South Florida Bulls
Head coach: Willie Taggart
2014 Record: 4-8; 3-5 AAC
2014 Bowl: N/A
2015 Returning Starters: 5 offense, 3 defense
Odds to win 2016 CFB Championship: +990000
Odds to win 2015 AAC Title: +5500
Regular Season Wins: Over 4 (+125), Under 4 (-145)
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With QB Mike White transferring to EKU, the South Florida Bulls are searching for answers and seeking to implement a more spread out offensive scheme in 2015.
Mike White transferring threw South Florida Bulls coach Willie Taggart for a loop. The Bulls have been said to be working the transfer QB market, but for the time being the team prepares to be set to go with Quinton Flowers.
Flowers is a quick decision maker and has an accurate arm, but he does not necessarily have a lock on the job. Senior Steven Bench will factor into the picture, but his mistakes in the past cast doubts as to whether he would actually be a better option than Flowers.
Taggart has used five different starting QBs in two seasons, so if Flowers could be a consistent answer that would be a start towards building some more offensive stability. At any rate, the Bulls will rely most heavily on its number one back, Marlon Mack who won AAC Rookie of the Year last year. He rushed for 1,041 yards and nine TDs while going for 275 yards in his debut. He’s great in the open field, quick, and he’s great at reading blocks and hitting holes. Truly, he could carry the offense.
At WR, there are chances for standouts: Junior Rodney Adams has a lot of experience and sophomore Ryeshene Bronson has oodles of potential. Senior TE Sean Price is a former four-star recruit who really has one last chance to show he’s worth his salt, maybe he does. The OL has holes to be filled, most especially at center where three-year starter Austin Reiter is gone.
The quick offensive pace will also require frequent rotations and top-flight conditioning, so the Bulls are counting on a lot from an inexperienced OL. It really only needs to be “decent” to allow Mack to thrive, but Flowers will benefit if the line can create pockets long enough to allow him to make good decisions.
Defensively the Bulls were No. 69 last year and allowed 589 yards or more twice. Ole Miss LB coach Tom Allen takes over as coordinator and he’s putting in a 4-2-5 formation that will transform the LB into a hybrid position. It should counter spread offenses far better. The Bulls also have some playmakers at LB in Nigel Harris and Tashon Whitehurst. Whitehorse had 19 tackles in the spring game and sophomore LB Auggie Sanchez is a workhorse in his own right. Freshman LB Jimmy Bayes should be in for a big year, too.
DB is a strength, as well. Jamie Byrd and Tajee Fullwood will be stars and sophomore CB Devin Abraham has a lot of potential to be a major player in the secondary. The Bulls need better pass rushing up front, though, and Eric Lee is the best DE. Derrick Calloway and Deadrin Senat are expected to lead the interior and Calloway was a major recruit.
The Bulls have one of the nation’s best punters in Mattias Ciabatti. He averaged 44.4 yards per punt with 18 kicks of 50-plus yards and 22 downed inside the 20. Sophomore Emilio Nadelman will be the placekicker trying to replace Marvin Kloss. D’Ernest Johnson and Hassan Childs will return kicks and punts.
The Bulls really need a bigger season than possible, or Taggart does, to be real. He’s 6-18 with South Florida and the program hasn’t made a bowl the last four years. He’s changed the offense a lot, as what has been employed simply wasn’t working. But that doesn’t ensure that the more spread offense will work, just that it has higher payouts if it does. Mack will keep this team competitive, and the defense isn’t bad.
Taggart really needs this team to bust a .500 season at least to save his job probably, but with an O/U of just ‘4’ wins at 5dimes, that seems unlikely. This team is also a Mack injury from having no firepower at all, which has to be at least a little scary for Taggart and even the fanbase.
Prediction: 4 wins