In the mean time, I'll try to lend some excitement to this Saturday by unveiling the #25 team in my preseason top 25. Each day I'll reveal another team in the countdown until we eventually reach my projected national champion (I hope he doesn't pick Georgia like everybody else).
Without further ado, let the countdown begin:
#25 SOUTH FLORIDA
The Bulls return everybody on offense (10 starters and most key backups), but the only name that matters is Matt Grothe. The plucky junior quarterback carries the load in the spread offense, and paced the team in both passing (2,670 yds, 14 td) and rushing (872 yds, 10 td) in '07. He'll be forced to do more of the same in '08 because once again the Bulls feature very few gamebreakers elsewhere. Sophomore running back Mike Ford brings the hype of being an Alabama signee out of high school, but the 6'2" 225 pounder hasn't showed the flash - yet.
The offense puts up big numbers (almost 35 points per game), bug I'm not sure they are as productive as they seem in the stat book because Grothe often goes above and beyond the call of duty to elevate the offense despite his physical limitations. This can lead to stalled drives against more talented defenses, which is what we saw down the stretch.
Any talk of the USF defense starts up front with freaky defensive end George Selvie. The junior paced the Big East in '07 with 14.5 sacks and 31.5 tackles for loss and generally terrorized opposing offensive tackles with his speed and athleticism. It doesn't end there though. Despite the loss of Ben Moffitt, the linebacking corps still appears it will be a strength - as it has been ever since Leavitt started this program ten years ago. Leading tackler Tyrone McKenzie is back, as is Brouce Mompremier. Chances are juco transfer Kion Wilson won't let anybody down in the middle.
One big question mark though is in the secondary where the Bulls lose standout cornerbacks Trae Williams and Mike Jenkins. The NFL draft picks combined for 9 interceptions and 23 passed deflected in 2007 and won't be easy to replace. Another loss that will affect the defense (despite the fact it didn't make any headlines) is that of defensive line coach Dan McCarney. The former Iowa State coach did a great job in 2007 developing George Selvie and was rewarded by taking over the same position at Florida.
LB Brouce Mompremier. He's a rising star that will step out from Moffitt's shadow.