With the returning talents of Ryne Giddins and Cory Grissom on the defensive line, and Sam Barrington, Mike Lanaris and DeDe Lattimore in the linebacking core, along with the addition of defensive coordinator Chris Cosh from Kansas State, the USF Bulls are forming their 2012 defense on the basis of one word:
“We have the ingredients there, and we saw it over the summer, with the passion and intensity,” Cosh said. “You’re seeing it on the field, and we have to get more consistency and get that togetherness on defense.”
Coaches are not alone in preaching the importance of team chemistry. Senior leader Sam Barrington, who
has moved back to his initial position of middle linebacker, echoed his new defensive coordinator’s sentiments.
“This season is all about togetherness, you have to bring guys together and trust each other, which is what we’re trying to do this summer,” Barrington said. “You have to know that the next linebacker is going to fill the next gap and be able to trust your teammates.”
Along with team unity, the Bulls will be looking for leadership from their defensive heavyweights, including Giddins and Grissom. Giddins, who was named to the 2012 Lombardi Award Watch List after a sophomore season that saw him make the allconference second team on the strength of 44 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss, turned heads over the summer.
“I definitely think he is ready to break out, he’s not just a guy who talks about it, he does it on the field. I think he’s on the brink of a big year,” Barrington said.Coach Skip Holtz said he has noticed Giddins’s improved work ethic and energy over all else.
“I think he’s right there. Ryne Giddins has always been incredibly talented, and I think when he first got here he was playing really well on third down. Now, he’s been probably the most energetic guy on this team,” Holtz said. “He always was great and played great, but it was the plays that he took off that prevented him
from being even better. Right now, I couldn’t be more pleased with his motor and energy.”
The Bulls’ linebacking corps has been aided by the play of Reshard Cleitt, whose increase in playing time has allowed Barrington to move back to his original spot of middle linebacker. Joining Cleitt and
Barrington are Lanaris and Lattimore, who combined for 181 tackles and eight sacks last season.
“We’re trying to create the depth a little bit,” Cosh said. “So getting Reshard out there is big. With Reshard in there gives you the depth and continuity you’re looking for.”
The strength of the Bulls’ defense looks to be its front seven, a defensive front that has done enough to impress its head coach.
“I like our defensive front, with the way that they move and the athleticism they have, they are really playing well right now,” Holtz said. “I like the play of Barrington, Lanaris, Reshard is kind of growing up, I’m seeing an awful lot of positive things from our defense.”
With a mantra of togetherness and a bevy of returning stars, the USF defense has an aura of excitement and energy for what could be ahead in the 2012 season. An aura that has bled over to the raucous fan base, which is expecting big things from this year’s campaign.
“Well, it’ll either be on the mantle or on their dartboards,” Holtz said, referring to photos he signed for fans who created a line of over 90 yards for the coach at USF Fan Fest 2012.
“It will depend on how this season goes.”