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Stampeding Through the Roster: Receivers and Tight Ends

With a shift in offensive philosophy and many departures at wide receiver, fans should expect wholesale changes in USF's passing game.

DBs will have a hard time handling Sean Price in Taggart's Stanford-style offense.
DBs will have a hard time handling Sean Price in Taggart's Stanford-style offense.

With USF's top two receivers and three seniors supposedly returning, receiver was expected to be the strongest unit on offense, and to help out an inexperienced starting QB. Then two seniors transferred: Sterling Griffin via a graduate transfer to Holtz-ville, Louisiana, and Terrence Mitchell after Willie T suspended him. And then in August camp, sophomore D’Vario Montgomery transferred to Iowa State. Montgomery was the second-leading returning receiver in camp. So what was considered to be strength might be the weakest corps on the offense.

Mercifully, USF’s leading receiver returns, as are two promising young tight ends. And the new coaching staff employs a Stanford-style offense that is committed to targeting the big fellas, which should bring a new dimension to USF’s attack (as long as Matt Floyd can get them the ball).

This season’s depth chart only lists two receivers, as opposed to Holtz’s chart last year, which had three receivers. Most sets are going to have one or two receivers, one or two TEs, two backs in the backfield. Three-wide will probably be an infrequent occurrence at Raymond James this season.

Wide Receiver

Returning is leading receiver for 2012, junior Andre Davis. Davis will normally line up as a flanker (Z), but according to Oppa Gauman Style, all the receivers will get work at both the X and the Z receiver spots. Davis caught 43 passes for 534 yards and 6 TDs. However, a huge chunk of that was in the comeback against Nevada: 12 catches, 191 yards and two TDs. While the yards and receptions were school records, Davis wasn’t as threatening in other games. Although opposing defenses doubled him more often after the Nevada game, and the quality of QB play nose-bombed after B.J. Daniels was injured, USF will need more consistency from Davis in 2013.

One thing readily apparent with the wide receivers is guys who didn't get much of a chance under Holtz will get their opportunities to shine under Taggart. Jordan Duval will back-up Davis at the bigger Z spot. The redshirt junior hasn't played much in two years, partially due to legal issues, but should see more action in 2013.

Ruben Gonzalez and Alex Mut were also lauded by receivers coach David Reeves. Since both guys are 6' 3", they might be good options in the red zone. Further down the depth chart are sophomore walk-on Jimel Atkins and freshman Zach Benjamin. Both are also large targets, but probably will see little action, and Benjamin might be a candidate to redshirt.

Starting opposite Davis, or in the slot in twins sets, will be Deonte Welch. The redshirt junior played in all 12 games last season, but his game-high was only five catches. Welch beat out former-Florida transfer Chris Dunkley, who will likely feature more prominently later in the season as he’s recovering from an ankle injury. Dunkley has been dogged by off-field issues, and didn’t do much last year (four catches) before being suspended. Ideally, he puts his past behind him and proves why he was a five-star recruit coming out of high school.

Returning from injury is former walk-on Stephen Bravo-Brown. The redshirt junior showed flashes of skill in 2010, but played sparingly in 2011 and redshirted last year. If redshirt freshmen Derrick Hopkins and Clinton Jones feature much, it will likely be in the slot.

Tight End

Last season with Taggart at Western Kentucky, TE Jack Doyle led the team in receptions with 53, so USF hiring Taggart was the best thing that ever happened to sophomore Sean Price and redshirt junior Mike McFarland. The tandem each played in all 12 games last season, but only combined for 10 catches due to Holtz's offense and Daniels' eyes being more focused on wide receivers. I expect Price and MacFarland to combine for at least 50 catches this season. They may even be versatile enough to split out as well, which could lead to match-up nightmares for USF's opponents (see photo above).

A gaggle of TEs follow Price and McFarland on the roster, and with the Bulls employing more two- and three-TE sets, there are opportunities to make an impact. Walk-on junior Jake Carlton is the most experienced, but has mainly played special teams in the past. Big Tye Turner (6' 3" 261), a sophomore, would figure to be a blocking prospect in heavy sets, purely on size alone. Younger TEs on the roster, freshmen Spencer Adkinson, Guito Ervilus, and sophomore Derek Glenn are on the thinner side and might need another year to beef up. Redshirts might be in the future for Glenn and Adkinson (Ervilus already used his redshirt.)

If you didn't notice, there aren't any seniors at tight end, and only two juniors, so all the experience these guys get this season will be a boon to our 2014 and 2015 rosters.