While Bulls fans are focusing on a 0-2 start to the season, an offense that has been outscored 74-27 and the troubles of the quarterback position, there are some overlooked position-related positives that USF needs to build on and negatives that they need to improve on.
Shaw steps up
After waiting three years, senior running back Marcus Shaw was given the opportunity to start and has made the most of it through two games. The shifty runner is three yards shy of breaking his season best of 248 rushing yards last season with a 6.8 yard per carry average. Shaw has been the standout offensive performer in USF coach Willie Taggart’s inaugural season and gained 94 yards against a stout Michigan State defense which features six players on the preseason NCAA award watch lists.
Tight ends neglected
The Bulls use two tight ends in their starting lineup, with redshirt junior Mike McFarland and sophomore Sean Price, but the duo have been underutilized with only three catches for 33 yards in two games. Both players were pegged as premier talents coming out of high school. McFarland was ranked 12th and Price was ranked fourth in the nation at the tight end position in their respective graduating classes. Taggart’s offenses have always featured the tight end heavily, with Jack Doyle leading the team in receiving during Taggart’s last two years at WKU.
Since his arrival at USF, redshirt sophomore Aaron Lynch’s name has been tossed around by Bulls fans and players alike.
Lynch, as the highly touted transfer from Notre Dame, became a Bull after a successful freshman season that resulted in a projected first round grade in the NFL draft in some mock drafts.
Apart from the hype surrounding Taggart, Lynch was the center of much excitement for several months prior to football season.
In one year with the Irish, Lynch earned a spot on the freshmen All-American team. The No. 19 jersey was seen causing trouble in the offensive backfield as Lynch totaled 5.5 sacks and seven tackles for a loss that season, and led the Irish in quarterback pressures with 14.
Though he only has two games under his belt as a Bull, Lynch hasn’t made his presence felt as much as many had expected.
So far, the 6-foot-6 Lynch hasn’t tailed a sack or tackle for a loss after two games. He has one hit on the quarterback and has three tackles and two assisted tackles.
It can be argued that Lynch has been drawing two blockers on some plays, but he will need to start making an impact similar to his time with Notre Dame if the USF defense hopes to
The past two games may have not been the best defensive showing USF has put on, but if one thing can be said on the defense’s behalf, it’s that linebackers DeDe Lattimore and Reshard Cliett have set the tone on that side of the ball, as one of the few bright spots for the Bulls this season.
It was clear from game one against McNeese State that Cliett would be a name that USF fans will hear a lot of this season, after leading the team with eight tackles — two for a loss, and a few thundering hits on ball-carriers.
Lattimore added six tackles in game one, and in game two against Michigan State, he set a new career-high with 15 tackles, along with a tackle for loss, a pass break up and quarterback hit, while Cliett was tied for second on the team with seven tackles.
If the defensive secondary and defensive line match the play and demeanor of Cliett and Lattimore, the Bulls’ defense can be the foundation of possible success in Taggart’s first year.