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USF 2014 Football Preview: Controlling the Line Remains Crucial

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Take a closer look at the Bulls’ depth along the defensive line heading into the 2014 season.

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The Bulls' defensive unit was nothing short of stout in 2013, quietly finishing Chuck Bresnahan’s inaugural season ranked 21st in total defense (350.8 yds./game), 28th in rush defense (139.8 yds./game) and 26th in pass defense (211 yds./game). For Coach Willie Taggart to right the ship in 2014 he will rely on Bresnahan’s unit to produce similar numbers despite losing 1st Team AAC defensive end Aaron Lynch to the 49ers, 2nd team AAC defensive tackle Luke Sager and 3rd team defensive end Ryne Giddins to the Buccaneers. Other key losses at defensive end include Tevin Mims and Julius ‘JuJu’ Forte. The five aforementioned defensive linemen combined for 107.5 tackles, 43 tackles for loss, 16.5 sacks and four forced fumbles just a season ago.

2013_usf_football_defensive_line_statistics_by_matthew_manuri_ii

The Bulls have historically thwarted the oppositions rush attack, never allowing more than four yards per carry in school history. USF will rely on the four returners to uphold the precedent, with the assistance of some new faces vying for playing time.

Willie Taggart was named the AAC’s ‘Best Coach As Recruiter’ by Athlon Sports and the Bulls will rely on Derrick Calloway, dubbed the "prize of Taggart’s first recruiting class in 2013," to command the interior in 2014. The Manatee High product's low-stance and natural ability to uncoil on contact allows him to manhandle run blockers. Calloway also possesses a smooth spin move, which will allow him to breach the interior and wreak serious havoc.

Calloway is joined by fellow class of 2013 defensive tackle Deadrin Senat, who is coming off a redshirt year in 2013. The 6’1, 300-pound defensive tackle exhibited impressive strength in the weight room during fall camp, throwing up 475-pounds on the bench. Senat has been described as possessing a very good initial burst with the ability to be a stout run defender. The Senat-Calloway combination could be the exact destructive duo needed to aide the Bulls’ marque returners in the trenches.

The Bulls return redshirt-senior Todd "Mr. 700 pd. Squat" Chandler, senior Elkino Watson who slid to the outside from defensive tackle, and projected starter junior defensive end Eric Lee. USF also picked up JUCO defensive end Demetrius Hill from Fort Scott Community College to add necessary depth and increase the Bulls pass-rushing presence. Redshirt freshmen Bruce Hector, a Tampa native who played on both sides of the line at nearby Robinson High School, is also in contention for a starting job on the line.

Additionally, Bresnahan’s defensive front is considering a mixed 3-4/4-3 look, hoping to effectively adjust the scheme to properly utilize current players on the roster. There has been a lot of speculation about the Bulls’ base defense, but we will have to play the ‘wait and see’ game until Taggart and Bresnahan make the final decision.

"The dream is free, but the Hustle is sold separately" ~ Willie Taggart

Dominating the line of scrimmage will prove crucial to USF’s success in 2014. Bulls fans must have faith Chuck Bresnahan’s unit will return to the field not only matured, but with the same passion for swarming the ball and forcing fumbles that fans have grown accustomed to seeing over the years. The onus is on Coach Bresnahan and company to come out ahead when the dust settles in 2014.