Developing the defense

The USF football team had its most successful season in program history in 2007.

The Bulls were ranked as high as No. 2 in the Bowl Championship Series rankings and made a trip to El Paso, Texas for the Brut Sun Bowl.

A key reason for all of the Bulls’ success was found on the defensive line.

Junior George Selvie had the most decorated individual season in USF’s short history. He was tied for the NCAA lead with 31.5 tackles for a loss and was second in the nation with 14.5 sacks.

He also became USF’s only consensus first-team All-American.

Now, the junior from Pine Forest High School — where he was recruited as a center, not a defensive end — is ready to improve upon the Bulls’ second consecutive nine-win season.

“I’m ready to get on the field and win,” Selvie said. “If we had to go today, or any day, I’d be ready to play.”

He’s not the only one who feels that way.

“George Selvie is always ready to play,” USF coach Jim Leavitt said. “He’s had an outstanding summer.”

USF defensive coordinator Wally Burnham is also happy with the progress Selvie has made since the Bulls’ 56-21 Sun Bowl loss last New Year’s Eve.

“George has looked and practiced like an All-American (this summer),” Burnham said. “He’s put in a lot of effort, and he’s been the most outstanding front-seven guy. He’s ready to play a football game.”

Selvie is going to need all of that extra practice. After such a breakout season in 2007, he can expect double and triple teams from the opposition.

“We’ve got to work some backup guys in order to build depth at defensive end,” Leavitt said. “We need to get better play out of the other end and the guys in the middle to help him out. George is going to get a lot of attention this year, and he knows that. We just need to get everybody ready.”

Selvie said he wants to make everybody around him better.

“My teammates make me better every day,” Selvie said. “They do the things that help me do my job, and I hope I can do the same for them. We’ve got other playmakers on defense that can take pressure off me. Right now, we’re really coming together on defense.”

And though a new season begins Friday, Selvie knows there will be comparisons to last year’s performance.

“It’s going to be hard to follow last season,” he said. “Right now, I’m just working hard and practicing hard trying to get myself ready for this season.”

Though his name is gaining more national recognition with every game USF plays, Selvie said he has a lot to accomplish. He also said that the accolades — such as being one of only two college football players in the state of Florida named to the Playboy All-American team — mean a lot, but he hasn’t accomplished all of his goals yet.

“He’s very humble and he understands how hard you have to work,” Leavitt said. “He stays on task, he stays on edge, and that’s really important. George wants to get better than he was last year, and by all signs, I think he’s doing everything he can to do that.”