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Editor's Note: ESPN Insider has teamed with Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook to provide a comprehensive look at all Division I-A teams. To order the complete 2008 edition of Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook, visit www.blueribbonyearbook.com or call 1-866-805-BALL (2255).

(All information as of June 20, 2008)

South Florida Bulls

LOCATION Tampa, Fla.


LAST SEASON 9-4 (.692)





COLORS Green and gold

HOME FIELD Raymond James Stadium (65,857)

HEAD COACH Jim Leavitt (Missouri '78)

RECORD AT SCHOOL 79-47 (11 years)

CAREER RECORD 79-47 (11 years)

ASSISTANTS • Wally Burnham (Samford '63), Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers

• Greg Gregory (Richmond '80), Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks

• Mike Canales (Utah State '84), Passing Game Coordinator/Wide Receivers

• Troy Douglas (Appalachian State '88), Defensive Backs

• Carl Franks (Duke '83), Running Backs/Recruiting Coordinator

• Kevin Patrick (Miami '94), Defensive Ends

• Larry Scott (South Florida '00), Tight Ends

• Larry Scott (USF '00), Tight ends

• Mike Simmonds (Indiana State '85), Offensive line 

TEAM WINS (Last five yrs.) 7-4-6-9-9

FINAL RANK (Last five yrs.)  45-79-58-26-33

2007 FINISH Lost to Oregon in Sun Bowl.

2008 Schedule | 2007 Results | 2007 Stats


Ironically, it was a coach located all the way on the other side of the country that put last year's success by the USF in perspective.

"It's probably going to change how the USF program is viewed in its own county, by its boosters and fans. The reality is South Florida is on the map. Once you have that top 10 status, people are aware of you and feel like you're somebody to be dealt with."

That was Oregon coach Mike Bellotti's assessment of the Bulls the day before they played his team in last year's Sun Bowl.

While the 56-21 loss to the Ducks the next day in El Paso, Texas certainly wasn't how the Bulls planned on ending the best season in school history, it didn't completely overshadow all of the their remarkable achievements.

Keyed by early upsets of nationally ranked Auburn and West Virginia, USF raced to a 6-0 start and was ranked No. 2 in the initial BCS rankings on Oct. 14. That's right -- the Bulls' program, a mere 11 years after playing its first game against Kentucky Wesleyan, was ranked No. 2 in the nation.

"I think it's something everybody in the South Florida family should be proud of," said USF running backs coach Carl Franks when USF reached No. 2. "But when you get those kinds of accolades ... the big thing is to kind of treat it like a bottle of poison -- it's not going to hurt you unless you swallow it."

Whether the Bulls got caught up in all of the unprecedented national hoopla or just couldn't handle a bigger Bulls-eye on their backs, USF lost its next three games after reaching No. 2. In three weeks, USF went from No. 2 in the country to a tie for last in the Big East Conference.

USF rebounded nicely from the three-game losing streak with a three-game winning streak to close the regular season and earn the Sun Bowl berth. Even though Oregon was without its top three quarterbacks, the Ducks physically dominated the shell-shocked Bulls, outscoring USF 38-7 in the second half.

"When you lose like that, you've got to be careful [not] to define your whole team by 30 minutes of football," USF coach Jim Leavitt said. "You don't want to do that as a coach. I don't want our players to do that. It's not the end of the world. It feels kind of yucky right now. The sun will come up tomorrow. We'll keep building, trying to build the program."

Since Leavitt arrived as the school's first football coach in December of 1995 with the challenge of building a program from scratch, there have been an endless number of changes.

Among them:

• The coaches' offices, once housed in three trailers, are now located in a $15 million athletic facility.

• The Bulls, who debuted in 1997 as Division I-AA independents, begin their fourth season in the Big East. They've almost changed conferences as many times (twice) as the school has changed logos (three times).

• The Bulls are also playing in their second home stadium. The first, Tampa Stadium, was demolished in 1998. Their current home is Raymond James Stadium, a state of the art facility that's also home to the Tampa Bay Bucs and the host for Super Bowl XLIII in February. There have seen dozens of other changes, but one thing has remained constant.

The 51-year old Leavitt has been there from the beginning. While Leavitt also has gone through some changes -- most notably the thickness of his wallet: he earned $75,000 in 1996, he'll earn $1.5 million this season -- he remains the same workaholic that hunkers down in his office all hours of the night watching film.

Leavitt's hard work is beginning to pay big dividends. The Bulls have made three consecutive bowl trips and are coming off back-to-back nine-win seasons. They've legitimately transformed the state's traditional "Big Three" powers of Florida, Florida State and Miami into a foursome. USF's sudden success has made going to a bowl game a given. The next logical step for the Bulls is winning the Big East title and earning the school's first BCS bowl berth.

And in what should be an unpredictable 2008 Big East season, the Bulls have the horses to make a run at the title.

Quarterback Matt Grothe and running back Mike Ford are among 10 starters returning from the most potent offense in school history. Last year, USF scored at least 37 points five times, including 64 points against Conference USA champion UCF and back-to-back 55- and 48-point games against Big East foes Louisville and Pittsburgh.

While the offense returns virtually intact, the defense has three crater-like holes to fill. The Bulls must replace three four-year starters -- cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams and linebacker Ben Moffitt.

The early part of the schedule is manageable, with the toughest test at home Sept. 13 against Orange Bowl champion Kansas. If the Bulls don't stumble on the road against UCF (Sept. 5) and NC State (Sept. 27), another 6-0 start is very possible.

The question is: Can the Bulls survive in the stretch run and avoid another late-season slide?


For the last two seasons, junior Matt Grothe (6-0, 200) has, quite simply, been the arms, legs and heart and soul of the Bulls' offense. As a freshman, he made his USF debut in the second quarter of the season opener against McNeese State. The following week he made his first career start, and he's been entrenched as the Bulls' offensive leader since.

Inside the Big East

Take an Inside look at the Big East conference with Blue Ribbon's 2008 team reports : 

Cincinnati Bearcats

Connecticut Huskies

Louisville Cardinals

Pittsburgh Panthers

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

South Florida Bulls 

Syracuse Orange

West Virginia Mountaineers

2008 Blue Ribbon Index 

In each of the last two seasons, Grothe has been USF's leading rusher. He gained 622 yards as a freshman and 872 yards last season. Ironically, the Bulls' coaches entered last season thinking they would rely less on Grothe's running ability. Yet, he finished with 20 more carries than his freshman season and increased his yards per carry average from 3.5 to 4.4 yards. Toss out Grothe's yardage lost while sacked and he would have easily topped 1,000 yards rushing and averaged more than six yards a carry.

"That position on our team has to be a runner and a thrower," offensive coordinator Greg Gregory said. "When your quarterback is being an effective runner, it's like having another player on the field -- one more player the defense has to account for. If we try to limit Matt's running, we wouldn't be as good a football team."

Grothe threw for 2,670 yards last season, joining Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, of Florida, and Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour as the only quarterbacks in the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision with at least 2,500 yards passing and 850 yards rushing.

Grothe has accounted for 24 touchdowns rushing and passing each of the last two seasons and also threw 14 interceptions both years. While Grothe's running numbers have improved, his completion percentage dipped from 63 percent as a freshman to 59 percent last season. That's not a big cause for concern, but Grothe must improve his accuracy for the Bulls to make a serious run at the Big East title.

In the limited amount of mop-up duty backup Grant Gregory (6-1, 205) has received, he has proven he can adequately run the offense. Last season he threw for 280 yards and four touchdowns. The highlight was a 75-yard touchdown pass to Carlton Mitchell in the blowout of UCF.

The son of USF's offensive coordinator, Gregory has proven his toughness since transferring from Indiana in 2005, overcoming three nose injuries -- the one suffered last year against Syracuse needed 11 stitches to close -- torn ligaments in his right thumb and a separated left (non-throwing) shoulder. He may seek a medical hardship after this season to get a sixth-year of eligibility.

With Gregory as the clear-cut backup, there's a huge drop-off in experience after that. Redshirt freshman Alton Voss (6-2, 225) and highly touted incoming freshman B.J. Daniels (6-1, 195) will battle for the third spot. Daniels is a two-sport star from Tallahassee who was promised by Leavitt and basketball coach Stan Heath he'll be allowed to play both sports at USF, but he'll probably be redshirted this season.


This is perhaps the deepest -- and most competitive -- position. The top seven running backs from last year all return, led by sophomore Mike Ford (6-2, 225).

Ford initially signed with Alabama out of Sarasota (Fla.) High School in 2005, but he didn't qualify. He attended a prep school before arriving at USF in 2007. Ford proved he was worth the wait, leading the Bulls' running backs with 645 yards rushing as a freshman.

The bruising back averaged 4.7 yards per carry with 12 touchdowns. Ford came on strong late with consecutive 100-yard games against Syracuse (134) and Louisville (140) and should be even better this season.

Senior Ben Williams (5-7, 200) actually had more starts than Ford last season, finishing with 425 yards and six touchdowns. In a harder-than-expected win at Florida Atlantic, Williams carried USF with a career-high 186 yards rushing and four touchdowns.

A former walk on who was chosen MVP of the Papajohns.com Bowl in 2006, Williams was USF's fourth-leading receiver with 25 receptions for 239 yards. He also is -- without question -- the Bulls' best blocking back. Williams may not be the fastest or biggest back, but he is the most dependable, and the coaches trust him more than any other back.

Sophomore Aston Samuels (5-10, 176) is the fastest of the group and has been clocked at 4.42 in the 40. He saw limited action last year, but he managed his first 100-yard game at Syracuse with 101 yards on two carries, including a 75-yard jaunt. He had only 18 carries last season, but with his speed, look for him to be involved more in the offense this fall.

Like Ford, sophomore Jamar Taylor (5-9, 205) originally signed with Alabama but ended up at USF. Taylor received an NCAA waiver allowing him to play last season without sitting out a transfer year and was the second-leading receiver (eight receptions, 71 yards) among USF's backs. He gave a glimpse of his all-around talent on a 19-yard touchdown run in USF's home upset of West Virginia.

Junior Moise Plancher (5-9, 200) started the 2006 season opener as a freshman, but he suffered a torn ACL on the game's first series. He returned last year but saw limited action. If Plancher can return to his 2006 form this fall, he would give the Bulls' another viable option.

Senior Shawn Cannon (5-11, 195) and sophomore Richard Kelly (6-0, 249) round out the Bulls' returning backs. Kelly was used mostly on special teams and at fullback in some short-yardage situations.

Barring a rash of injuries, heralded incoming freshman Demetrius Murray (5-10, 207), of Buford, Ga., will be redshirted.


If running back is the Bulls' deepest position, the wide receivers and tight ends are a close second. Of USF's 13 receivers with at least one catch last season, 11 return this year. And like the running backs, this unit is dominated by youth, with only two seniors listed among the eight players on USF's four-receiver, two-deep set.

As balanced as the receiving corps was, sophomore Carlton Mitchell (6-4, 210), junior Jessie Hester, Jr. (6-0, 174) and senior Taurus Johnson (6-1, 204) were easily the top three. And all three tied for the team lead with four touchdowns each.

Last season Mitchell led the team in receptions (37) and yards receiving (537), both of which were school freshman records. He also had the team's only two 100-yard receiving games -- 107 yards against UCF and 110 against Cincinnati. With a lethal combination of height and speed, Mitchell could be on the fast track for an even bigger sophomore season.

Hester, the son of former NFL wide receiver Jessie Hester, ranked second with 35 catches for 418 yards, but none were bigger than his game-winning 14-yard touchdown reception in overtime at Auburn. While Mitchell stretches the defense, Hester is more of a possession receiver.

The electric Johnson finished with 34 catches for 407 yards despite missing two games with an ankle injury. He is also a dangerous kick returner.

Rounding out the starters in USF's four-receiver set is Marcus Edwards (5-11, 164), the lone senior in the two-deep. Edwards, who has 49 receptions the last two seasons, is also the Bulls' punt returner.

Junior Colby Erskin (5-9, 185) earned a starting position before last year, only to suffer a season-ending torn ACL in his right knee in August. Erskin then tore the same ACL during spring practice, but he still plans to be ready this fall. Before his first injury, Erskin was the Bulls' fastest player, having been clocked in the 40 at sub 4.3. If Erskin returns completely healthy, Grothe will have another game-breaker at his disposal.

The next wave of receivers includes sophomores A.J. Love (6-3, 196), Dontavia Bogan (6-1, 180), Edner Alcin (6-2, 185) and Jason Sherman (6-4, 197) and redshirt freshman Patrick Richardson (6-0, 163). Bogan had 12 catches last year as a freshman, averaging a team-high 15.8 yards per catch.

Senior Cedric Hill (6-3, 230) has quietly emerged as one of the best tight ends in the Big East. The tight end position had been mostly an afterthought in USF's passing offense in past years, but last season Greg Gregory utilized Hill as a bigger part of the offense. Hill finished with 23 catches for 264 yards more than his first two seasons combined. Junior Ben Busbee (6-3, 242) also provides depth and is used more in blocking situations.

With the abundance of returning talent at the receiver and tight end positions, freshman wide receiver Daniel Bryant (6-2, 185) and freshman tight end Jeff Hawkins (6-4, 232) will likely be targeted for redshirt seasons.


Ever since their first game in 1997, the biggest discrepancy in talent between USF and the so-called big-time programs has been the interior lines. The Bulls are slowly closing the gap, but depth remains a major problem.

This year's offensive line will feature at least three senior starters and could end up being the best in school history, but, as in past years, it is dangerously thin.

Senior left tackle Marc Dile (6-4, 309) and senior left guard Ryan Schmidt (6-4, 327) each have 20 career starts and are the most experienced of the group. Schmidt, a 2006 transfer from Kansas State, was a second-team All-Big East selection last season, while Dile has been a solid performer his entire career, though plagued by knee and ankle injuries.

Like Dile and Schmidt, senior center Jake Griffin (6-4, 307) and sophomore right guard Zach Hermann (6-3, 313) also started last season. Sophomore Jacob Sims (6-5, 290) enters fall as the starter at right tackle, after appearing in nine games last season, but with no starts.

Senior Matt Huners (6-3, 305) started all 11 games in 2006 and graded out as the Bulls' top lineman, only to suffer a torn ACL in the 2007 spring game. Because of the injury, he was limited to only two games last season. Huners is expected to be at full strength this fall, giving offensive line coach Mike Simmonds the luxury of plugging Huners in at either guard position and moving other players around.

After those six, the remaining linemen -- sophomore Joe Herzhauser (6-4, 263) and redshirt freshmen Kevin McCaskill (6-2, 300), Jeremiah Warren (6-4, 326) and Chaz Hine (6-4, 289) -- have played in a total of three games with no starts.

Because of that inexperience, a number of freshmen -- Mark Popek (6-7, 310), Danous Estenor (6-6, 320), Damien Edwards (6-3, 305), Josh Garvin (6-4, 276) and Jatavious Jackson (6-4, 275) -- could earn their way into the Bulls' offensive line rotation, which is usually about eight deep.


In his two seasons handling the field goal and extra point duties, junior Delbert Alvarado (6-0, 196) has had his share of ups and downs -- sometimes in the same game. In last year's upset at Auburn, Alvarado nearly single-handedly cost the Bulls a chance at the upset by missing four attempts -- from 37, 45, 37 and 21 yards. But he banged through an 18-yard field goal with 55 seconds in regulation to send the game into overtime.

In his next four games, Alvarado rebounded by hitting 6-of-7 attempts, only to miss four of his next five. His rollercoaster season continued as he hit 10 of his final 11 field goals to finish the year 19-of-29.

In the spring, Alvarado's inconsistency showed, as he hit less than 50 percent of his field goals. Leavitt, who has handled the Bulls' special teams since Day One, has historically shown more patience with kickers than other position players, so Alvarado will get amble opportunities to break out of any slumps.

Backing up Alvarado is senior Justin Teachey (5-11, 176), who has been solid handling kickoff duties the last three years, and incoming freshman Maikon Bonani (5-9, 170), one of two freshmen kickers put on scholarship.


If there was one player who epitomized USF's sudden emergence on the national scene it was junior end George Selvie (6-4, 242). Selvie started as a freshman in 2006, contributed 5.5 sacks and earned freshman All-American honors by The Sporting News. Despite that auspicious debut, no one could have predicted what Selvie accomplished last season.

He started with four sacks against Elon and never let up. When the year was over Selvie had racked up a nation-leading 31.5 tackles for loss -- one shy of the NCAA record -- and ranked second with 14.5 sacks. Selvie earned first-team All-America honors from the Associated Press and six other media outlets and was a unanimous choice for Big East Defensive Player of the Year.

After becoming USF's first consensus All-American last year, Selvie achieved another USF first this summer when he was selected to Playboy's All-American team. He's also a member of Blue Ribbon's preseason All-American team, among others. Rivals.com chose Selvie as its No. 2 "Scariest Defender" in college football, behind only USC linebacker Rey Maualuga. He's also on the watch list for the Lott Trophy, Nagurski Trophy and Lombardi Award. Selvie is one of three returning starters on the defensive line along with senior end Jarriett Buie (6-4, 249) and junior defensive-tackle Aaron Harris (6-4, 264).

"We've got three starters back on the defensive line, so that should make us as strong or better than last year," defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said.

With Selvie drawing increased attention this fall, Buie could be the biggest beneficiary. Buie, who started nine games last year, looks ready after enjoying a strong spring. Harris saw minimal action as a freshman but emerged last year with 5.5 sacks. Harris may be a bit undersized to play inside, but he compensates for it with tremendous athleticism and quickness.

Battling for the starting nose-tackle position are sophomores Terrell McClain (6-3, 306) and Sampson Genus (6-1, 308), who was moved over from the offensive line in the spring. Providing depth behind Selvie and Buie at end will be a couple of junior college products -- sophomore David Bedford (6-5, 240), from Independence Community College in Kansas and junior Craig Marshall (6-5, 260), from Pearl River (Miss.) Community College. Bedford had an ICC school record 13.5 sacks last season.


Senior Tyrone McKenzie (6-2, 235) began his career at Michigan State in 2004 before transferring to Iowa State in 2005. He spent two seasons at ISU and was the nation's eighth-leading tackler in 2006, but he opted to transfer back home to Tampa because of family reasons and finish his career at USF.

Luckily for USF, McKenzie received an NCAA hardship waiver and he was able to play last season. All McKenzie did last year was lead the Bulls with a school-record 121 tackles and earn second-team All-Big East honors. McKenzie's 250 tackles the last two years are more than any active NCAA FBS player. He'll likely start the year at strong-side line-backer, but that could change.

Returning at weak-side linebacker is senior Brouce Mompremier (6-1, 227), who made 12 starts last season and was third on the team with 83 tackles. Junior Kion Wilson (6-2, 235), a junior college product who enrolled in January, was set to start at middle linebacker, replacing four-year starter Ben Moffitt. However, Wilson was sidelined for most of the spring with an ankle injury.

With Wilson sidelined, junior Chris Robinson (6-3, 240) had an impressive spring at linebacker. As a freshman defensive end, Robinson was a pleasant surprise, finishing with seven sacks. His sophomore year was a disappointment, however, after he suffered a high ankle sprain in August that plagued him all season. Robinson appears back to the form he displayed as a freshman, leaving a logjam at linebacker.

"It's a work in progress," Burnham said. "I don't know where all the pegs will fit."

McKenzie, Mompremier, Robinson and Wilson can each play at least two of the three linebacker spots, Burnham said. While Burnham isn't quite sure who will end up where, he is sure of one thing. "Tyrone McKenzie will have a breakout year and be one of our leaders," Burnham said.


Although USF must replace four-year starting cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams -- Jenkins was a first-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys (USF's first-ever NFL first-rounder) and Williams was a fifth round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars -- Burnham insists the Bulls' secondary is the "strongest part of the football team."

The reason for Burnham's optimism is a plethora of returning safeties -- seniors Carlton Williams (6-4, 214), Louis Gachette (6-3, 215) and Danny Verpaele (5-11, 200) and junior Nate Allen (6-2, 200) -- that have combined for 59 starts.

"We've got four guys who can play either safety position and nickel back," Burnham said.

At free safety, Allen thrives on big plays. Among his four interceptions last season were one each in the upsets of Auburn and West Virginia. He also had a 44-yard interception return for a touchdown at Pittsburgh and returned a fumbled kickoff return three yards for a score against Louisville.

Williams, the returning starter at strong safety, is the most experienced member of the secondary with 34 career starts. With his size, Williams could also see some time at linebacker. Verpaele started seven games as a freshman in 2004, earning freshman All-American honors from The Sporting News, but he missed all of 2005 with a foot injury. He returned in 2006 and started six games, only to miss all of last season while serving a one-year suspension for a violation of team rules. With Verpaele back this fall, he gives USF a viable option at either free or strong safety.

At cornerback, junior Jerome Murphy (6-1, 176) and senior Tyller Roberts (6-1, 185) are the replacements for Jenkins and Williams. They have a combined two starts. "Jerome Murphy could be an all-star, if he wants to be," Burnham said. "I'm also comfortable with Tyller." Pushing Murphy and Roberts for playing time will be junior-college transfer Theo Wilson (6-0, 200) and redshirt freshmen Quenton Washington (5-10, 172) and Tyson Butler (5-11, 170).


Besides the place-kicking duties, Delbert Alvarado also handles the punting. Alvarado only averaged 34.3 yards on 10 punts in 2006, but he improved dramatically last season. He averaged 41.6 yards per punt, which included 17-of-61 punts that were downed inside the 20. Teachey is another option. In 2006, he handled the punting duties. Using a rugby punting style, he averaged 38.2 yards per punt.

USF also added freshman Justin Brockhaus-Kann (6-3, 235), a first-team Class 6A all-state selection last year at Winter Springs (Fla.) High School after averaging 46 yards a punt.


Murphy (24.3-yard average) and Johnson (18.2-yard average) both return as USF's top kickoff returners along with Edwards, who averaged 7.5 yards a punt return last season.

Senior Eric Setser (6-1, 240) also returns for his third season as USF's long snapper on punts and field goals/extra points.


Grading the Bulls

Unit Grade

Offense  A-

Special teams  B-

Defense  B

Intangibles  A-

Because of last year's success, the Bulls have quickly become a favorite of the national TV cameras. USF already is guaranteed a school record six appearances on ESPN/ESPN2 this fall, and that number could increase once the season starts if the Bulls get off to another quick start.

Those skeptical of USF's quick rise in the national rankings point to the Bulls' three consecutive losses after reaching No. 2 and then the blowout loss at the Sun Bowl to an Oregon team starting its fourth-string quarterback.

The Bulls will have their chances to prove their doubters wrong this fall. Projected Top 10-ranked Kansas comes to town for an early season showdown. If the Bulls can rock the Jayhawks and avoid possible landmines at UCF and NC State, USF again should be undefeated at the halfway mark.

However, the Bulls will be severely tested at the wire. USF's final four games are all against 2007 bowl teams -- Cincinnati, Rutgers, UConn and West Virginia. And with last year's success and Leavitt's new contract, how will the Bulls handle the added pressure of the loftier (and maybe unrealistic) expectations?

Leavitt has proven on numerous occasions he can get the Bulls to pull off the huge upset -- Pittsburgh in 2001, Louisville in 2005, West Virginia in 2006, Auburn and West Virginia last season. However, with nearly each big win comes a head-scratcher of a loss (Army in 2004, UConn in 2005, Cincinnati in 2006 and UConn, Cincinnati and Oregon in 2007).

Will this finally be the year the Bulls can pull off a surprise or two without giving it back with a crushing upset loss a week or two later? If so, the Bulls could be the new beasts of the Big East.

For the most comprehensive previews available on all Division I-A teams, order the "Bible" of college football, the 2008 Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook, at www.blueribbonyearbook.com or call 1-866-805-BALL (2255).

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