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2019 USF Football Spring Practice Preview: Defensive Line

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Another year older. Another year wiser?

NCAA Football: Gasparilla Bowl-Marshall vs South Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Spring practice begins TOMORROW (!!!)so we will breakdown each position group as we gear up for football season. Note: We will not guess on what impact freshmen who are not on campus yet will have on the team.

Defensive Line

Position Coach: Paul Spicer (First season at USF)

Key Losses: Josh Black (52 tackles, 10.5 TFL, five sacks), Vincent Jackson, Jr. (27 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 0.5 sacks), Juwaun Brown (17 tackles, 8.5 TFL, five sacks), Kevin Bronson (34 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks)

Key Returners: Greg Reaves (89 tackles, 7 TFL, 0.5 sacks), Kirk Livingstone (56 tackles, 10 TFL, four sacks), Kevin Kegler (36 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks), Tyrone Barber (18 tackles, two TFL, two sacks)

In 2018, the defensive line had its fair share of growing pains as they tried to replace the production they lost when Deadrin Senat, Bruce Hector, and Mike Love graduated and moved on to the NFL.

The interior defensive line lacked experience with two true freshmen (Barber, Rashawn Yates) cycling in behind true sophomores Kevin Kegler and Kelvin Pinkney. Bronson was in and out of the rotation and missed the final two games due to an injury so defensive coordinator Brian Jean-Mary had to rely heavily on four underclassmen to stop the run and get penetration in the pass game.

It didn’t quite work. The Bulls allowed 5.1 yards per carry (up from 3.3 in 2017) and allowed opponents to convert 41% of their third downs. In four of the final six games, opponents converted over 50% of their third down tries. In the final six games (all losses), USF allowed conversions on third down 49% of the time.

Gone are Sean Cronin (moved to outside linebackers) and Damon Cogdell (removed prior to the Gasparilla Bowl), and now the position is manned by Paul Spicer, former Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end, who most recently was the assistant DL coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Prior to his stint with the Bucs, Spicer held the same position with the Jags for two seasons.

Spicer will have the tall order shoring up a defensive line that was gashed on the ground for 247.5 yards per game and he must figure out the best way to utilize an undersized line where exactly zero linemen weigh over 300 pounds, and the heaviest player is Pinkney at 288.

The most experienced part of the line is at defensive end with Greg Reaves returning to his natural end spot after moonlighting at linebacker in 2018, as well as Kirk Livingstone, who had a career year in 2018. By most experienced, we mean they are the only seniors on across the line.

If the Bulls can’t make a leap in strength, size, and production in at this position, expect more 2018 than 2017 USF defense. Head coach Charlie Strong said they needed to get bigger, time to find out if they did.

Position Battles:

  • The ends are set with Reaves and Livingstone. Who will spell them?
  • Who will be part of the third down pass rush?
  • Defensive tackle is up for grabs. Kegler appears to have one spot locked down. Who else will step up? And who will back them up?

Previous Spring Practice Previews: