It's that time of year again! College football watch lists all over America are being compiled, which means that we get to know which USF players are being Watched. Three Bulls have the privilege of being Watched this season: sophomore running back Marlon Mack, senior tight end Sean Price, and senior punter Mattias Ciabatti.
Mack was named to the watch list for the Maxwell Award, which honors the nation's best offensive player. Mack had a lovely season as a true freshman, running for 1,041 yards (5.2 YPC) and nine touchdowns, becoming the first USF player to break 1,000 yards rushing since Andre Hall. It should be noted, however, that without his remarkable 275-yard performance in the season opener against FCS Western Carolina, Mack ran for 69.6 yards per game with a 4.3 yards per carry average. It'll be interesting to see how his continued progression, plus a favorable new scheme and a more experienced offensive line, will counteract some statistical regression to the mean. At any rate, Mack is the most dynamic player on USF's offense and one of only twenty sophomores on the watch list. It'll be a pleasure to watch him this season.
Price was named to the Mackey Award Watch List for the nation's best tight end. Price, one of Skip Holtz's prize recruits, has yet to really build on a promising freshman season-- though an errant passing game and the emergence of Mike McFarland surely had something to do with that-- but he still caught 14 passes for 207 yards last season. It's very reasonable to think that Price could be in line for a breakout season with the starting job all to himself, provided that USF's quarterback play improves.
Ciabatti may have quietly been USF's best player in 2014, and he was honored appropriately by being named to the Ray Guy Award Watch List for the nation's best punter. He put up remarkable stats last season: a 44.4 yard average, good for 10th in the nation, with 22 punts downed inside the 20 and 16 punts of 50 yards or more, both tops in the AAC. Ciabatti has a real chance at All-America honors in 2015, but hopefully the Bulls don't have to use him quite as much.
All joking about the relevance of preseason watch lists aside, this is very much a deserved honor for these three Bulls. 59 days, y'all.