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2020 USF Football Spring Practice Preview: Defensive Line

Downside: USF lost two senior DEs. Bright side: Blank canvas under a new coach.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 16 Cincinnati at USF Photo by Mary Holt/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Spring practice begins TODAY (!!!!) 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: Da’Quan Bowers (First season at USF)

Key Losses: DE Kirk Livingstone (38 tackles, 10 TFL, 3 sacks), DE Greg Reaves (63 tackles, 10 TFL, 4 sacks), DE Darius Slade (32 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks)

Key Returners: DT Blake Green (23 tackles, 1 TFL), DT Kevin Kegler (12 tackles, 4.5 TFL), DT Kelvin Pinkney (13 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack), DT Rashawn Yates (16 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2 sacks), DE Jason Vaughan (14 tackles, 3 TFL)

We’re not going to sugarcoat it. Over the last two seasons the defensive line has been a major liability in both pass defense, and run defense. And based of returning production, lack of impact players right away, and learning a brand new scheme under defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer, we may not see a lot more production from this unit in 2020.

All three defensive ends with starting experience have graduated. The Bulls will have to get creative with their edge rushers in Spencer’s very multiple, a lot of times 3-4 defense in 2020 to create havoc plays. The “most tenured” defensive end is junior Darrien Grant with 21 career games, with the a lot of the experience coming on special teams.

True sophomore Jason Vaughan was an early enrollee in 2019, and he showed flashes while compiling 14 tackles, and three TFLs in his first college season—both numbers are tops among returning DEs.

Ryan Thaxton, Tyrik Jones, and Jabreel Stephens combined for 12 tackles, 2 TFL, and a sack in 2019. All three will look to show value to the new staff this spring.

At defensive tackle, there are plenty of bodies, but no impact player. Walk-on Blake Green out-played, and eventually supplanted Kelvin Pinkney as a starter alongside Kevin Kegler. Green led all DTs in tackles last season with 23.

Also in the mix are Rashawn Yates—who has half of the returning sacks (2) for the Bulls along the defensive line. Tyrone Barber also is back, and he’ll look to contribute more than he has over his time at USF. There’s no lack of game experience at DT with Kegs, Pinkney, Yates, and Barber with all over 20 games played, it’s productive games that remains the issue.

Behind them, we still have yet to see the impact highly-touted recruits John Waller, and Stacy Kirby were supposed to have. Perhaps working under one of the best college defensive linemen in the last 15 years in Da’Quan Bowers will help.

The defensive allowed seven opponents to rush for over 200 yards in 2019, including a 434-yard performance by Navy, and a 325-yard game by Memphis at home. Wins don’t matter this year, just show improvement each week.

Process>results. And it starts with spring practice.