The Bulls are back in action Saturday night, as they return to Raymond James and look to get off of this five-game losing streak. However, they face Big East foe Syracuse who is 3-4 (2-1) and fresh off a 40-10 victory over UCONN. Syracuse runs an up-tempo offense that will put pressure on the USF secondary (still waiting for that first interception) and they have a defensive front that can get after B.J. Daniels and test the Bulls' offensive line. Let's take a look at each position on the Syracuse team and see what the Bulls be facing in this one.
Kickoffs: The Orange kickoff specialist is freshman Ryan Norton (5'11", 181 lbs.) who has kicked off 33 times, averaging 63 yards per kick with 14 touchbacks on the year. Behind him is sophomore Riley Dixon (6'5", 205 lbs.). The Bulls have struggled to get a spark all season on kick returns, and facing a reliable kicker like Norton won't help matters. It could leave the Bulls starting offense deep in their own territory.
Kickers: The kicker is junior Ross Krautman (5'7", 161 lbs.) who is 8 out 13 in field goal attempts this season (no blocks against him). Norton is the back-up for him. Krautman was named Big East special teams player of the week last week after kicking four field goals against UConn, and he has a long of 47 yards early in the year.
Punter: Sophomore Jonathan Fisher (6'1", 209 lbs.) has punted the ball 16 times, averaging 40 yards a punt (two inside the opponents' 20-yard line). Behind him is Riley Dixon who has punted three times for just 36 yards on average. The Bulls once again have struggled to get any kind of spark in the return game, no matter who is back to field the kicks. Fisher will try to keep that trend going and keep the ball away from whoever the Bulls send back.
Kick and Punt Returners: Junior kick returner Steven Rene (5'7", 180 lbs.) has returned nine kicks for 193 yards (21.4 average). Jeremiah Kobena has nine returns for 174 yards (19.3 per return) and junior Prince-Tyson Gulley (5'10" 192 lbs.) has one return for 10 yards. For USF, Marvin Kloss will have to keep it away from the dangerous returners and not allow the Orange returners to set up Nassib and company with field position. Sophomore Ritchy Desir (5'11" 170 lbs.) is the punt returner, with nine returns for 59 yards. USF's Justin Brockhaus-Kann has done a solid job so far this season and needs to keep it up on Saturday.
Overall, the Syracuse special teamers are not piling up huge stats, but are solid enough and will not lose the game for the Orange. USF has to find a way to get something done to change field position and get some momentum going in the game.
The Syracuse defense is allowing 115 rushing yards a game this season and just 213 yards passing a game. With Mark Popek out at left tackle, and having a shaky offensive line to begin with, the Bulls will have a fight on their hands in this game.
Defensive Linemen: USF will have to look out for senior Brandon Sharpe (6'1", 255 lbs.), who already has 10 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks this season. The other starter is junior Marcus Pierce-Brewster (6'3", 248 lbs.) who has 12 tackles and three tackles for loss. The backups are junior Micah Robinson (6'4", 270 lbs.), with 10 tackles, two TFLs, and a sack, while junior Robert Welsh (6'3" 259 lbs.) comes in on the rare occasions when Sharpe is out of the game.
At nose tackle is disruptive junior Jay Bromley (6'4", 290 lbs.). He has 23 tackles on the year, and although he only has two TFLs and half a sack, he is a big force along the interior of the line. Sophomore Eric Crume (6'0", 306 lbs.) backs up Bromley, and has six tackles. Gigantic junior Jawan Walls (6'5" 310 lbs.) is also in the rotation. At defensive tackle is senior Deon Goggins (6'1" 274 lbs.), who comes in with 25 tackles, five TFLs, and one sack. Junior Zian Jones (6'4", 315 lbs.) is the backup, with four tackles.
Goggins and Bromley have been a wrecking crew this season, and with Sharpe rushing off of the edge, the Syracuse pass rush is very strong. That may put the game on the shoulders of USF's offensive line (gulp), or force Daniels out of the pocket often in an attempt to make plays under pressure (gulp again).
Linebacker: The starters are junior Marquis Spruill (6'0", 224 lbs.) at strong-side linebacker, with 24 tackles, 3.5 tackles, and a sack; senior middle linebacker Siriki Diabate (5'10", 216 lbs.) who leads the team with 49 tackles and five TFLs; and weak-side linebacker Dyshawn Davis (6'2" 212 lbs.), a sophomore, with 34 tackles and seven TFLs. The main backups are Dom Anene (6'0", 234 lbs.) at SAM and sophomore Cameron Lynch (5'11" 225 lbs.) at MIKE. Diabate and Davis are the big-time tacklers in the middle of the field. In addition to supporting the defensive line as they try to stop the run, one of them may be asked to spy Daniels on passing downs to keep him in the pocket and limit his scrambling ability.
Secondary: The starting cornerbacks are junior Keon Lyn (6'1" 194 lbs.) with 22 tackles and one tackle for loss, and senior Ri'shard Anderson (6'0", 187 lbs.) with 19 tackles. A pair of freshmen back them up -- Julian Whigham (6'1" 180 lbs.) and Wayne Morgan (5'10" 190 lbs.). The free safety is junior Jeremi Wilkes (5'11" 189 lbs.), who has 28 tackles and one interception on the season. Behind him is sophomore Darrell Eskridge (6'3" 190 lbs.) At strong safety is senior Shamarko Thomas (5'10" 206 lbs.), with 19 tackles and one interception. He's backed up by sophomore Ritchy Desir (5'11" 179 lbs.) who has 15 tackles.
The Syracuse secondary players do not have a ton of interceptions, but they can take players out of games. They will likely focus on taking away Andre Davis, putting the pressure on others to pick up the slack, particularly the slot receivers who may be matched up against freshmen nickel and dime corners.
Overall, the Orange's defense is strong and does not give up big plays down the field. They are fundamental, keep everything in front of them, and live to get pressure on opponents. In the last two games against Syracuse, Daniels was flushed from the pocket often and took him out of rhythm. (His 2010 performance against the Orange is one of the worst games a USF quarterback has ever had.) The Bulls cannot allow this to happen again. Daniels needs time to find receivers and get the ball to the skill players.
Syracuse's offense has been very effective, averaging 145 yards a game on the ground and 308 yards a game through the air. With an up-tempo style and an experienced quarterback, it could be a long day for the Bulls secondary.
Offensive line: Starting at left tackle is senior Justin Pugh (6'5" 297 lbs.) with senior Andrew Phillips (6'5" 268 lbs.) as his reserve. The left guard is senior Zack Chibane (6'5", 298 lbs.), with senior Nick Robinson (6'5", 270 lbs.) backing him up. At center is junior Macky MacPherson (6'2", 282 lbs.) with freshman Jason Emerich (6'3", 270 lbs.) behind him. At right guard is sophomore Ivan Foy (6'4", 311 lbs.) with sophomore Rob Trudo (6'3" 282 lbs.) as the backup. Junior Sean Hickey (6'5", 287 lbs.) is the starter at right tackle with senior Lowe Alexander (6'4", 314 lbs.) as the backup. This is a slightly undersized line, and the USF front four needs to get the better of them to disrupt Ryan Nassib, although they have not been very successful in that area.
Quarterback: Senior Ryan Nassib (6'3", 227 lbs.) could be the best quarterback in the Big East. He has completed 176 passes out of 270 attempts (65% completion percentage) for 2164 yards, with 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He's not a major rushing threat (just 91 yards), but he can pick up yards when he needs them, and he's run for three scores. Nassib is a very experienced quarterback that continues to prove himself in each game. If the Bulls can't get pressure on him and allow him to sit back in the pocket, he can (and probably will) pick the USF secondary apart. Nassib's backup is senior Charley Loeb (6'4" 214 lbs.).
Running Back/Fullback: In the backfield with Nassib is junior Jerome Smith (6'0", 217 lbs.). Smith has 95 carries for 488 yards, plus seven receptions for 85 yards. Behind him is junior Prince-Tyson Gulley (5'10", 192 lbs.). Gulley only has 37 carries for 165 yards, but is more of a pass-catching back with 17 receptions for 148 yards. The fullback is junior Clay Cleveland (6'1", 226 lbs.), with senior Carl Cutler (6'3, 251 lbs.) behind him. The Orange run a balanced offense, getting Smith and Gulley involved early, taking the pass rush away and forcing the linebackers to stay honest. USF has done fairly well against opposing running games recently, and they'll need to be ready early or it could give the Syracuse offense that much more firepower to throw at the Bulls.
Wide Receiver/Tight End: At tight end is junior Beckett Wales (6'3", 230 lbs.), with 20 receptions for 207 yards and one touchdown on the year. Behind him is senior David Stevens (6'3", 231 lbs.) with six grabs for 65 yards. The starting wide receivers are Marcus Sales (6'0", 192 lbs.), with 37 grabs for 545 yards and a team-leading five touchdowns, and senior Alec Lemon (6'2", 204 lbs.) who has 32 receptions for 428 yards and a touchdown. Junior Jarrod West (6'2" 202 lbs.), with 27 receptions for 385 yards and one touchdown, and Christopher Clark (5'11", 158 lbs.) also see significant action. Lemon and Sales are the big time threats in the passing game, but the Bulls cannot overlook Wales in the red zone.
Syracuse does a good job balancing out their offensive distribution. USF has to get pressure, try to force Nassib out of the pocket, and not allow the Orange to stay on the field and extend drives.