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And in that corner… The South Florida Bulls

Aug 31, 2011, 4:26 PM EDT

usfbulls

After eight long months, it’s finally time to talk about football again, as the season kicks off with Skip Holtz and his South Florida Bulls. While I’ve done my best to keep everybody up-to-speed on USF and the dangers they present, what better time to kick off this season’s “And in that corner,” than now.

Joining us is Ken DeCelles from the USF blog Voodoo Five. (Or as the guys there call it, one of the few college blogs on the internet not run by law students.) If you’ve got a few dozen spare hours on your hands, they’ve gone one-by-one through the Bulls roster, giving you the skinny on every player. (Here’s their entry on RB Darrell Scott. We had enough debate over ranking the top 20. I can’t imagine what the whole 85-man roster would’ve looked like.)

With that level of dedication in mind, Ken was nice enough to take some time and answer some questions I had about Skip Holtz’s squad.

Inside the Irish: It seems like the Bulls offense will go as B.J. Daniels goes. What kind of day do you think he’ll have on Saturday? What do the Irish need to do to make him struggle?
It just depends on how Daniels does on the ground. It took a while last year for Holtz and OC Todd Fitch to mold the offense around Daniels’ skill-set, but towards the end of the year we saw some pretty exotic option attacks that helped spring our passing game. If our running game forces a safety into the box, it could open up our passing game.

The Irish need to keep Daniels in the pocket if they want Daniels to struggle. Daniels has always been uncomfortable when he’s forced to stay in the pocket. If the Irish defensive line can keep contain on the edge or Diaco keeps an ILB in as a spy to keep Daniels from breaking a couple runs loose it could force B.J. into a bad decision or two.

ITI: Notre Dame is coming off an 8-5 season and people in the mainstream media seem to think the Irish have a chance at a BCS game. What’s the ceiling for USF? How good is this team now and how good will it be by the end of the season?

Honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if the team goes 10-2 and runs away with the Big East. This is a pretty young team with only 14 scholarship seniors on the roster, and the two-deep is littered with freshmen and sophomores. Opening at a hostile environment like Notre Dame will prepare our underclassmen and will get them ready for the rest of the season. There’s only so much you can do during practice, and nothing can replicate actually playing in a game.

ITI: Name two offensive threats (not Daniels) that Irish fans might not know about, but will after Saturday’s game?

Most fans know about Colorado transfer Darrell Scott, so I’ll go with WRs A.J. Love and Sterling Griffin. Both players were primed to start for USF last season, but they missed all of last year due to a Torn ACL and a dislocated ankle. After getting their feet wet in the spring, both have done an excellent job this fall keeping their starting positions over younger players like Deonte Welch, Andre Davis, and Stephen Bravo-Brown.

A.J. is your classic possession receiver who isn’t afraid to go across the middle. By far the most experienced receiver, the 6th-Year Senior runs some really crisp routes and catches everything that comes his way. The staff has been so impressed with Love’s progress that they were able to move Evan Landi to H-Back, where he is more effective.

Griffin is the team’s deep threat, and he’s most known for his 73-yard touchdown against Florida State in 2009. Griffin and Daniels seemed to have a good rapport going with Daniels towards the end of 2009 and big things were expected from Sterling last year before his freak ankle injury.

ITI: The Bulls defense has a ton of speed and is building depth. How will they match-up with the Irish offense?

I think the defensive backs will hold their own against the wide receivers of Notre Dame. Quenton Washington, Kayvon Webster, Jerrell Young, and Jon LeJiste are probably the best DB group in the Big East and JaQuez Jenkins, Ernie Tabuteau, and Mark Joyce provide ample depth without much of a drop in production.

The linebackers might be the deepest group on the roster. MLB Sam Barrington and WLB DeDe Lattimore combined for over 150 tackles last season, and they’ll be joined by redshirt freshman Reshard Cliett at SLB, who will be making his first start Saturday. The backups are just as talented with Mike Lanaris, Curtis Weatherspoon, and Mike Jeune filling out the rotation.

We’ve been looking for a pass rushing DE ever since George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul left for the NFL two years ago, and we think Ryne Giddins has the tools to step in and make the leap. He was all-everything at nearby Armwood High School and spurned Florida to play for the hometown Bulls. Patrick Hampton and Julius Forte make a strong trio with Claude Davis coming in for pass-rushing scenarios.

DT is a big concern after you get past Keith McCaskill and Cory Grissom. Luke Sager and Elkino Watson are the clear backups, but neither have seen the field much and Watson is a true freshman. Behind them are Demi Thompson and Todd Chandler, who are good for a few plays at a time. If the backups can keep things together when rotated in, the Bulls should be able to stop Cierre Wood and the Irish rushing attack.

ITI: Finish this sentence: USF will upset Notre Dame if …

Daniels is able to run wild.

ITI: Look in your crystal ball. What do you see happening on Saturday?

I think this will be a defensive struggle. USF has made a living going into hostile territory and pulling off rather substantial upsets. Its probably the eternal optimist in me, but I think USF wins with a Maikon Bonani field goal as time expires. Bulls win 17-14.

***
For more from Ken and all the guys at “the toughest blog in America,” check out VoodooFive.com. You can also follow Ken’s musings on Twitter. @SBNVoodooFive
  1. jerseyshorendfan1 - Aug 31, 2011 at 4:51 PM

    I think our D is talented and deep enough to set a pretty firm edge and contain Daniels. Let’s hope all their true freshmen and sophomores are awed by opening day on the big stage in South Bend on national TV and the result is some bad decision making on their part.

    • nickynardini1 - Sep 1, 2011 at 3:09 PM

      Agree, Art. I’m looking forward to seeing Diaco’s “force” in action.
      (Miss your pun – too obvious, given the team’s name? Glad to see you survived Irene.)

  2. oldestguard - Aug 31, 2011 at 5:45 PM

    So we’re not the only ones drinking high octane “juice” at this time of the year.

    I checked that crystal ball, I saw some quick strikes downfield by the Irish and the only upset I saw was on the face of the Bulls running off the field.

    • nickynardini1 - Sep 1, 2011 at 3:14 PM

      :-)

  3. bernhtp - Aug 31, 2011 at 6:03 PM

    It’s pretty brazen to say that “the defensive backs will hold their own against the wide receivers of Notre Dame.” I will like to see what Floyd has to say (on the field) about that. With that said, my bet is the Eiffert has a big day as USF needs to pick their poison and focuses elsewhere.

    • gtizzo - Sep 1, 2011 at 10:53 AM

      Pretty brazen is putting it lightly. USF will do what every team who plays the Irish this season will do key on Michael Floyd. It is a good bet he still scores 1 touchdown and catches 6 balls. Irish run the ball this game throw it to Riddick, Eiffert and a win is the end result. Brain Kelly dominated and destroyed the Big East at Cincy he isn’t about to lose to them at Notre Dame.

  4. smurphdoggy29 - Aug 31, 2011 at 7:22 PM

    Finally ! A breath of fresh air ! This guy called it as he sees it and was willing to stick to his guns, excellent !! I think USF will give us all we can handle, yet in the end the Irish will pull away……IF they start from the beginning !

  5. 808raiderinparadise - Aug 31, 2011 at 7:25 PM

    I think everyone is a little too confident. Tulsa and Navy beat us last year. This team has the notorious UPSET label all over them with the storyline of Skip Holtz. They have an athletic defense and their players have a lot of swag to them. ND has to play very well to win.

    • mcchef - Aug 31, 2011 at 8:40 PM

      I couldn’t agree more. Nothing would be more damaging to the Irish psyche than an opening season upset at South Bend and it seems the stage is set for just that. But at the same time, it really doesnt matter if the fans are overconfident. As long as the guys on the field have been trained to do their jobs properly and execute to their potential, we should be celebrating on saturday night.

      The one thing I continue to worry about is Crist. I mean, usually I worry about the defense. However after how they finished last year, I think we can bottle up USF’s offensive weapons. It’s their defensive speed I worry about. In the handful of games I have seen of theirs over the past few years, I am always impressed by their defensive speed. Crist didn’t do a whole lot to impress me last year and I fear in the opening game that the Bulls speed may create too many problems. I just hope that Coack Kelly’s assessment of how much Crist has improved is measurable and not just hopeful.

    • papadec - Sep 1, 2011 at 4:33 PM

      This isn’t last year.

  6. notherpoint - Aug 31, 2011 at 8:09 PM

    Ten point favorites

  7. notherpoint - Aug 31, 2011 at 8:10 PM

    Ten point favorites.

  8. kevvy1231 - Aug 31, 2011 at 9:47 PM

    Even with the ups and downs ND has been through lately, they don’t usually lose a home opener and they look strong enough to win by 10 points. ND won 8 games last year with tons of backups playing (and everyone in a new offense)…keep in mind they almost beat Michigan, Michigan State, and Tulsa. I’m not saying they were almost an 11-win team last year (that would be dumb) but if they play good offense and continue playing good defense, they’re probably better than any Big East team.

  9. gtizzo - Sep 1, 2011 at 6:36 PM

    The Irish defense isn’t doing anything it hasn’t done before. The template for beating South Florida is pretty much the same as the Miami game. They key match up is the USF guards and center against the middle of the Irish defensive line. The Irish will have 4 down lineman if ND can push in the middle or just hold the middle Manti Te’o should be free to move around. Te’o free spells doom for South Florida as they have no other way to block him. Running the ball will put the back in the hands of ND linebackers ready to crush him. Any defensive line penetration into the back field and USF is in for a very long day in South Bend. Safeties with play zone, and defensive backs will man up in he decides to throw. The plan couldn’t be simpler and the fact is we already know it works.

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