USF football players to watch in 2015

Senior husky Jamie Byrd (2), a former Pasco High standout, was named the team’s defensive MVP after making a team-high 95 tackles last season. ORACLE FILE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

With new staff and scheme changes come new faces rising up to take starting jobs. USF returns 13 starters from its 2014 roster, but many positions and players have changed. Here are 10 players to watch for this season:

Quinton Flowers, quarterback: One of the biggest storylines coming into training camp was which quarterback would emerge as USF’s starter. Flowers rose to the occasion, edging out senior Steven Bench, and will enter his sophomore season as the starter. With the switch to a spread-style offense, Flowers has the necessary dual-threat skill set. Though he got little experience last season — attempting just 20 passes — his speed and throwing power could enable him to succeed. Flowers threw for 6,402 yards and rushed for just over 2,000 with 32 touchdowns during his high school career at Miami Jackson.

Rodney Adams, receiver: Adams transferred from Toledo prior in 2014 and contributed right away. Now a junior, Adams enters the season as Bulls’ top receiver. Adams caught 23 passes for 323 yards and two touchdowns as a sophomore including a 67-yard reception against Cincinnati. 

Marlon Mack, running back: Quickly becoming the face of the program, Mack established himself as the focal point of the offense after rushing for a freshman-record 1,041 yards and nine touchdowns last season. The sophomore looks to become only the second back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher in program history. Mack also broke records for touchdowns in a game (four) and is already fifth all-time at USF with four 100-yard games. Mack has said the new offense gives him more space to work with and will try to top his surprising freshman numbers this season.

Brynjar Gudmundsson, center: Gudmundsson was versatile on the offensive line last season, playing three different positions in his 12 starts. Gudmundsson bounced around from right tackle (nine starts) before moving to right guard (two starts) before finishing the season at left guard. Now he will start his senior year at center after the departure of former Bull Austin Reiter. As injuries arise, Gudmundsson is a player that can be shifted around again to fill the holes.

Sean Price, tight end: A former five-star recruit, USF has seen little of Price’s high-school flash since arriving on campus. Price has caught only one touchdown in his career and topped his career high in yardage against Western Carolina with 68 yards. The senior enters his final year after starting only nine games last season and amassing only 207 yards on 14 catches. Price has teammates nipping at his heels in senior Marlon Pope as well as freshmen Elkanah Dillion and Mitchell Wilcox. Price will need to step up to retain his Mackey-Award-watch-list status. 

Deadrin Senat, defensive tackle: Filling the void left by Todd Chandler, Senat is in familiar territory. When Chandler missed the Bulls’ matchup with Wisconsin last season, Senat filled in admirably posting two tackles and helping to keep Heisman Trophy candidate Melvin Gordon in check for most of the first half. Senat finished the year with 18 total tackles including six in the comeback win over Tulsa. At 6-foot-1 and 300 pounds, the sophomore defensive tackle is the anchor in USF’s new 4-2-5 scheme and will look to plug up the middle and assist in run defense.

Eric Lee, defensive end: After a solid 2014 campaign at defensive end where he posted a career-high 28 tackles (six for a loss), Lee returns as USF’s best pass rusher. Lee recorded a tackle for loss in seven games last season. Lee has added 15 pounds this offseason and looks to be a force on the outside for USF.

Jamie Byrd, husky: At safety last season, Byrd recorded a team-high 95 tackles and was named team Defensive MVP in just his first year at USF after transferring from Iowa Community College. Byrd will play the newly-created husky position, which allows him to prowl closer to the line of scrimmage and be more included in the play. Byrd forced three turnovers last season and with the nickname “Angry Bryd”, was dubbed USF’s hardest hitter.

Auggie Sanchez, middle linebacker: Sanchez has quietly become USF’s leader on defense. Only a sophomore, Sanchez is the signal-caller and leader at middle linebacker and has the stats to backup why. Sanchez recorded 65 tackles (two for a loss) and returned a fumble 21 yards for a score against Maryland. Originally a fullback, Sanchez has found his niche at linebacker.