USF will see some familiar faces Saturday as they enter Raymond James Stadium to face the No. 15 Miami that looks to push its 3-0 start to the season to four.
The Hurricanes and Bulls have met before, Miami leading the series between the teams 4-1, but that’s not why they’re familiar.
The Bulls (0-3) have 12 players on their roster hailing from the Miami area, including junior defensive tackles Todd Chandler and Elkino Watson.
Freshman cornerback, and arguably the biggest recruit in USF’s offseason, Lamar Robbins is fresh out of Miami Southridge Senior High School. Having a good chunk of the roster from the area, Chandler said it’s important to not get caught up in the hype.
“I’m trying to look at every game the same, but being from Miami this is a big game,” Chandler said. “Just to play a lot of guys I know and that I was with on a day to day basis.”
Watson, like Chandler, grew up a Miami fan and found more of a home in USF.
“I was always a Miami fan,” Watson said. “I sort of broke all the Miami fans’ hearts when I came to USF, but I feel like this is my home and this is what I love now.”
Chandler, Watson and the defense currently boast the No. 9-ranked passing defense heading into Saturday’s matchup against what USF defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan calls an “explosive offense.”
Bresnahan said he looks at the Hurricanes as a “real test” for the Bulls, who have been preparing for Miami’s explosive style of play, adding that they’ve been making progress from week to week.
“From 11 explosive plays (allowed) against McNeese State, to four against Michigan State, to one against FAU, the improvements continue to go and now we play a team who lives off the explosive play.” Bresnahan said.
Watson also said he recognizes the need to cut down on big plays from Miami based on film. Succeeding in that, he said, could result in an upset in USF’s favor.
“Every game (Miami) has at least seven big plays,” Watson said. “If we can limit that, we can have a pretty good shot at winning this game.”
Redshirt junior Reshard Cliett will help add to that defensive effort. After sitting out in last week’s loss to Florida Atlantic due to a shoulder injury during Week 2 at Michigan State, Cliett is expected to play this week and is back in practice.
With Saturday’s in-state matchup being televised on ESPNU against a Top 25 team, the spotlight will certainly be on, but as Chandler said, the ride to Raymond James will be “a business trip.”