Last season USF stumbled to a 2-10 finish, winding up in eighth place in the AAC. While the Bulls defense was not outstanding last season, it was the offense, ranked 120th out of 123 FBS schools in scoring, which made it difficult for them to compete.
Though USF’s defense was the best unit on the field for the team last season, defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan wanted to switch up the team’s defensive schemes.
Bresnahan is implementing a subtle shift in defensive fronts, going from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4. In a 4-3, four defensive linemen go head-on against the offensive line while three linebackers sit back in coverage and occasionally blitz. In the 3-4, only three defensive linemen are on the line of scrimmage, allowing the defense to use an extra linebacker to send on a blitz or stack the zone coverage.
Senior nose tackle Todd Chandler said he believes the addition of the 3-4 will allow the defense to use its speed to an advantage.
“It just gave us a lot more outlets,” Chandler said. “It gives more of our guys a chance to get on the field and use their assets. It gives Reshard Cliett and Tashon Whitehurst a chance to rush off the edge and use their speed to an advantage to help this defense.”
Cliett agrees the 3-4 will allow him to be a more versatile player and said the scheme adds another layer to an already competent defense.
“I think we’re picking it up pretty well,” Cliett said. “At first it was rough getting into it, but I feel that we will have so many variations that it will be unstoppable.”
USF began working on the transition to the 3-4 defense early in the spring and throughout camp. Players such as Cliett admitted the switch was difficult at first, but Bresnahan still plans to use the 4-3 defense at times due to the team’s success with it last season.
“There’s a learning curve to it,” Bresnahan said. “But there’s so much carry-over from last year that you won’t see a ton of differences, but you will see subtle differences such as personnel on the field. What we’re doing and the style of defense that we started to really emphasize mid-way through last season, you’re going to see a lot of carry-over from that.”
Senior defensive lineman Elkino Watson said he thinks the Bulls will have more success attacking the quarterback this season with the 3-4 scheme.
“Some of the changes the fans can see is a lot more of us getting to the quarterback, a lot of twists and pressure added to the quarterback,” Watson said.
Bresnahan’s idea to add the 3-4 defense to the playbook this season stemmed from one of coach Willie Taggart’s often-emphasized ideals.
“Ever since I got here, coach Taggart has put an emphasis on getting the best 11 guys on the field, and getting a good mix of the 3-4 gets more athletes on the field and gives us more versatility,” Bresnahan said. “I’m excited about where we’re at because of the number of athletes we have. It’s a work in progress, but it’s headed in the right direction.”
The addition of the 3-4 scheme isn’t rewriting the playbook for the Bulls, but if all goes to plan, USF fans could see more quarterback hits and something they are yearning for — wins.