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Published Thursday, August 24, 2006

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Bulls' Hopes Rest on Their QBs

By Patrick Zier

Ledger Correspondent

South Florida senior quarterback Pat Julmiste (3) is in a battle for the starting job with redshirt freshman Matt Grothe from Lake Gibson. (BOB CHILD/The Associated Press)


•  2004 Record: 6-6.

•  Coach: Jim Leavitt (10th year).

•  Coach's Record: 61-39.

•  Conference: Big East.

•  Location: Tampa.

•  Polk Connection: QB Matt Grothe (Lake Gibson); RB Walt Smith (Bartow); RB Benjamin Williams (Lake Wales).

•  Returning Offensive Starters (7): QB Pat Julmiste (1,489 yards passing, 6 TDs, 11 interceptions); LT Thed Watson; LT Marc Dile; RT Walt Walker; WR Amarri Jackson (22 catches, 242 yards); WR Jackie Chambers (21 catches, 220 yards); S.J. Green (16 catches, 229 yards, 1 TD).

•  Returning Defensive Starters (5): LB Ben Moffitt (96 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks); LB Stephen Nicholas (79 tackles, 15.5 TFLs, 7.0 sacks); LB Pat St. Louis (89 tackles, 9.5 TFLs, 2.5 sacks); CB Mike Jenkins (38 tackles, 5 pass breakups, 2 interceptions); CB Trae Williams (39 tackles, 3 pass breakups, 2 interceptions, 3 fumble recoveries).

•  Returning Specialists (0).

•  Offensive Scheme: Spread.

•  Defensive Scheme: 4-3.


A lot of criticism has fallen on USF's quarterbacks in the past. But their numbers would be a lot better if the receivers could hang on to the football. Senior Jackie Chambers was third on the team with 21 catches for 290 yards. He has been a valuable punt returner, too. If the Bulls are to progress, they need him to make plays with his hands this season.


It's something Jim Leavitt points out to his players on a regular basis and something the Big East doesn't like to point out at all. "We were 20 points away from the Sugar Bowl last year, and we tell 'em that," said Leavitt, the University of South Florida's head football coach.

"We have a great opportunity here, and we want them to understand that."

USF is entering its 10th year of football and its second in the Big East, whose champion automatically qualifies for a BCS bid. And in 2005, had South Florida not squandered a chance to beat Connecticut, losing 15-10, it would have played for the Big East title against West Virginia.

USF ended its regular season by losing to the Mountaineers, 28-13, but the Bulls were close enough to the championship to make Big East executives sweat.

With the loss of Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech, the Big East is no longer perceived as a "major" conference in many circles, and had the Bulls ended up in the Sugar Bowl, the Big East might well have lost its automatic entry into the BCS.

None of that concerns Leavitt or his players, who once more are flying under the radar as they get ready for 2006.

The Bulls are regarded as middle-of-the-pack in the Big East this year, but they may be a quarterback away from causing trouble.

With a veteran defense that was ranked 17th in the country a year ago, USF will go as far as its offense can take it, and as the quarterback goes, so goes the offense.

Two candidates have emerged, senior starter Pat Julmiste, 6foot-3, 220-pounds, and redshirt freshman Matt Grothe, from Lake Gibson, 6-feet, 200-pounds.

Julmiste has been inconsistent and finished badly. He threw three interceptions at Connecticut including one after the Bulls got the ball at the UConn 44-yard line with 3:00 to play.

Against West Virginia, the Bulls twice settled for field goals after getting inside the 5-yard line with both drives ending on incomplete passes.

And Julmiste was unable to ignite the offense in a bowl game against North Carolina State, the Bulls losing 14-0, the only time they have ever been shutout.

For USF to succeed, either Julmiste must improve or Grothe must emerge.

South Florida also has a huge hole at running back where it must replace its best offensive player, Andre Hall.

Leavitt, though, has great confidence in redshirt freshman Moise Plancher, 5-foot-9 and 190-pounds.

Replacements must also be found for the interior line. Danny Tolley, 6-foot-6, 310-pounds and Walter Walker, 6-foot-5, 315pounds, appear set at guard with Nick Capogna, 6-foot-3, 275pounds, at center. Walker started nine games at tackle in 2005.

Defensively, the Bulls look strong. Returning starters Ben Moffitt, 6-foot-2, 240-pounds; Stephen Nicholas, 6-foot-3, 225-pounds and Pat St. Louis, 6-foot-1, 230-pounds, form one of the best linebacking corps in the country.

The Bulls also have two of the best corners in the Big East in returning starters Mike Jenkins, 6foot, 200-pounds and Trae Williams, 5-foot-10, 185-pounds.

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