The University of South Florida football program fell way down the college football ladder from 2011 to 2014. However, head coach Willie Taggart built up a respectable 8-5 squad in 2015. Multiple important players also return for the 2016 season.
Flowers, Mack, Adams round out USF offense
Junior quarterback Quinton Flowers turned the USF Bulls around in his season at the helm. Flowers became a nightmare for American Athletic Conference opponents. He compiled 3,281 yards and 34 total touchdowns for the Bulls.
Flowers rushed for a ridiculous 991 yards and 12 touchdowns with a stacked backfield. His biggest contribution to the team was his ability to protect the ball. He threw just eight interceptions on the season. An impressive number for a short 6 foot 210 pound quarterback.
His backfield mate, Marlon Mack, is an impressive player by himself. Mack rushed for his second 1,000-yard season in 2015. The two-year starter pounded defenses for 1,381 yards and eight touchdowns in 2015. The best thing about the Bulls run game was the return of both backups. Second string running back, D'Ernest Johnson, is a solid dual-threat back. Johnson had over 300 rushing and receiving yards in 2015 and could be a bigger factor in 2016.
Rodney Adams leads the way in the Bulls' receiving corp. He lead the team in almost every receiving category including a team-leading 44 catches for 816 yards and nine touchdowns. Sophomore wide out Chris Barr didn't necessarily set the world on fire. But he was third on the team in catches (23) as a freshman wide receiver.
The offensive line is the Bulls weakest point, but they are returning two seniors, Kofi Amichia and Dominique Threatt. If the Bulls can replace the three holes on offense then it could be agreat offensive season for the Bulls.
Young Bulls Anchor 4-2-5 Defense
USF lost about half of its major contributors on defense, but return a lot of young talents. On the defensive line, Deadrin Senat and Bruce Hector are the key returners for the D-Line. The two defensive tackles compiled 64 total tackles, 12.5 total tackles and five sacks.
The major piece that makes the Bulls go is middle linebacker Auggie Sanchez. Sanchez comes back as a two-year starter for USF. He led the team in tackles with 112 including and added nine tackles for loss. He's the only full-time starting linebacker coming back for the 2016 season.
But he won't be alone as Nigel Harris comes back as well. Harris has missed time because of a suspension last season. Harris has three solid seasons with the Bulls compiling 153 total tackles, 17.5 total tackles and 3.5 sacks.
The secondary is by far USF's best defensive unit. They return four out of the five defensive back spots including interceptions leader Deatrick Nichols. Nichols holds the back end together with 61 total tackles, nine sacks, four interceptions and one sack. The Bulls do lose all-purpose DB Jamie Byrd. Byrd packed the stat sheet with 85 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss, five sacks and three interceptions.
The American Athletic Conference returns conference champion Houston and a deep Temple squad. The road to a championship won't be easy, but they shouldn't be counted out.
(Video Courtesy of USF Athletics)