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August 29, 2005
South Florida enters Big East with high hopes
Here is the sixth installment in a series of seven previewing UConn's Big East Conference opponents this season.
South Florida Bulls
Head Coach: Jim Leavitt, ninth season (55-33)
2004 season: 4-7 overall, 3-5 C-USA, no bowl
Stadium: Raymond James Stadium, 41,441 capacity
Key losses: PK Santiago Gramatica, S Javan Camon, CB Bruce Gipson, RB Clenton Crossley, KS Justin Geisler, DL Craig Kobel, DL Cedric Battles, OT Derrick Sarosi, OC Alex Herron, LS Justin Daniel, OT Levi Newton, DT Lee Roy Selmon Jr., DT Matt Groelinger, DB Sidney Simpson.
Key returnees: RB Andre Hall, QB Pat Julmiste, WR Johnny Peyton, CB Mike Jenkins, S Danny Verpaele, CB Trae Williams, WR Travis Lipp, DB Johnnie Jones, CB D'Juan Brown, DE Jon Simmons, DE Tavarious Robinson, P Brandon Baker, TE Mike Ruegger, LB Stephen Nicholas, LB Patrick St. Louis, DE Terrence Royal, LB Ben Moffitt, OL John Miller, OL Frank Davis, OG Chris Carothers, WR S.J. Green, WR Jackie Chambers, DL Allen Cray, DL Tim Jones.
Key newcomers: QB Courtney Denson (Auburn transfer), RB Chad Simpson (R-Fr.), RB Ricky Ponton (R-Fr.), DB Carlton Williams (R-Fr.), DL Richard Clebert (R-Fr.), OL Mark Dile (R-Fr.), DE Josh Julmiste (R-Fr.), OL Rick Watson (JUCO transfer), QB Carlton Hill (Fr.), QB Matt Grothe (Fr.), PK Mike Benzer (Fr.).
Outlook: If the Bulls are to make a splash in their inaugural Big East season, three areas for improvement are clearly defined; USF must be more efficient throwing the ball, limit the opponent's passing game more effectively and improve its turnover ratio.
Thanks primarily to super back Andre Hall's 1,357 rushing yards (No. 9 nationally), the Bulls finished the season a respectable 74th in total offense, but USF was 105th when it came to its passing game, managing just 165.5 yards per outing.
Starting quarterback Pat Julmiste (118-247, 7 TDs, 8 INTs), now a junior, returns, but he'll be pushed by Auburn transfer Courtney Denson and a pair of highly-regarded freshmen in Carlton Hill and Matt Grothe.
The receiving corps has plenty of potential with the right triggerman throwing the football. As true freshmen, Johnny Peyton (22 catches, 469 yards, 2 TDs) and Jackie Chambers (14, 197, 2 TDs) combined for 36 receptions. Both should improve on those numbers. S.J. Green (22, 262, 1 TD) also returns and there are several intriguing young newcomers, including redshirt freshman Marcus Edwards, junior Amarri Jackson and true freshmen Taurus Johnson, Jessie Hester and Cedric Hill (former Miami signee).
The offensive line loses three starters, but returns three experienced players in guard Chris Carothers, guard/tackle Frank Davis and center John Miller.
Always stout defensively through their formative seasons, the Bulls took a step backward in 2004, due mostly to youth. USF allowed nearly 250 yards per game through the air (No. 95 nationally) and should be better, thanks to some seasoning and the return of senior safety Johnnie Jones following a medical redshirt. Senior D'Juan Brown has all-conference potential at one corner and Mike Jenkins is a star in the making on the opposite side.
Much like the secondary, the defensive line should get a boost with the return of a senior who redshirted a year ago. Tim Jones collected 21 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks as a sophomore and junior before sitting out 2004. He's back and can play either tackle or end. There are plenty of options at DE, and redshirt freshman Josh Julmiste, brother of South Florida's quarterback, was dynamite in the spring.
The linebackers should be the strength of the defensive unit, led by preseason All-Big East choice Stephen Nicholas on the strong side. Sophomore Ben Moffitt is slated for the middle, but junior college transfer Gene Coleman will make a push there if eligible. Junior Patrick St. Louis will start at the Will linebacker.
Senior Brandon Baker is back for another season at punter and is a weapon. He averaged 41.8 yards per kick in 2004. The placekicking job is wide open and will be a battle between true freshman Mike Benzer and a trio of walk-ons. Creating turnovers will also be a key to USF's season. A year ago, the Bulls were minus-10 in turnover margin, creating just 11 takeaways (only four interceptions in 335 passing attempts by opponents).
Note: The staff at USFBullseye.com helped compile this preview.
Adam Gorney covers UConn sports for Rivals.com and can be reached at email@example.com.