Other Florida Teams
NCAA Football Preview - South Florida Bulls
By Ralph Lauro
Aug 19, 2004
2003 SEASON IN REVIEW: In their first year of Conference USA action, the Bulls posted a solid 5-3 league record and finished 7-4 overall. The program has come a long way in a short time considering it was started from scratch in 1996. The program jumped from Division I-AA to I-A in 2001 and has never looked back. In seven years of football, USF has a remarkable 51-26 record, and other than a 5-6 inaugural season in 1997, the program has won at least seven games in each of the last six years. Last year, the Bulls were highly competitive in C-USA action, as two of their three league losses came by just three points. The team, however, won its share of close games as well, including three double-overtime victories over Louisville, Cincinnati and East Carolina. Although the Bulls posted seven wins in 2003 they were not bowl eligible because two of those victories came against Division I-AA foes in Nicholls State and Charleston Southern. Still, the season was a successful one for USF, which posted another strong home record (5-1).
OFFENSE: The Bulls remained committed to their up-tempo spread offense in 2003, but with the departure of quarterback Marquel Blackwell, who mastered the system from 1999-2002, the offense suffered greatly. USF ranked 107th in total offense (308.2 ypg) last season, which led to a scoring average of just 25.1 ppg. Ronnie Banks and Pat Julmiste, neither of whom had ever started a college game, both saw time under center. Banks started a majority of the games last season, but found little success. He completed just 48.3 percent of his pass attempts with only eight touchdowns against the same number of interceptions. As for Julmiste, he started two games, throwing for 402 yards and three touchdowns. With his strong arm and superior mobility, Julmiste has been given the starting nod at quarterback this season. He will be handing the ball off to a pair of talented running backs in Andre Hall and Clenton Crossley. Hall is coming over from the juco ranks, where he amassed 3,000 rushing yards in two season. Crossley has experience on the Division I-A level and is just 11 yards shy of moving into second place on the school's all-time rushing list with 1,236 yards. Last season, Crossley rushed for 441 yards and four touchdowns with an average of 5.2 ypc. As for the wide receivers, the Bulls have just six players on their roster with some playing experience, which is not a lot considering the team uses four and five receiver sets regularly. Brian Fisher and Allynson Sheffield are the team's two most experienced wideouts, as they combined for 54 catches, 484 yards and one touchdown last season. While USF has many talented players at the skill positions, its success this season should come from the offensive line. All five starters return up front, including three seniors.
DEFENSE: South Florida has always relied on strong defense and last season was no exception. The Bulls' ranked 17th in total defense, allowing just 315.6 ypg. The team also held opponents to just 179.9 passing ypg and only 20.4 ppg. However, USF suffered some significant losses this past offseason and is returning just five starters from a year ago. Craig Kobel and Lee Roy Selmon Jr. are the two most experienced players on the defensive line and will be counted on heavily this season. Last year, Kobel led the team with six sacks and 19 TFLs, while Selmon Jr. is the squad's leading returning tackler with 63. As for the linebackers, they are a bit young and inexperienced, but extremely talented. Leading the way is Stephen Nicholas, who earned freshman All-American status with 46 tackles and 5.5 sacks in '03. Devon Davis (15 tackles) and Patrick St. Louis will complement Nicholas at the middle and weak side linebacker spots, respectively. In the secondary, D'Juan Brown is the only starter to return. Brown recorded 39 tackles and a team-high nine pass break ups last season and will be counted on to lead a rather green group this year. Javan Camon, a special teams expert, takes over the free safety spot, while experienced Kenny Robinson handles strong safety duties.
SPECIAL TEAMS: With the return of placekicker Santiago Gramatica, the Bulls will surely have a leg up in the special teams game. Gramatica converted 12- of-20 field goal attempts in 2003, including 4-of-7 from 40-49 yards out. Brandon Baker will once again handle the punting job this season after averaging 40.6 yards on 74 punts in '03.
OUTLOOK: Coach Jim Leavitt has begun to put South Florida on the map and moving into a conference last year surely helped in that effort. Leavitt has taken full advantage of his program's geography and has it on pace for its first bowl appearance. The Bulls, however, have an unfavorable schedule as they will play their toughest C-USA games on the road. They were also hit hard on the defensive side of the ball, which is usually their strength. With an inexperienced quarterback running the show this season, the Bulls probably won't do much better than .500.
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