By: Steven Lassan | 5/14/12, 4:50 PM EDT
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You can read the entire South Florida preview in Athlon Sports' 2012 National College Football magazine, available for purchase now at the Athlon Sports store.
#34 South Florida
Big East PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Skip Holtz, 13-12 (2 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Todd Fitch | DEF. COORDINATOR: Chris Cosh
Senior B.J. Daniels, entering his fourth season as South Florida’s starter, cut his interceptions in half in 2011. He made better decisions on when to throw and when to run. By all accounts, he’s poised to become perhaps the most statistically productive quarterback in school history. But Daniels knows his legacy is tied to the team’s overall success. And right now, following a 5–7 season that saw the Bulls miss a bowl game for the first time since 2004, he still has something to prove.
“B.J. has come a long way,” Bulls coach Skip Holtz says. “It’s great to have his experience. We need to rally around that.”
Daniels will have the best arsenal of pass-catchers since his freshman season. There’s the experience of junior Sterling Griffin, who had a team-high 43 catches despite missing the final four games with a broken foot. And there’s huge upside with sophomore Chris Dunkley, a transfer from Florida. Sophomore Andre Davis looks ready to emerge, and tight end is also a position of strength.
Following the early departure of leading rusher Darrell Scott, the running game will operate by committee. Demetris Murray is the obvious go-to guy, but look for senior receiver-turned-running back Lindsey Lamar to provide a speedy change of pace.
Three starters return on the offensive line. Coaches believe that sophomore Austin Reiter will fill in nicely at center.
New defensive coordinator Chris Cosh, who comes from Kansas State, is charged with finding ways to finish off games. Last season, the Bulls surrendered late, game-deciding drives in losses against Cincinnati, Rutgers, Miami and West Virginia.
The linebacker corps of senior Sam Barrington, senior Michael Lanaris and junior DeDe Lattimore will serve as the defense’s heartbeat. The secondary has established performers in senior cornerback Kayvon Webster, senior strong safety Jon Lejiste and junior free safety Mark Joyce, leaving the other cornerback spot open for competition.
Coaches worked feverishly to add depth to the defensive line depth . Junior end Ryne Giddins, who has the makings of a star if he displays more consistency, and senior tackle Cory Grissom are returning starters. Grissom suffered a broken ankle during spring drills but could be ready for the opener. Expect junior Tevin Mims, a junior college transfer who played one season at Texas, to make the biggest impact of all newcomers.
Senior placekicker Maikon Bonani has converted his share of memorable game-winning field goals, but he’s currently defined by last season’s 27-yard miss at the end of regulation that would have defeated Rutgers. Redshirt freshman Mattias Ciabatti will push senior Justin Brockhaus-Kann, the incumbent punter.
Heading into its eighth Big East football season, South Florida remains on the clock. The Bulls haven’t seriously contended for a conference championship.
For a change, no one is picking South Florida to win the Big East. Maybe the prognosticators don’t want to get fooled again by the Bulls. They have constantly teased throughout non-conference success, such as last season’s win at Notre Dame and a 4–0 start, only to fall flat during the Big East slate.
South Florida’s progress will be predicated on Daniels’ consistency, better third down production and defensive improvement, particularly in the fourth quarter. In other words, all the elements that generally help to win games (or lose them).