Selvie poised to make the leap

As quarterback Matt Grothe sees his name on several

national watch lists and has been mentioned as a possible Heisman Trophy candidate, another sophomore may provide more of an impact this season for the Bulls.

Defensive end George Selvie made an impression on the national scene during USF’s upset victory of then-ranked No. 7 West Virginia. During the contest, Selvie recorded eight tackles, including 3.5 for a loss, forced a fumble and scored a touchdown on a nine-yard

fumble recovery.

For his efforts, Selvie was named National Defensive and the Big East Player of the Week. The victory shined a spotlight on the Bulls program and has forced offensive coordinators to target No. 95.

“Teams will watch and prepare from last year because I did all right,” Selvie said. “We have senior leaders, a good pass rusher with (linebacker) Chris Robinson, and I think (our pass rush) will be real strong. No one in the nation will be able to stop us.”

With Selvie anchoring the defensive line, quarterback Matt Grothe has seen the difference during early season practices. Not only did last year’s team offensive MVP notice a difference in how effective the pass rush was, but also how dominant the defense has been.

“We’re going to have a really good front four. I don’t know if I’ve ever played against a tougher group,” Grothe said. “If we can do well against our defense then we can do well against any defense because they dominate everyone. Playing everyday against one of the best defenses in the nation has helped me out tremendously.”

During the offseason, Selvie has focused his training on improving his pass rush and creating even more havoc in the backfield.

Even though the second-year player feels he isn’t a leader, the coaching staff sees the other members of the defense responding to him.

“I just think he’s doing more – he led a little bit last year but he’s doing a little more of it. He’ll be a little more vocal probably,” coach Jim Leavitt said. “He is really a technician – he is going to work to improve everything. He’ll work very hard at it. He’s a great young man.”

Defensive coordinator Wally Burnham agrees.

“The biggest thing is he’s turned into a leader. He is the leader of our front four, there’s no doubt about it. He’s miles ahead that way,” Burnham said. “He’s really elevated his game. His technique has gotten better and his effort is getting better.”

Offensive guard Marc Dile practices with Selvie on a daily basis and has noticed the defense responding to his play. On the field, the 20-year-old is one of the best trash talkers.

“George is a little spark plug over there. Once he gets going he’ll have the whole defense going,” Dile said. “He stands out, not only by his talking, but also by making big plays. When the offense gets (a big play), of course we’re looking for George to get on him.”

During his first year on campus, Selvie shared a room with Grothe, and the two have developed a friendly rivalry on the practice field. Like Dile, Grothe seeks out Selvie whenever the offense gets the better of the defense.

“We get on each other once in awhile,” Grothe said. “I give George a hard time when we’re having a good day on offense. He doesn’t take defeat lightly so I let him know about it.”

Since joining the Bulls, Selvie has made drastic improvements. Originally he was brought in to be a center, but his size and speed were better suited for the defensive line.

After winning USF’s Overachiever Award for outstanding work in the team’s strength and conditioning program, Selvie was inserted into the starting lineup at right end. For the season, Selvie finished third on the team with 84 tackles and 15 tackles for a loss, including 5.5 sacks.

At the end of the season, Selvie was named a Football Writers Association of America/Scripps Freshman All-American, the first in team history.

Selvie was so dominant that on USF’s official athletics Web site, Selvie was the only non-linebacker listed in a poll asking, “Who will lead the Bulls in tackles in 2007?” He earned 10 percent of the vote, even though almost no defensive lineman leads his team in tackles.

Now fully adjusted to his role, Selvie is hoping to continue making strides.

“I made a lot of tackles but I didn’t get as many sacks as I wanted to,” Selvie said. “I want to make more plays and help keep the ball in Matt (Grothe’s) hands.”

In training camp, Selvie has specifically worked on his speed rush, spin moves and counters to offensive linemen.

The additional pass rushing moves, combined with his run -stopping ability, has Burnham praising him as “probably the most complete defensive end” he’s seen at USF in his eight

seasons.

Burnham believes last year was just the beginning for

Selvie.

“I expect him to be the sack leader in the Big East and make a lot of big plays – he’s a big-play guy,” Burnham said. “He could be an All-American and the Defensive Player of the Year in the Big East. There are a lot of things out there for him to accomplish. I think he’s going to accomplish some of those things.”

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