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The Ultimate USF Football Player Bracket: Round 1, Leavitt Regional

We’re on to the first full round of our tournament. Help decide the best USF football player of all time!

Yesterday’s results:
(16) Mike Ford d. (16) Ryne Giddins, 56-44%
(16) Evan Landi d. (16) Marcus Shaw, 78-22%
(16) Mattias Ciabatti d. (16) Cedric Hill, 84-16%
(16) Sean Price d. (16) Eric Lee, 66-34%

The First Four is in the books, and the updated bracket is above. Time to jump into the Round of 64! Read our breakdowns of each of the day’s matchups below, or skip right to the voting at the end.

(1) Quinton Flowers vs. (16) Mike Ford

Flowers stats: 2014-present: Completed 60.2% of his passes for 5208 yards, 46 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. 402 attempts for 2594 rushing yards (6.5 YPC) and 30 touchdowns
Ford stats: 2007-2009: 331 carries for 1502 yards (4.5 YPC), 23 touchdowns

The case for Flowers: Already a USF legend with a year of eligibility remaining, Flowers is one of the biggest stars (if not the biggest) of the Second USF Renaissance. It almost never happened. Flowers spurned offers from the likes of Alabama to play quarterback at USF, committed and de-committed to the Bulls in the span of 24 hours, committed again later down the line, was thrown to the wolves several times as a true freshman, considered transferring in the offseason, and almost lost out to Steven Bench in the ensuing quarterback race. Once Willie Taggart opened up his playbook in 2015 against Syracuse and handed Flowers the reins, the young quarterback has been sublime.

He emerged as a fringe Heisman candidate in 2016, guiding the best USF offense of all time and leading the Bulls to their best season in school history. He might’ve put together the greatest individual season in school history, accounting for 4,300 yards of total offense and 42 touchdowns. A human highlight reel with blazing speed and pro-level decision making, Flowers’ best plays as a Bull would fill several SportsCenter Top 10s. Oh, and he’s still got a year left.

Flowers was named the American Athletic Conference Offensive MVP in 2016, as well as First Team all-conference. He was a Walter Camp Player of the Year Award semifinalist. He owns the USF season records for total offense, rushing yards, yards per carry, rushing touchdowns, and passing touchdowns. His 473 total yards against Memphis in 2015 is a program record. He ranks fourth in USF history in career passing yards and passing touchdowns, and second in career rushing yards and rushing touchdowns.

The case for Ford: Oh, what could have been. A genuine five-star talent who originally committed to Alabama before attending prep school for academics, Ford was a huge cog in the 2007 team’s record-setting offense as a true freshman. He was a bruising 6’2”, 225 lb. back with breakaway speed and the ability to take over a game when he was hot.

Of course, he got into the doghouse and was eventually dismissed from the team due to off-the-field issues but man... Ford was a talent. His ‘07 season, in which he ran for 647 yards and 12 touchdowns, is still one of the more impressive seasons from a USF running back. Ford pretty much single-handedly won the 2009 International Bowl, running for 207 yards in arguably one of the best single-game efforts from a USF player.

Ford was named an Honorable Mention Freshman All-America by The Sporting News in 2007. He’s tied for fifth in career rushing touchdowns at USF, and is 10th in career rushing yards. His 207-yard effort in the International Bowl is the eighth-highest single-game rushing total in USF history.

(8) Marvin Kloss vs. (9) Aaron Lynch

Kloss stats: 2011-2014: 31-40 (77.5%) field goals, 38-38 extra points, long of 52
Lynch stats: 2013: 30 tackles, 12.5 TFL, six sacks

The case for Kloss: Undoubtedly the best kicker in school history. “Money” was the best weapon USF had on offense in 2013, and it wasn’t particularly close. Kloss had a cannon for a leg and pretty much guaranteed USF three points anytime they crossed the opposition’s 40. He was one of three finalists for the Lou Groza Award that season, and likely would have won it if he wasn’t going up against Roberto Aguayo. This is the closest any USF player has ever gotten to a major award. It’s not often that a kicker is a team’s MVP, but you can make a very legitimate case for Kloss. In 2013, he led the nation in field goals from 40+ yards (11) and 50+ yards (4).

Kloss was named Second Team All-America by Athlon and Honorable Mention All-America by Sports Illustrated in 2013. He holds the school records for most consecutive field goals made (13), and career field goal percentage.

The case for Lynch: The uber-hyped transfer from Notre Dame was a physical anomaly at 6’6”, 244 lbs. with great speed off the edge and a massive wingspan, and after a great freshman season in South Bend, became one of the most impressive athletes ever to step foot on USF’s campus. Though never looked quite keyed in during his sole year in Tampa in 2013, but he still put up pretty impressive numbers, notching a team-high six sacks, 12.5 TFL and a defensive touchdown. He progressed as the year went along, becoming one of the most effective pass rushers on a sneaky-good USF defensive line.

His real success came in the NFL, where despite USF’s then-strength coach tweeting some unkind words about him on Draft Day, he was selected by the 49ers and has become an absolute terror off the edge. As an outside linebacker in San Francisco’s 3-4 scheme, he racked up 12.5 total sacks in his first two seasons before an injury slowed him down in 2016. He’s already one of the most successful USF players in the NFL, and he’s still only 24.

(4) Tyrone McKenzie vs. (13) Huey Whittaker

McKenzie stats: 2007-2008: 230 tackles, 33.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks
Whittaker stats: 2011-2003: 117 catches for 1447 yards, seven touchdowns

The case for McKenzie: McKenzie originally enrolled at Michigan State, transferred and had one stellar year at Iowa State before landing at USF just in time to anchor one of the most impressive defenses in school history. Though he didn’t receive the most headlines of the lauded M-M-M linebacker corps (Moffitt, McKenzie, Mompremier), he may have been the best of the bunch. McKenzie was a strong, stocky tackling machine who led the Bulls in stops in both of his seasons in green and gold, and wound up getting drafted in the third round of the NFL Draft by the Patriots. His NFL career, unfortunately, was derailed by a torn ACL in training camp, but he rebounded and played sparingly for the Bucs and Vikings.

McKenzie holds the USF record for tackles in a season with 121 stops in 2007, and his encore season in 2008 ranks fifth, with 116. He was named First Team All-Big East in 2008, and Second Team All-Big East in 2007.

The case for Whittaker: A dynamic, 6’5” receiver who was one of the Bulls’ best targets in their early FBS years, Whittaker played three years for USF after transferring from Hudson Valley Community College, and led the team in receiving for two of them. His best year was his debut, when he caught 52 passes for 548 yards, but he was one of the Bulls’ most consistent receivers throughout his career. He also made possibly the best catch in USF history against Alabama in 2003. Whittaker went on to become wildly successful as a two-way Arena Football player, totaling over 6,500 receiving yards in his eight-year pro career.

Whittaker ranks fourth in USF history in career receptions, and sixth in career receiving yards.

(5) Andre Davis vs. (12) Darrell Williams

Davis stats: 2011-2014: 153 receptions for 2136 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Williams stats: 2011-2014: 42 games, 29 starts.

Davis: One of the most physically impressive USF wideouts of all time, and statistically, the best. Davis produced huge numbers despite rarely having a serviceable quarterback getting him the ball. A rangy wide receiver who played taller than his frame and excelled in making circus catches along the sideline, he burst onto the scene as a true freshman in 2011 and emerged as USF’s go-to receiver in 2012 against Nevada, when he repeatedly roasted defenders on go routes and caught 12 passes for 191 yards, including the game-winner.

His numbers are lower than they should be thanks to the rotating belt at QB in 2013 and 2014… and yet Davis still finished as USF’s all-time leading receiver. He was that good at USF-- in the second half of 2013 and 2014, Mike White’s strategy was basically “throw the ball up to Dre and pray something good happens.” It very often did.

Davis is USF’s all-time leader in receiving yards, receptions, and receiving touchdowns. His game against Nevada produced the most receptions and yards in a single game in USF history.

The case for Williams: Williams was an athletic yet undersized tackle when he got to USF, but Skip Holtz saw enough in him to let him play right away as a true freshman. He became a staple on USF’s offensive line as a junior, starting every game from 2014 onwards and locking down the left tackle spot.

He’s one of the few USF players from the early Willie Taggart era that ended up on an NFL roster. Williams wound up getting signed by on the Rams, for whom he played in five games in 2015 before getting hurt. USF doesn’t have a very long history of offensive linemen in the NFL, so it’s fair to say that Williams was among the best USF’s had at the position.

(6) Kayvon Webster vs. (11) Ean Randolph

Webster stats: 2009-2012: 190 tackles, 8.5 TFL, three interceptions.
Randolph stats: 2006: 49 receptions for 503 yards, 25 punt returns for 370 yards (14.8 YPR) and a touchdown.

The case for Webster: One of the speediest and most athletic USF cornerbacks of all time-- if not just USF players in general-- Webster had a knack for the big play throughout his Bulls career. He earned significant playing time as a freshman in 2009, playing in 12 games and never looking back. I’m sure I don’t have to remind you of his magnum opus, a 99-yard fumble return for a touchdown on Notre Dame’s opening drive in 2011 that probably elicited the single most blissful reaction I have ever had in reaction to a USF play. By his senior year, he had become a more well-rounded player, and had a great season with 82 tackles and four TFL.

Though a better athlete than a cover corner, Webster’s skill set helped him catch on as a special teamer in the NFL with the Broncos, where he racked up 83 tackles in four seasons and recently earned himself a new contract with the Rams.

Webster was named Second Team All-Big East in 2011. His 96-yard fumble return touchdown in South Bend is USF’s longest ever.

The case for Randolph: Randolph was an unlikely success story at USF, but he was certainly a success. He began his college career at NAIA Webber International before transferring to USF in 2005. His lone season on the field in 2006 was as impressive an arrival to Division I football as anyone could have imagined, as Randolph led the Bulls with 49 receptions for 506 yards, and made his biggest impact in the return game. The diminutive, speedy Randolph was a nightmare for opposing special teams units, and to this day is just one of four Bulls to win conference player of the year honors.

Randolph was named the Big East Special Teams Player of the Year in 2006. He ranks second in USF history in career yards per punt return, and also posted the sixth-most receptions in a season.

(3) J.R. Reed vs. (14) Jamie Byrd

Reed stats: 2000-2003: 301 tackles, 18 interceptions, 18 kick returns for 570 yards (31.7 YPR), one touchdown
Byrd stats: 2014-2015: 180 tackles, 12.5 TFL, five sacks, five interceptions

The case for Reed: Very possibly the most electrifying human to ever wear a USF jersey. Reed was a ballhawk in the secondary with ridiculous speed, a player that for all sakes and purposes USF shouldn’t have been able to find their their transition to FBS in the early 2000s. Even as a defensive player, he had a knack for coming up with the ball and coming up with big play after big play, and as such USF used him as a returner... where he was also one of the best to play the position. There was very little that Reed couldn’t do.

To top it off, he boasts probably the best single-game individual effort in USF history, when he singlehandedly beat Memphis in 2003. I mean that literally— Reed returned a punt for a touchdown, returned a fumble for a touchdown, and had three interceptions. He wound up getting drafted by the Eagles in the fourth round and enjoyed a productive, four-year NFL career, largely on special teams.

Reed was named Honorable Mention All-America by Sports Illustrated in 2003, First Team All-Conference USA in 2003, and First Team-All Independent in 2002 and 2001. He led the nation in kickoff return average in 2003 at 31.7 yards, a USF season record. He’s also the all-time USF leader in career interceptions, tied for the lead for interceptions in one season (7), and tied for second in career fumble recoveries. He’s sixth all-time in career tackles. His three-interception game against Memphis is also a USF record.

The case for Byrd: If Reed was the most electrifying player to wear a Bulls jersey, Byrd may have been the most chaotic. A safety with a linebacker’s skill set, the JUCO product earned a name for himself in 2014 with his hard hitting from the secondary, and was the perfect match for Tom Allen’s Husky position in the newly minted 4-2-5. He was fantastic to watch, a 200-pound blur flying off the edge and establishing himself as one of the premier pass rushers in USF history, all while operating from the secondary. He was the ultimate jack-of-all-trades in his senior season, posting 85 tackles, 10 TFL, five sacks, and three interceptions.

(7) Trae Williams vs. (10) Jessie Hester

Williams stats: 2004-2007: 158 tackles, 16 interceptions, four interception returns for touchdowns
Hester stats: 2005-2009: 107 catches for 1227 yards and eight touchdowns

The case for Williams: Paired with Mike Jenkins, Williams was part of what was very likely the best positional unit in USF history. Even though his partner got headlines, Williams was every bit as productive in college. He had a nose for the ball, and took full advantage of opposing quarterbacks trying to avoid Jenkins on the other side of the field. Williams totaled 16 interceptions as a Bull, including 13 in his junior and senior seasons. He was one of the biggest cogs in USF’s shutdown defense in 2007, making 54 tackles and intercepting six passes, including a remarkable three pick-sixes.

Williams was named Honorable Mention All-America by Sports Illustrated in 2007, earned First Team All-Big East honors in 2006, and Second Team All-Big East honors in 2007. He shares the USF record for most interceptions in a season with Reed, and is second in most career interceptions.

The case for Hester: Hester had a productive Bulls career, but he’ll always be known for one sublime moment: running a beautiful flag route and catching the game-winning touchdown against Auburn in overtime in 2007. He built upon his breakout season in 2007 by emerging as USF’s leading receiver in 2008, catching 54 passes for 579 yards and three touchdowns. He didn’t have quite the same rapport with B.J. Daniels as he did with Matt Grothe, but he still entered the history books as one of USF’s most productive receivers— and the one who made the most important catch in school history.

Hester ranks sixth in USF history in career receptions and tenth in career receiving yards. In his 2008 season, he recorded the third most receptions in program history and the eighth-most receiving yards.

(2) Kawika Mitchell vs. (15) Ryan Benjamin

Mitchell stats: 1999-2002: 367 tackles, 37 TFL, 8.5 sacks
Benjamin stats: 1997-2000: N/A

The case for Mitchell: Arguably the best linebacker— or even just defensive player— in USF history. At any rate, there’s certainly never been a more proficient tackler. Mitchell was stocky, fast, capable of playing inside and outside, and was a defensive stalwart for all four years he played in a Bulls uniform. He transferred from Georgia after a redshirt year in Athens, and immediately became the most talented player who had ever worn a USF jersey to that point. In each of his final three years in Tampa, he led the Bulls in tackles.

To top it off, his NFL career might be the most impressive of any USF Bull, ever. Mitchell played eight seasons with four different teams after being drafted by the Chiefs in the second round of the draft, racked up 487 tackles, and won a Super Bowl with the Giants in 2008.

Mitchell was named First Team All-Independent in 2002. He’s the all-time leading tackler in USF history, and ranks eighth in career tackles for loss. His 19 TFL in 2002 put him in a tie for second on the single-season USF list, and his 117 tackles the same season are tied for second all-time as well.

The case for Benjamin: Every program needs a greatest long snapper, right? Benjamin is that long snapper. He snapped for USF from 1997 through 2000, got signed by the Bucs as a free agent in 2001, and played 26 games for Tampa’s pro team. He’s most notable for being one of just six Bulls to earn a Super Bowl ring on an active roster. He was the second Bull to do so, and the only one to date who has done it with the hometown Buccaneers.