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America’s finest

Coaches from around the country are now seeing what USF defensive coordinator Wally Burnham saw months ago.

During summer practice sessions, Burnham said defensive end George Selvie had improved so much that he might be named an All-American during his sophomore year.

On Thursday, the American Football Coaches Association named Selvie and senior cornerback Mike Jenkins First Team All-Americans – as the only players in team history to do so since USF became a Division I program in 2001.

“It’s a tremendous accomplishment for those two kids and our football program. It shows we’re on the right track,” Burnham said. “That’s the second-best thing out there for them. I think the best thing would be (being) named All-Americans by other football players, which you don’t have. That’s the ultimate compliment, though – to be named by the coaches.”

The two are the only players from the Big East Conference or Florida to be selected.

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

“I’ve seen a lot of firsts here: first bowl game, first sellout crowd. I think it’s just great,” Selvie said. “The coaches actually watch us, scout us, do all that. So it’s a great honor to have the coaches around America do that for us.”

Selvie quickly proved there wouldn’t be a sophomore slump during the Bulls’ opener as he had six tackles for a loss, including four sacks, during the Bulls’ 28-13 victory over Elon.

The totals led the nation after the first week of play and Selvie never let anyone surpass him in tackles for a loss. He needs just one more during the Bulls’ finale in the Sun Bowl to break Western Michigan’s Jason Babin’s NCAA record of 32.

As USF defeated Florida Atlantic 35-23 in the fifth game of the season, Selvie’s first-quarter sack of Rusty Smith set a single-season record at 10.5. The 6-foot-4, 242-pound Selive ranks second nationally with 14.5 sacks this season.

“The numbers he put up were just fantastic. He surpassed the numbers I thought he could do, and it’s because he worked so hard,” Burnham said. “To be rewarded like that makes me, the coaching staff and his teammates so proud of him.”

Jenkins has become one of the true shut-down corners in the NCAA and is considered the top NFL prospect at the position.

Named to the preseason All-Big East Team, Jenkins had three interceptions and 12 pass breakups, despite the reluctance of opposing quarterbacks to throw to his side of the field.

“That is humbling,” Jenkins said.? “What an honor, to join George as the first All-Americans at this level for USF and to be the representatives for the Big East.?It is really beyond words.”

Kicker Bill Gramatica (AFCA First Team, AP Second Team) and punter Tony Umholtz (AP First Team) were All-Americans when USF played Division I-AA.? draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. lists Jenkins as the 11th best senior in the nation, and Jenkins is the only player in the secondary included in his top 15.

While Jenkins has made numerous plays during his four-year career, the one that sticks out most to Burnham happened this season against Cincinnati.

USF safety Nate Allen tripped and Bearcats receiver Antwuan Giddens was wide open and raced 63 yards for what looked to be an easy score.

Jenkins broke from the other side of the field and, despite a huge jump from Giddens, nearly prevented the score.

“It’s amazing, the closing speed he had to catch the guy. On film, it’s just such a beautiful thing to see; it’s one of the clips you show the younger guys,” Burnham said. “I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve been around a lot of good ones, but he’s the closest thing to Deion Sanders that I’ve been around. And that’s saying a lot.”

Burnham served as a linebackers’ coach at Florida State for nine seasons before joining the Bulls in 2000.

With the final game of his collegiate career scheduled for Dec. 31, Jenkins is in position to become the highest-drafted player in school history. Linebacker Kawika Mitchell was drafted 47th overall by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2003.

“I don’t think he’s even tapped what he can accomplish on the football field,” Burnham said. “When he gets to the next level and they work their techniques, he’s just going to get better and better. That’s pretty scary.”