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Oracle insight: Selvie is No. 1

The USF football team, three months from its season opener against Wofford, will be looking to its best players to lead the team as it strives to avoid another mid-season Big East slump.

But who are these players?

On Monday, the Oracle counted down its picks for No.’s 6-10: No. 10, offensive guard Zach Hermann; No. 9, nose tackle Terrell McClain; No. 8, linebacker Kion Wilson; No. 7, wide receiver Dontavia Bogan and No. 6, running back Mike Ford.

Today, the countdown concludes:

No. 5 — Nate Allen, senior safety

With 25 starts under his belt, Nate Allen is the defensive backs leader despite posting average numbers during the 2008 season.

Allen is a game changer. He intercepted Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing’s pass to set up then-freshman kicker Maikon Bonani’s game-winner in a victory last fall over the Jayhawks and recovered a crucial fumble in 2007 during the Bulls’ upset over Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

The senior has amassed 131 tackles, five interceptions and two touchdowns in his
career and holds a USF record for fastest score after taking a fumble recovery for a touchdown on the opening kickoff against Louisville in 2007. 

However, Allen will have to work hard with new defensive coordinator Joe Tresey to bring USF back to the top-25 defense that the Bulls became used to under former coordinator Wally Burnham.

No 4 — Jerome Murphy, senior cornerback

Though USF had a tough time in pass defense last year, Jerome Murphy was a bright spot. Murphy enters the 2009 season coming off his best year statistically, totaling 67 tackles and two interceptions.

Murphy is a lockdown corner who coaches love. His size, athleticism and experience  make him a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. 

If he can keep improving his game, there’s a strong chance Murphy could be the next USF defensive back to go pro, following NFL players Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams.

No. 3 — Jessie Hester, senior wide receive

Hester has already been a record-setter for USF by pulling in a school-best 22 games with a reception, but the receiver also has four games in which he’s caught seven or more receptions.

Hester is explosive on offense, and has reeled in a total of 92 catches for 1,034 yards and seven touchdowns. If he stays consistent next year, he could end his USF career with more than 1,500 yards.

Hester’s father, Jessie Sr., was a college football star and a first-round pick by the Oakland Raiders in 1984, and Hester will spend the 2009 season trying to make his case as a legitimate prospect for NFL draft day.

No. 2 — Matt Grothe, senior quarterback

Matt Grothe is the face of the USF football program. He even has his own Web site: Grothe has compiled 10,282 yards and 70 touchdowns in only 38 starts, and is just 287 yards from breaking former West Virginia quarterback Pat White’s record for Big East all-time career total yards.

The Lakeland native has proven that he is among the best in the nation, but throwing 14 interceptions each season prevented him from taking the No. 1 spot in this countdown.

With Grothe’s improvement during the spring, he has the opportunity to leave his mark on the program with a Big East championship and USF’s first BCS bowl berth.

No. 1 — George Selvie, senior defensive end

George Selvie is the Bulls’ first two-time All-American in program history and also the nation’s leader in career tackles for a loss with 61. 

Selvie racked up a phenomenal 25.5 sacks and 186 tackles as a Bull and recovered a fumble for a touchdown as a freshman during USF’s stunning upset of West Virginia.

The Pensacola senior opted to return for his senior year to increase his draft status, and many experts predict him to be among the top six in the 2010 NFL draft.

Honorable Mention

Maikon Bonani, sophomore kicker

Bonani started his first collegiate game against Kansas after Delbert Alvarado went
1-for-4 in field goals the first two games last season. The freshman went on to kick the game-winner against Kansas and finished the season 15-for-21 in field goals with a long of 49 yards.

Carlton Mitchell, junior wide receiver

Carlton Mitchell had a great freshman year, pulling in 37 receptions for 537 yards and four touchdowns in 2007. However, his numbers greatly declined during the 2008 season, when he posted just 405 yards and one touchdown.

Jamar Taylor, junior running back

Taylor didn’t put up big stats his two years playing at USF. If he fully recovers from his shoulder surgery this spring, however, Taylor will be given a chance to prove that he is the best of the running backs.

B. J. Daniels, redshirt freshman quarterback

Though he only appeared in two games and went 4-for-5 with 89 yards, Daniels has shown he will replace Grothe after next season. Daniels demonstrated his potential during the spring football game April 11 by throwing for two scores and running for another.

Quenton Washington, sophomore cornerback

Washington appeared in 12 games, registered 15 tackles and blocked a punt in 2008. He also recorded two tackles and returned an interception for a 95-yard touchdown in the spring game.