In 2016, we’ve penned in nine teams that will appear on our schedule more than one time. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages we’re hearing about as these teams practice for their upcoming intrasquad spring scrimmages. It’ll give us an idea of what the teams will be focusing on before we get to see them play in the fall.
South Florida (2 games) – HC Willie Taggart’s Bulls won seven of their last eight games last season before falling to Western Kentucky in the Miami Beach Bowl, 45-35, but with a young offense that averaged 37.9 points down that stretch, look for his stable of returnees to improve over last season’s 8-5 record and challenge for the American Athletic Conference East Division title. They started their turnaround after 1-3 start with a 45-24 victory over Syracuse, and that is who we plan to see them play on September 17 up at the Carrier Dome for what could be an offensive explosion for both programs. The one foible among those final eight games of 2015 was their game at Annapolis where we saw the Mids roll to a 29-17 victory.
Among the Bull’s key returnees is Junior QB Quinton Flowers who passed for 2,296 yards, 22 TDs, and eight INTs. He was also the second leading ground gainer on the team with 991 yards and twelve TDs. Leading the rushing attack was RB Marlon Mack who ran 210 times for 1,381 yards and eight TDs. Mack was not alone in the attack and the backfield looks well stocked with Darius Tice who ran for 460 yards and D’Ernest Johnson who ran for 307. He also snagged 26 passes out of the backfield for 356 yards and four TDs. Experience also returns at WR with Rodney Adams returning as last season’s leader with 45 grabs for 822 yards and nine TDs. Ryshene Bronson can also add more to this year’s game plan than his 17 receptions for 258 yards. Three offensive lineman moved on after their senior season of a year ago, so that’s where the offensive focus will be on development before next season’s opener at home against Towson. The experience of Taggart’s team may be enhanced with former NFL QB Shaun King hired this offseason as a new member of the coaching staff. We saw Hill play QB for Tulane against Army back in 1995.
Defensively, five of the Bulls’ six leading tacklers return led by LB Augie Sanchez who tallied 117 with 8.5 tackles for loss. DT Deadrin Senat is the only returning starter from among the front four. The returning secondary is very good. S Nate Godwin was third in tackles with 63. CB Deartick Nichols made 62 stops with 8.5 TFLs and recorded four INTs. Safety Devin Abraham was among the top tacklers and picked off three foe passes. Junior Emilio Nadelman returns to do the kicking chores converting on 15 of 23 last year with six from beyond 40. He may take over the punting duties this season as well.
The South Florida Bulls come back with lots of young talent at the skill positions. Some new linemen on both sides of the ball need to gain experience quickly. After Towson, the Bulls host Northern Illinois before they head up to Syracuse for their only non-conference game on the road that we will attend. They will return home to host Florida State before getting into the thick of the AAC competition for which they should be well prepared. We will see them come up to Philly on October 21 to meet Temple at the Linc in a key AAC East matchup. The Bulls surprised the Owls last season with a 44-23 win on their season-ending hot streak. Will it be a reversed situation this year with the Owls at home? The Bulls should be an exciting team to watch this season. We look forward to the two games we will see them compete in.
South Florida games we will see this season: Sept. 17 at Syracuse; Oct. 21, Friday night at Temple.
Spring game: April 16
Next up: UCONN