(This is another in my occasional series of players who I will be especially interested to see in action this year.)
Honestly, I could have just as easily written put Quenton Washington in the title, or Jerrell Young, or George Baker, or Ernie Tabuteau, or really anyone in the secondary. This position worries me more than any spot on the team. But since Kayvon Webster is stepping into a starting role this year, I went with him.
USF put up solid stats against the pass last year. They only allowed 187.8 yards per game during the regular season, good for 21st in FBS, and intercepted 17 passes. But I think those were some pretty soft numbers, even though they include the average-destroying game against Cincinnati where the Bearcats threw for 490 yards. When I wrote my secondary prospectus for SB Nation Tampa Bay, I mentioned that the secondary played a lot of passive (no pun intended) defense when it was time for the other team to throw. That's how the Bearcats rang up so many yards -- the Bulls dropped back into coverages meant to take away the big play, and Cincinnati took the small-to-medium plays all night long.
If there had been more strong passing games in the Big East last year, I think that per-game average could have been a lot higher, and we probably wouldn't be talking as much about USF's strong defense in 2010. Nearly every team on the Bulls' schedule last year fell into one of three buckets:
- Couldn't throw the ball (Rutgers, UConn, Stony Brook, Miami, FAU, Western Kentucky)
- Didn't need to throw the ball (Syracuse, Louisville, Florida)
- Dumbass coach/offensive coordinator* (Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Clemson)
* - I could have put Florida in here too.
You have to figure Rutgers can't do anything but improve in the passing game, and this year the Bulls are also going to face several full-throttle offenses. Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Cincinnati, and UTEP are all going to throw the ball a lot and fire off plays as fast as they can. Sitting back in coverage isn't going to get it done against these teams, unless you want to count on the offense scoring 40+ against all of them. The secondary is going to need to get more aggressive and force some action. They might have to gamble, but better to take the risk and sometimes come up snake-eyed than to lose by a thousand tiny cuts.