From Tampa... The Daily Stampede Group. An unrehearsed program providing inside opinions and forecasts on major USF issues of the day. Here’s the moderator, John McLaughlin.
ISSUE ONE, the Bullsharks defense. Tom Allen gone to Indiana, a raw defensive line but plenty of talent in the back seven. Can new coordinator Raymond Woodie get a good season out of his unit JACK GERMOND!!!!
Elliot Moore: Yes. Woodie and the players seem to have a good relationship, and there is a ton of talent on defense. Deatrick Nichols and Ronnie Hoggins were great last year, and they should only get better. The same goes for Sanchez and Harris at linebacker. The line looks pretty good with Senat and Hector at DT. Most of these positions have good backups, too, which gives me confidence that the team can handle a whole season together.
Collin Sherwin: Sure he can. I thought Auggie Sanchez's comments about how it was an adjustment for the team to go from the fiery Allen to the more staid Woodie were honest and telling... and I also don't think he makes them if it wasn't already pretty close to fixed.
With a lot of returnees, it's possible the defense could even be a touch better than last year.
Carl Zee: Raymond Woodie has enough talent in his unit to have a good year, but the loss of Tom Allen is going to cause a step backward.
Nathan Bond: I think the Bullsharks miss Tom Allen running up and down the sideline pumping the guys up. I'm worried the turnovers aren't there like last year and the defense turns some games into track meets that shouldn't be(NIU comes to mind). Outside of an injury on offense, the defense will be the reason this team doesn't reach its potential.
Nick Simon: People have been curious about what the Bull Sharks can do and if they'll respond to Woodie taking the reigns as DC. With so much returning talent and all kinds of depth in the secondary, I don't think they skip a beat.
Ryan T. Smith: Sure. I mean, he better get a good unit together if the Bulls want to win the American. The back seven is loaded, and the defensive line could be iffy but certainly has enough talent to put a respectable unit together. I'm most concerned with the pass rush, but if they can find a few good edge rushers out of the young hybrid LB/DEs and JUCO transfers, they have a shot to be even better than last year. Of course, that works the other way -- if no one steps up, they could be pretty soft up front.
Jamie DeVriend: I sure hope so. As long as the offense is humming, the defense only has to be decent to win games. Woodie’s never called defensive plays before, but Auggie Sanchez probably has a lot of latitude there. And at least Woodie has an old hand in John Jancek to bounce ideas off.
ISSUE NUMBER TWO!!!! Special teams! Return units great last year, field goals OK, kickoffs and coverage not so good, and brand new punter causing real concern at practice. Will this be USF's ultimate downfall PAT BUCHANAN!!!!
Elliot: I never believe wholly in what I see at practice. There are so many "problems" people see that never show up during the season, and so many "great" players in camp that never see a start during the season. A good punter is great to have, but a bad one isn't going to kill us. Nadelman isn't super, but I don't think he's going to be worse than last year.
Collin: I haven't been to practice in about two weeks (since they only let us see the last 15 minutes, not always worth the drive from South Tampa unless I have a question or am in the neighborhood already), but the kicking game I saw at the full open practices was pretty brutal.
USF throughout her history has been blessed with pretty good kickers and punters. We've never had an extended #CollegeKickers situation, but that might change this year. I'm officially worried. And it doesn't help that this week Taggart said he's still not naming who the punter will be. I mean IT'S THE PUNTER FOR CHRISSAKE.
It's a weird spot for coaches because most teams don't want to allocate more than two scholarships to kickers and punters, but when that doesn't work out for whatever reason, you get in desperate situations and end up looking for random guys on campus (see the Gators last year). It's a skill that most people can find, but when you don't absolute disaster looms around every corner.
Not panicking yet... but some quality FG's and bombed punts vs. Towson will make me feel better.
Carl: Yes, special teams are going to cost USF something at some point unless coverage is better, but not enough that USF pays for it with a loss.
Nathan: Emilio should be solid enough again this year. I've seen him kick twice since the open practices in early August and they were both missed wide left. So we're probably screwed. Willie T is hiding who the punter will be like it's the Coke recipe. I'm taking that as both kinda suck and neither deserve to be named starter.
Nick: I'd be concerned about punting and field position in close, tight games. But then again, the sheer power of USF's 241 POUND PUNTER will surely offset those issues.
Ryan: It could absolutely lose them a game or two if they don't find some answers. Emilio Nadelman definitely has the talent to be a great kicker, but he needs to be more consistent from under 40 this year. As for punting and the coverage teams... pray.
Jamie: I’m not too worried about Nadelman. He had a rough patch for a couple games but came through it fine. The punts and kickoffs scare me. The first kickoff that goes through the end zone for a touchback will be a huge relief. Unless we have to wait until October to see it.
Pat Buchanan: John, I thought you were dead.
WRONNNNNNG! I faked my death in order to escape a severe tax liability.
Pat: Then why are you sitting there hosting thi —
USF against Florida State! Some believe the Bulls will ride the wave of emotion and belief to an upset win. Others think FSU is much too deep and powerful. Can USF win this game ELEANOR CLIFT!!!!
Elliot: Sure we could win. It's a home game, and FSU is overrated as usual. I mean, they just lost their bowl game to Houston and they're ranked #4 for week one. That's ridiculous. They have about six tough games this year and USF is one of them. To win, USF is going to have to play extremely well, and get a little bit lucky. But it's certainly possible. FSU will be at Louisville the week before USF, and they may lose that game. Traveling to Tampa for another tough one may take a lot out of them.
I'm not predicting a win here, though. It will be important for USF to prep for playing conference games, and losing this one isn't going to destroy the season. I'd rather see a conference championship than a win over FSU.
Collin: Can USF win? Absolutely. They'll need a very accurate Quinton Flowers hitting playmakers in stride to help counter the Seminoles speed advantage on defense, a shaky Deondre Francois in a trap game, and enough run stuffing to keep Dalvin Cook south of 200 yards. They'll also need to win the turnover war, probably by +2.
These are all reasonable things that can happen. USF CAN win. But they won't be the favorites for a reason. We'll know more about this after Monday and seeing FSU vs. Ole Miss.
Carl: USF can absolutely beat FSU. Stop Dalvin Cook and the rest takes care of itself. USF held Golson largely in check last year. Keep Dalvin Cook to 150 and USF wins.
Nathan: A miracle has to happen for USF to win this game. Sean McGuire apparently has Wolverine-like healing powers and could be back time in time for that game. And just like the Wolverine movies, he isn't great but good enough to pass the time until the next Captain America movie comes out. If Francois keeps the job even when Smag returns, the Bulls have an even smaller chance to win.
Nick: This school made it's name in the late 2000s knocking off numerous power opponents, so of course the Bulls have a shot. I'm not going to call an outright upset here because FSU is FSU. However, with the amount of talent and offensive firepower returning, this one will go down to the wire. A couple of turnovers here and there and who knows what could happen.
Ryan: If I were a betting man, I wouldn't put money on the Bulls. That's not because I don't think USF is going to be really good, just that I think FSU should be a genuine top-5 team this year. It's going to be a really, really tough game, but it's certainly winnable if the defense can find any sort of way to slow down Dalvin Cook. Of course, USF can lose this game and they still might go 12-1.
Jamie: I really don’t think so. Will it be an interesting game? Probably, although I think most Bulls fans are underestimating FSU’s defense and expecting to roll up and down the field on them. They are really, really good. Also I don’t see an answer for Dalvin Cook in that defensive line.
ISSUE NUMBER FOUR!!!!
On a scale of 1 to 17, 1 being an absolute physical impossibility and 17 being you have traveled in time and seen it happen and come back to tell us about it, rate USF's chances of winning the American MORTON KONDRACKE!!!!
Elliot: I give this an 8. USF beat every other team in the division last year, and will probably win the division in 2016. However, with Houston as the likely championship game opponent, I have doubts. Houston is really, really good, and it's hard for me to picture how USF can beat them. However, there is no way to figure out who may win the 13th game of the year before a minute of football has been played. If USF gets there, they will have a good shot at winning, but it's more likely not to happen.
Collin: On a scale of 1-17, I'd say 6.392. To win the East Division I'd say 13.524, but I think Houston is really good, and if both teams are 7-1 or 8-0 in the league, there's a good chance this game is on the road for the Bulls. That'll make it tough as Houston has been there before, and is the more talented team.
But I do think USF gets to the title game. The East stinks, and USF has a very good chance to go 5-0 vs. it again. Cinci and Temple are the traps they'll need to avoid.
Nathan: I'll take a seven. History suggests we will lose a dumb conference game that we shouldn't and then have to pray another team screws itself. BUT, this feels like the year to win the whole... fucking... thing.
Nick: 15. If everything goes according to plan, USF should run roughshod through the AAC East for a showdown with with Houston in the title game. I think a 10-2 South Florida squad HOSTS a 9-3 Houston team, giving the Bulls the edge.
Ryan: I'll give it a solid 9. Is that high on a scale of 17? I'm not entirely sure. Anyway, they really, really have a good shot, and this season would be a definite disappointment if they don't make it to the American title game (with Temple and Cincy on the road, it's not out of the question). From there, you've got a one-off against Houston, which is probably a tossup. So they should absolutely get there, but winning is another story.
Jamie: I’ll say a 7.5. Give this year’s team last year’s schedule, with Temple, Cincinnati and Memphis all at home, and I bet they cruise to the division title and probably host the title game. Unfortunately they have to travel to all three. That’s going to be rough.
Willie Taggart! Saved his neck last year and turned it around so suddenly he got interest from bigger schools looking for new coaches. If USF has a big season in 2016, is he gone FREDDIE THE BEETLE BARNES!!!!
Elliot: Yes, I think so. Taggart seems to like it here, but I think he'd love to coach a P5 team. He moved around before USF, and will probably move around again. I could see him going to Purdue or somewhere looking for a turnaround. I hope I'm wrong, because I want USF to do well and for him to stay. Recruiting could drop off without Taggart, and I'd hate to see that happen.
Collin: Very possibly, and I wouldn't blame him at all. If a high-end ACC or basically any SEC school comes calling, he'd be a fool not to leave. USF is a very good job for the league in which it currently resides, but at this point without Big XII access, it's a stepping stone gig.
Willie will have vastly improved recruiting, brought the program back from the dead, and re-engaged a fanbase. You can’t ask for more than that. Shake his hand and say "thank you," and wish him well wherever he lands. Also say thank you because he has a $2 million buyout after this season, so he'll have coached a very successful 2016 season for you for free.
All of the above is assuming USF doesn't join the Big XII. If they did get an invite, Willie could be a lifer. He loves it here, and it's home. And with national championship access and P5 money, why would he want to leave? He believes USF can compete at the top of that conference if given a chance, and with his ability to recruit, I agree with him.
Carl: I think Willie has put his roots down enough in the area that he'll have a major issue if he decides to move. He'd have to be offered some stupid money if he leaves. He already left Western Kentucky, his alma mater, so I'm not worried about him running off to somewhere that has a special place in his heart.
Nathan: If USF gets in the Big 12, he stays. If they don't, 70-30 he leaves.
Nick: Oh yeah, he's definitely gone if they have a fantastic season. Steven Godfrey of Podcast Ain't Played Nobody even mentioned him as one of the hot coaching commodities that will emerge at the top of the list should things pan out the way they're supposed to. That's the life of being a Group of Five program.
Ryan: If USF has a good year, I imagine Taggart will be out of there in a second. Which would not be the worst thing in the world! I love Willie, but USF will return almost everything (save Rodney Adams and probably Marlon Mack) in 2017. Almost anyone could walk in and win with that talent.
Jamie: If the right job opens up and USF doesn’t get a Big XII invite, I think he’ll leave. And I wouldn’t blame him for leaving or be too upset about it. He’d leave us with a fully stocked cupboard and a pretty decent fence built around the Bay Area. I just hope he doesn’t cash in his ticket to go coach at a dead-end job like Kentucky.
Elliot: I'm going to go with 11-3. We'll lose to FSU, and someone else along the way. Maybe Cincy, maybe Temple. But I do think we'll go to the conference championship. Then we'll lose to Houston and end up in the Birmingham Bowl, where we'll beat Arkansas.
Collin: I think USF wins 10 games this year for the first time in school history, though it might take the bowl game to get there. I also think they get to hang a banner finally: 2016 East Division Champions.
Beyond that... it's possible they beat FSU, run the table, and make the Playoff. But it's more likely they finish the regular season 9-3 or 10-2. I think they lose to FSU, but they won't get blown out, and it's a game in the 4th quarter.
What I can't predict is how the crowds will be for this team, and what's the enthusiasm level. If they beat FSU, they're playing in front of a full lower bowl at Ray Jay the rest of the season. But if they don't, and they need to beat C.Florida to get a title game on Thanksgiving weekend... can they draw 45K for the first home game with championship implications ever? That's what I'm very curious about, and I just don't know the answer.
A championship game appearance gets fans excited about USF again, and a lot of this team should return in 2017 (maybe not Marlon Mack). The projection for growth will continue to be there. But USF needs to strike this season. All the stars and schedule have aligned. They need to take advantage.
Carl: 11-3. We'll drop the obvious one and one we're not supposed to drop, but still win the conference (yes, we’re beating Houston), then lose the GO5 bowl. Three losses by a total of 17 points.
Nathan: 12-0, beats Houston for the conference title and gets a playoff berth. Make it happen boys. #TampatoTampa
Nick: USF finishes 11-3 this season. They'll drop the FSU matchup and one game in American play (most likely Temple on the road) but storm through the rest of their schedule. Beat Houston at home for the conference title, then lose in the Cotton Bowl or whatever the GO5 bowl ends up being.
Ryan: 10-2, with a loss to Florida State and some miscellaneous conference opponent. An East Division title, and a showdown with Houston for the G5 access bowl slot. I'm not quite confident enough to predict a win there. Yet.
Jamie: I’ll say 10-4. That works out to 9-3 and a division title, which is entirely possible. Then a loss to Houston in the conference title game, and a win in a bowl we feel is beneath us. But if they want to go on a tear and win everything so I start 2017 by covering them at the Cotton Bowl, that’s cool.