led to a 17-7 triumph over the Seminoles, and a 34-20 victory over
Syracuse in the Big Easy opener had USF flying high.
On October 15th, the Bulls finally suffered their first loss of the campaign
to Cincinnati, which wound up winning the conference title and finished with a
perfect regular season record. Then, the Bulls were manhandled by Pittsburgh,
and the rest of the campaign was a study in inconsistency. USF finished the
regular season with a 7-5 record and a 3-4 mark against Big East competition.
The Bulls did earn a spot in the International Bowl against Northern Illinois
and took full advantage of the opportunity, besting the Huskies by a 27-3
Unfortunately, the program endured its share of controversy, as Leavitt was
accused of grabbing a player by his throat and striking him during halftime of
one of the games. As a result, the program's architect was let go, opening the
door for Skip Holtz. The son of former Notre Dame leader Lou Holtz, Skip
experienced great success at East Carolina and is focused on his new
"We want to win a championship," says Holtz. "You build it (a program) on a
rock and make it something that will stand a long time."
OFFENSE: In the third game of the 2009 season, USF starting quarterback Matt
Grothe went down with a season and career-ending injury. Grothe, one of the
top QBs in Big East history in regard to production, was replaced by freshman
B.J. Daniels, and the result was better than anyone could have anticipated.
Daniels threw for 1,983 yards and 14 touchdowns with nine interceptions, and
he also led the squad in rushing with 772 yards and nine scores. The dual
threat will be a Big East Player of the Year candidate in 2010 and will
flourish if he takes what the defense gives and avoids mistakes.
A.J. Love and Dontavia Bogan return at the receiver positions, and both caught
four touchdown passes a year ago. As for the tailback position, Moise Plancher
is a capable runner who posted 581 yards and five touchdowns on the ground a
year ago. He was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA because of a
long list of injuries that have deterred his career, and now Plancher is ready
to shine as a senior.
With four starters back along the offensive line, there is certainly reason
DEFENSE: Last season, opponents were terrorized by standout USF defensive
linemen Jason Pierre-Paul and George Selvie, both of whom have moved on to the
NFL. Pierre-Paul, a first-round pick of the New York Giants, led the team in
sacks a year ago, and Selvie was a threat to take down the quarterback on
every passing play as well. Safety Nate Allen, a second-round pick of the
Philadelphia Eagles, will be missed as well, and the USF defense will feature
eight new starters in all.
Up front, Terrell McClain is back on the inside, and he will need some help
from Keith McCaskill. Can Craig Marshall provide a consistent pass rush like
his predecessors? Only time will tell, but the physical ability is there.
At linebacker, a couple of seniors will be relied on to get the job done.
Sabbath Joseph will start at the WLB position, while Jacquain Williams will
play the strong side.
Moving to the defensive backfield, the players to watch are the corners.
Kayvon Webster showed big-time ability as a freshman and is expected to take a
step forward this fall. As for junior Quenton Washington, he was solid a year
ago and will get the job done once again.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Placekicker Eric Schwartz hit 11-of-16 field goal attempts a
year ago and will again be counted on to be an offensive weapon. He has the
ability to hit from 50+ yards, making him especially valuable.
OUTLOOK: It sure will be odd to see the Bulls take the field without Leavitt,
but Holtz was a fantastic choice who will keep the program moving upward.
"I think there is an obligation to set a standard of what it takes to get on
the field," said Holtz after dismissing a couple of players in the offseason
for rules violations. The coach will find out a lot about his team in week two
against Florida on the road. Expect somewhere in the neighborhood of seven
wins from the Bulls this year.