Oracle Insight: midseason review, report card

With the season half over, it’s pretty clear where the Bulls have achieved consistency and where they need to improve.

To summarize where things stand as the Bulls get ready for their showdown at Cincinnati on Friday, the Oracle graded each position based on performance through six games.

Quarterback: It’s no secret redshirt sophomore quarterback B.J. Daniels has struggled. Perhaps some growing pains were expected as

Daniels is working with a first-year staff, but the level of quarterback play for USF this season has been worse than expected. Some thought Daniels was the best quarterback in the Big East coming into the season, but with a depleted receiving corps and Daniels still learning a new system, the passing game, which ranks last in the Big East with only 157 yards per game, has been the main reason for an 0-2 start to conference play.

Grade: D

Running back: Only senior Mo Plancher and sophomore Demetris Murray, when healthy, have seen significant carries. Plancher is averaging 58.7 yards per game, which ranks seventh in the Big East. Coach Skip Holtz said he wants to get freshman Marcus Shaw more involved, especially with Murray dealing with an ankle injury. Shaw is the fastest back on the team, but has played sparingly.

Grade: C

Receivers: Only senior Dontavia Bogan (24) and sophomore Evan Landi (13) have double digit catches through six games this season. Granted, two of USF’s top receivers coming into the season are still out with injury (A.J. Love and Sterling Griffin), leaving the Bulls with one of the more inexperienced units in the country.

Grade: D

Offensive line: The most experienced unit on the team has been the lone bright spot for the offense. Though the Bulls have given up 17 sacks as a unit, the line has opened up holes for the run game. The Bulls rank fourth in the Big East in rush yards per game, which isn’t bad considering opponents don’t have to worry about the Bulls’ passing game.

Grade: B-

Defensive line: There has been little drop off from last year, when the Bulls saw both of their top two defensive ends get drafted. Senior Craig Marshall is sixth in the conference with four sacks, and senior David Bedford has been steady, with others such as junior Patrick Hampton and redshirt freshman Ryne Giddins providing quality depth.Tackles Terrell McClain and Cory Grissom have played well, too.

Grade: A-

Linebackers: With sophomore Sam Barrington leading the way with 33 tackles, the Bulls have had steady play from defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Mark Snyder’s unit, which ranks third in the conference in both scoring and total defense. Freshman Dede Lattimore, second on the team with 30 tackles, is starting to assert himself on the outside, while veterans like seniors Sabbath Joseph and Jacquian Williams are athletic and can make plays.

Grade: B+

Secondary: Senior cornerback Mistral Raymond leads a unit that ranks second in the Big East in pass defense. While the Bulls have depth at cornerback, safeties Jon Lejiste and Jerrell Young have both held down their positions. Lejiste has three sacks, four tackles for loss and two forced fumbles from his strong safety position.

Grade: B+

Special teams: The Bulls have struggled with snaps and muffed punts early, but overall, special teams have been adequate. Sophomore kick returner Lindsey Lamar, who returned a kick 94 yards for a touchdown against Syracuse, ranks first in the Big East, averaging 32.4 yards per return. Sophomore kicker Maikon Bonani, who took over for a struggling Eric Schwartz, has made 5-of-6 field goals with a long of 47.

Grade: B-