Scott ‘most pleased’ with progress of O-line

Donovan Jennings has been a crucial cog in USF’s offensive line. Coach Jeff Scott said Tuesday that the line has been one of the best units of the team so far. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

In the span of a week, USF went from one of the top rushing programs in the nation in one game to failing to score at all in the next.

Of course, it also went from playing an FCS team at Raymond James Stadium to taking on a national championship-caliber opponent in its own home.

As a result, “consistency” isn’t what comes to mind when thinking about the aspects of USF’s team. 

However, the offensive line, often one of the weakest links last season, has impressed coach Jeff Scott the most so far.

“Probably the silver lining from the game this past weekend was when we turned on the video, I felt like our offensive line probably played the best out of all the position groups in the game,” he said Tuesday. “They gave us time and protected well.”

The line this season has been a ragtag mix of starters and backups. Against The Citadel, center Brad Cecil, left guard Demetris Harris and left tackle Donovan Jennings were listed as unavailable prior to the start of the game.

That left Joshua Blanchard, Jean Marcellus and Dustyn Hall to fill in at those positions. The line in that game worked, helping USF’s offense gain 404 total yards and limit The Citadel’s defense to three sacks.

Jennings returned against Notre Dame on Saturday, but Marcellus and Hall remained part of the starting lineup.

The line didn’t fare as well, as USF only sniffed the red zone once, but the O-line allowed the offense to gain 231 yards and gave up only two sacks to a significantly larger and better defense.

Not having starting guys in the offensive line isn’t ideal, but it provided a chance to evaluate the players who filled in for them. It also builds more experienced depth, Scott said.

“It’s been tough, obviously with having guys out, and we’re still kind of working through that, but I think at the end of the day, when we do get the guys that we’re returning starters back, then we’re gonna have eight or nine guys that we feel like can help us and have had experience in games,” Scott said.

Last season, USF gave up 45 sacks for 246 yards. The Bulls averaged almost four sacks allowed per game, and now it’s allowing 2.5 sacks a game.

Scott said he hasn’t noticed the old ways of the group and what stands out to him is the individual leadership.

It comes as no shock to him to see that the line is one of the best units on the team.

“I’m not surprised at all that those guys are playing well and that we see them as one of the best groups within our team,” he said.