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Sarasoa H-T: Ford is on track for a breakout year, experts say


Jim Johnson

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Ford is on track for a breakout year, experts say

Coach Jim Leavitt plays down the Bulls' running game, saying depth on the line may be an issue

By ALAN DELL CORRESPONDENT

TAMPA - This has become a summer of hope for Mike Ford. He is highly touted by nearly every college football pre-season magazine and one NFL scout calls him a Sunday kind of back, good enough to get 20 a carries a game in the league.

But potential only goes so far and the person he must please the most, University of South Florida head football coach Jim Leavitt, is being cautious.

When asked whether he thought any of his running backs would break away from the pack and be "the guy," Leavitt said "no" at the annual Florida Sports Writers Association College Football Media Day on Thursday.

But if Leavitt isn't pouring out accolades for the former Sarasota High star, others are. Sporting News lists him as one of eight players in the country ready to have a break-out season in '08.

"Big tough kid with good speed. He's a 20-carry guy in (the NFL). What I like about him is he understands cutbacks and following zone blocking. He knows where to go, but it's obvious ball security issues have made him a little tentative hitting the holes," an NFL scout told the magazine.

The question is whether Ford will get the work to put up big numbers. Leavitt admits he has had to answer questions on why the 6-foot-2, 225 pounder wasn't used more last season. He said Ford hurt his ribs in mid-season, which cut down his carries. Still, he believes he saw a lot action for a true freshman.

Ford had the second most carries on the team (138) behind quarterback Matt Grothe, and gained 645 yards (4.7 average) with a team-high 12 touchdowns. He had 134 yards against Syracuse and 140 against Louisville in back-to-back games toward the end of the season.

"I know he got a lot of carries against Syracuse and Louisville. I don't know if we ever had a true freshman get that many in a season," Leavitt said. "He has a lot of talent, but it's too early to tell how good he is really going to be. It's all there, if he continues to improve and do the right things.

"He has a chance to be a great back, but we will just have to wait and see how it plays out. I am hoping he just gets his grades and keeps going to class and doing the right things like I do with any of our players."

Ford came into spring practice this year in a lot better shape than in 2007, when he joined the Bulls after being out of football for almost two years. USF running backs coach Carl Franks was pleased with the way he changed his running style to protect the ball better.

"It's an issue with everybody," Leavitt said. "We don't want anybody to fumble the ball, but it's not easy. Everyone is pulling the ball out of your hands and hitting you and those kinds of things. Mike does a good job with that."

Leavitt believes the running game should improve for everyone if his offensive line stays healthy. He said senior Ben Williams and Jamar Taylor are in the mix to get a lot of carries and along with six-foot, 240 pound Richard Kelly.

When the Bulls went up to Rutgers last year undefeated and ranked sixth nationally, they were already playing without two starters on the offensive line because of injuries. Wally Walker got hurt in that game and the running game suffered.

"You take three starters out and then Marc Dile was hurt for two games and that is a fourth starter. We are not that deep on the offensive line with guys I trust," Leavitt said. "It's hard to maintain continuity. Do I like our depth this year? No, not really. We can't find enough guys for the offensive line and are not a very deep team."

Source -- With Links to Audio

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Please CJL give Ford twenty touches a game this year!

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If they don't run him out of the shotgun.  They need to line him up in the backfield in an I formation and power him through everybody.  His running style just doesnt fit the shotgun.

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I really hope that he gets the touches that this team needs to win. We need a consistent running game and that is what our whole season rides on.

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If they don't run him out of the shotgun.  They need to line him up in the backfield in an I formation and power him through everybody.  His running style just doesnt fit the shotgun.

I fit him in HS

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Nervious about our OL.  Leavitt's comments about the OL scares me a bit.

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Hopefully CJL is doing his best Lou Holtz impersonation.

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depth will always be a huge issue with us at OL.  we need more big guys to come in.  if we can land one or two JUCO OL then i will feel a lot better.  however, we keep missing out on them!!!  frustration!!!

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they said this last year

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O-line woes continue.  Not a good think if you want to be an offensive powerhouse.

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