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USF Football Spring Preview 2023: Defensive Line

No really, it has to get better soon, right?

UCF v USF Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Spring practice begins on Monday 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: Kevin Patrick (3rd stint with USF)

Key Losses: DT Rashawn Yates, DL Jatorian Hansford, DE Darrien Grant

Key Returners: DL Eddie Kelly, DE Jason Vaughn, DL Rashad Cheney, DL Tramel Logan

Key Additions: DE D.J. Harris & DE Lloyd Summerall III

Kevin Patrick returns to USF in his third stint with the Bulls as the defensive line coach, and the expectations remain sky high for KP to bring the #WARDADDY mentality back to the defensive front. After previously coaching some of USF’s best defensive linemen in school history (Jason Pierre-Paul, Ryne Giddens, Julius Forte), can Coach Patrick re-kindle some former glory and find some diamonds in the rough?

He’s got a tall task at hand as spring ball approaches. USF’s defensive line might have well been as good as Swiss cheese last year, and the defense as a whole was ranked dead last in the country (Ed. Note: That’s not good, right?). The defense just couldn’t benefit from consistency, and the defensive line suffered from a three-down linemen alignment under Glenn Spencer for two seasons, then a four-down linemen alignment under Bob Shoop, and that doesn’t even take into account the injury bug that decimated the front four last season leaving the Bulls with six available defensive linemen going into the final stretch of games.

The defensive line couldn’t get to the QBs, resulting in only 11 sacks total by defensive linemen. One linemen in particular accounted for nearly half of that number and luckily for Bulls fans, that player is returning. DE Jason Vaughn compiled 5.0 sacks last season and is returning to anchor the defensive line for USF. Additional returnees include DL Eddie Kelly (1.5 TFLs, 19 tackles), DL Rashad Cheney (3 TFL, 16 tackles), and DL Tramel Logan (5.5 TFL, 0.5 Sacks, 37 tackles) among other unproven, but young talent such as DT Jacquez Williams, DT Jhalin Hobbs, DT Nick Bags, DE Jonathan Ross, and DE Michael Williams II.

USF also dipped their toes in the portal along the defensive line, bringing in two highly touted DE/EDGE transfers from traditional blue blood programs. DE DJ Harris will make his way to Tampa by way of the University of Texas, and played sparingly for the Longhorns. The former four-star recruit is looking to make a big impact on the field in fresh territory. The Bulls also brought in DE Lloyd Summerall III (former Lakeland HS standout) from the University of Florida, who played in 28 games in his career for the Gators and accumulated 15 tackles, 3 TFLs, and 1.5 sacks in Gainesville. A surprising and under the radar addition was one of DL Rico Watson, a former Armwood standout, who walked-on to FSU before transferring to Robert Morris University, becoming a stud defensive linemen for the Colonials. Watson logged 91 tackles, 22.5 TFLs, and 11.5 sacks during his time at RMU, and it’s always a bright sign to bring bay made talent back home.

With Todd Orlando’s defense being touted as ‘multiple’ in a hybrid 3-3-5 base, the defensive line will need to re-assert themselves quickly to avoid disaster once again. The unproven defensive line is going to give USF fans a lot of pause when putting forth season expectations, as there is room for improvement (and growth) within this unit, but bringing the #WARDADDY himself Kevin Patrick back to USF to coach them might give some cautious optimism.