QB Matt Grothe

2007 Statistics

Coach: Jim Leavitt
79-47, 11 years
2007 Record: 9-4
ELON WON 28-13
at Auburn WON 26-23 (OT)
at Florida Atlantic WON 35-23
UCF WON 64-12
at Rutgers LOST 27-30
at Connecticut LOST 15-22
at Syracuse WON 41-10
at Pittsburgh WON 48-37
Oregon LOST 21-56

2007 Final Rankings
AP-35, Coaches-35, BCS-21

2008 Outlook

No team exemplified the topsy-turvy college football landscape of 2007 better than South Florida. The Bulls climbed the ranks after beating powerhouse Auburn (away) and then dismantling the powerful No.5 Mountaineers in Tampa for the second straight year. They then soared to No.2 (AP and BCS), but like so many No.1 and/or No.2 teams last year, they lost their status quickly and permanently (the top two lost a combined total of 10 times, an all-time record). Getting (close) to the top was easy; holding their vaunted spot and handling the pressures that accompany it wasn’t…never are. The three-loss skid that ensued was tragic, for they were by a combined 15 points against teams – with all due respect to each of the bowl-quality squads - that seemed the lesser(s) entering the games. But you can bet that as sure as head coach Jim Leavitt helped South Florida become the fastest school in the modern era to make it into the top 10 (eight years at I-A level), he will have his guys much more prepared to deal with success. It will come again this year, just maybe not with such high rankings.

Matt Grothe is the blood-and-guts of the offense, his “Grothe-hawk” haircut making him the national poster boy for the Bull’s surge. Like many, we feel it would be wise to expand the RB role, allowing their stable of backs to absorb the abuse in USF’s one-back sets. But the offense is built upon a true spread approach, made for opening lanes so Grothe can exploit over-pursuing and out-of-position defenders as he reads a play’s progression. It works like a charm against big, athletic teams that rely on individual talent as much as sharing responsibility. Foes will constantly be seen shaking their heads as Grothe breaks their arm tackles when they are a half step out of position. Mike Ford could handle more of a load, and sharing the spot via RB-by-committee would also save their leader from unnecessary lumps. The line quietly handles all of the lateral development with ease, and Grothe knows the OL well enough to instinctually wait for them to clear his way. It works nicely.

The defense sees good, new faces at MLB, making Moffitt’s exit seem to have little-to-no impact on paper. OLB McKenzie is just as dominating, with other stanchions like All-American Selvie and DT Harris to keep any one player from needing to carry this D by himself. Expect the strong run-stuffing to continue; thus, we are sure many opponents will attack the new starting corners to see if the (short) pass can initiate and grease their track downfield. The All-Conference-caliber safeties shouldn’t need to be employed in two-deeps that often, allowing Allen and Williams to help out wherever else needed.

Character issues are the most important items needing a tweak…but not the usual modern-day trouble of legal issues or disciplinary actions due to stupidity. We are talking about the collapse from grace, especially defensively, and how it was (is being) handled. No team broke the 30-point barrier until Rutgers, and then the floodgates opened so that a total of four of their last seven foes went to 30 or higher on the Bulls D (three were losses). The last two games saw 93 total points let in (56 by Oregon in that embarrassing Sun Bowl loss), nearly a third of their 304 total points allowed in all of 2007. Leavitt has done an outstanding job at the “fourth” Florida university (in the football pecking order), but now he has to deal with the psychological dilemmas that come with such success. We feel he will get them to bounce back nicely, achieving by motivating his guys beyond just X’s and O’s. USF was 15 points from winning its three regular season losses and playing for the national title, a “carrot” Leavitt and his staff will utilize to have USF back near (or at) the top of the Big East soon.

The games against non-conference foes Kansas (preseason No.8) and defensive stalwart N.C. State will be the barometer to see whether the D has rebounded and the offense can hum when needed. Another early run would set up a similar scenario of USF quickly climbing the polls. The payback circuit – Cincy, Rutgers and UConn, all in a row – is sandwiched between away games with powerhouses Louisville and the season-ender at WVU, so the work South Florida has to do to stay in the top 25 is well laid out. With 2007’s prototype to build upon, the Bulls again become a “wild card”, if you will, a team that has a wide range of final results. The Bulls are good enough to make another conference title shot, and if they can handle all of the accolades this time around, the BCS is not out of consideration if all their major components stay healthy. This is a great team to watch, an underdog (still) that many have adopted as their “David” in the college football world of “Goliaths”. Get those pebbles and that slingshot, jack ‘em up, and let’s play some football…

Projected 2008 record: 9-3
LB Tyrone McKenzie
QB - 4 DL - 4
RB - 3.5 LB - 3.5
WR - 4 DB - 3.5
OL - 3.5 ..
2007 Statistical Rankings
Total Off:
Sacks Allow:
Total Def:

Passing: Matt Grothe, 232-392-14, 2670 yds., 14 TD

Rushing: Matt Grothe, 198 att., 872 yds., 10 TD

Receiving: Carlton Mitchell, 37 rec., 537 yds., 4 TD

Scoring: Delbert Alvarado, 19-29 FG, 52-53 PAT, 109 pts.

Punting: Delbert Alvarado, 58 punts, 41.6 avg.

Kicking: Delbert Alvarado, 19-29 FG, 52-53 PAT, 109 pts.

Tackles: Tyrone McKenzie, 121 tot., 78 solo

Sacks: George Selvie, 14.5 sacks

Interceptions: Nate Allen, 4 for 44 yds., 1 TD

Kickoff Returns: Jerome Murphy, 23 ret., 24.3 avg., 0 TD

Punt Returns: Marcus Edwards, 31 ret., 7.5 avg., 0 TD


OFFENSE: Amarri Jackson-WR, Jared Carnes-OT, Walt Walker-OT
DEFENSE: Woody George-DE, Richard Clebert-NT, Allen Cray-DT, Ben Moffitt-MLB, Trae Williams-CB, Mike Jenkins-CB

For the past two years, offense in Tampa means Matt Grothe. No one more defines the loosely used term “gamer” than the Lakeland product. He makes decisions on the fly as well as anyone and has led the team in rushing as well as passing for two straight years. Grothe’s guts and determination – these qualities alone won the Auburn game yet lost the crazy battle with Cincy – make him feared by defensive coordinators. His ground speed is deceptive, for his first three or four steps are sly and allow him to make moves as he accelerates, and then he’s at the back line of a defense very quickly. Grothe’s arm is steady and tempered. But he needs to make better downfield reads since he has thrown 14 INTs in each of the last two years…no improvements this way will again mean too many unacceptable losses. Straight up – in three of USF’s four losses, the junior threw more than one INT (which he did only four total times all year…see the connection?) Simply put, wins come when he throws one pick or less in a game. Besides that one area needing attention, his leadership skills – mostly by gritty example – get 11 guys to play together like a well-oiled machine. Statistical rankings be damned; this kid can get his guys to move the ball as well as any team in the country when they are “on”. Backup Grant Gregory (also the coordinator’s son) is a senior who is just as dangerous as Grothe, but less developed.

Behind the QB, five-star true soph tough guy Mike Ford might just emerge as the feature back to save Grothe the undue wear-and-tear. He set the state record in prep (2,836 in 2004 as a junior at Sarasota H.S.), and he really shaped up in the off-season (jokes about how he “lost his gut”), which in turn has improved his speed even more. Ben Williams, the incumbent who still got over100 carries, weighs 25 lbs. less than Ford, but at 200, he still can put a lick on anyone between the tackles (team best in squat max at 620 lbs. and T-4th in bench max). All of that talent will distract foes for when Aston Samuels finally does his thing. Samuels is smaller, but his 2.2% body fat and 38” vertical leap are why he averaged eight per carry in his few tries.

The WRs return four of the five guys who had over 20 catches. Carlton Mitchell led the team in catches as a true frosh, so his 6’4 frame with a year under the belt means a starting designation and a breakout year. Jessie Hester, Jr. also soared as an underclassman, while Edwards and Johnson are the “old men”, seniors who stay home underneath the coverage more often. In the spread that opens up running lanes, multiple receivers are employed and all need to be well covered, or else. Quick TE Cedric Hill is essentially a large receiver who also has the strength to block, when needed. It all works under the guidance of the elder (Greg) Gregory, an Army guy who has his troops ready for battle against the toughest of opponents.

The line sees four of five starters back, but the Bulls might just shuffle things a bit to fill in the blank (at right tackle). The possibility of moving Ryan Schmidt to tackle would not make sophomore Jacob Sims happy after Sims played his way into position to take the spot over. But if the move of Schmidt would allow Matt Huners to get his due as a senior (at LG), complimenting the emerging Zach Hermann and senior center Jake Griffin nicely inside. Miami’s Marc Dile is solid at left tackle, so this line is composed of three (possibly four) seniors and the rest look to be underclassmen…ample rotations are due to get the newbies ready for the mass exodus that will leave 2009’s OL depleted. If this team can keep using Grothe to freeze LBs, this year should be one where we see the other ball-handling Bulls getting more production This will allow the fewer times Grothe runs with the rock to be even bigger gains.

This is an improvising offense, one that lost in 2007 every time (but one) when they failed to get more than 27 points…and their 36% third-down conversion rate caught up with them in those losses too. When this offense is consistent, it makes this team seem unbeatable, and so many returning starters mean an even better showing this year.


OG Ryan Schmidt


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Matt Grothe-Jr (6-0, 213) Grant Gregory-Sr (6-1, 205)
RB Benjamin Williams-Sr (5-7, 200) Mike Ford-Fr (6-2, 225)
Jamar Taylor-So (5-9, 205)
WR Carlton Mitchell-So (6-4, 210) A.J. Love-Fr (6-3, 196)
WR Taurus Johnson-Sr (6-1, 204) Jessie Hester-Jr (6-0, 174)
WR Marcus Edwards-Sr (5-11, 164) Dontavia Bogan-So (6-1, 180)
TE Cedric Hill-Sr (6-3, 230) Ben Busbee-Jr (6-3, 242)
OT Marc Dile-Sr (6-4, 309) Damien Edwards-Fr (6-4, 320)
OG Ryan Schmidt-Sr (6-4, 327) Matt Huners-Sr (6-3, 305)
C Jake Griffin-Sr (6-4, 307) Mike McGowan-Fr (6-5, 260)
OG Zach Hermann-So (6-3, 313) Joe Herzhauser-So (6-4, 263)
OT Jacob Sims-So (6-5, 290) Mark Popek-Fr (6-7, 310)
K Delbert Alvarado-Jr (6-0, 196) Justin Teachey-Sr (5-11, 176)



The defense only had a few aberrations, but one of them (Cincinnati) meant a loss. Points given up obviously lead to losses, but this defense was good enough to bail the offense out and didn’t need the same courtesy more than that one time. Ninth-year coordinator Wally Burnham knows how to get his guys motivated. His tactics seem to have been over-applied to senior All-American DE George Selvie, the nation’s leader in tackles-for-loss (32.5) and the second-best in sacks (14.5). This ex-OG was barely recruited by anyone else, so the wealth of his presence becomes a special piece of the USF puzzle. Classmate Jarriett Buie needs to have a better year with Selvie demanding double-teams constantly. Seldom-used Matt Aycox is a true end, but mobile Aaron Harris can move over to the five-gap (or higher) in case of injuries on the outside. Harris’ role could depend on whether incoming four-star prospect David Bedford can have any impact. Inside, Terrell McClain really impressed as a true freshman, just another example of Leavitt knowing his talent and capacitating/employing it right away. McClain (as well as backup Sampson Genus) is a wide body that can do a lot with his high-revving motor. This line rushes the passer responsibly, guarding the running lanes as they push forward.

Finding the replacement for Moffitt at MLB will be priority one. Alonzo McQueen, a physically gifted over-achiever, will do everything in his power to keep Tyrone McKenzie from having to move inside. But first, he will have to fend off JUCO-transfer Kion Wilson. A weight room giant, McKenzie (NC.net Preseason All-American) came in from Iowa State and led the team in tackles, an impressive fact knowing he comes out on pass plays for a nickel back. Senior Brouce Mompremier quietly holds his own at WILL, able to go out into coverage with great effect on opponent’s underneath passing. Sabbath Joseph and Chris Robinson are quality backups, but behind them, it is a limited ‘who’s who’ of unknown and undeveloped talent. Injuries to the LB corps could devastate the defensive effort.

The DBs lose both corners, both worthy of being a first round NFL draftee, a change that will hurt early. But Jerome Murphy is ready for more responsibility after impressing coaches with his off-season workouts and big-play prevention as the top Bull nickel back last season. Tyller Roberts’ jumping ability, and his 6’1 frame, make him a possible shutdown corner if he can handle the role. Douglas and Washington look like quality backups, but the search for a nickel will be an open competition with so much speed in the coffers. Luckily, both safeties return. Senior Carlton Williams will have to keep an eye on the newbies, a tough task when Kansas comes to town (Sept. 12th) but hopefully not needed by the WVU game. 6’4 Williams was the main difference in beating the Mountaineers both times (11 tackles in last year’s game), a rarity since the Mountaineers only lost four times during that span. Nate Allen is his junior partner in grime – the “golden child” ex-QB tied for second on the team in solo tackles (61). Allen was the Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week after his forced fumble (and subsequent recovery) and interception sealed the Auburn win (similar numbers in WVU game, too). Well-worn safety reserves Louis Gachette and Danny Verpaele seem expandable if troubles on the outside (or at nickel) arise. The way they played WVU’s spread proves the Bull players can finish a play when alone in the open field and/or swarm with honing radar as a group, when needed.

In 2007, the run-stopping was good at bending, but knowing how not to break (only eight ground scores)…when you factor in how foes were only successful 31% of the time on third-down tries, you see what many have recently discovered about this team – they may be second to only to Florida for in-state rankings.


DE George Selvie


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Jarriett Buie-Sr (6-4, 249) Quincy Okolie-So (6-6, 240)
NT Terrell McClain-Fr (6-3, 306) Sampson Genus-Fr (6-1, 308)
DT Aaron Harris-Jr (6-4, 264) Keith McCaskill-Fr (5-11, 255)
DE George Selvie-Jr (6-4, 242) Patrick Hampton-Fr (6-3, 225)
SLB Chris Robinson-Jr (6-3, 233) Alonzo McQueen-So (6-1, 255)
MLB Tyrone McKenzie-Sr (6-2, 235) Kion Wilson-Jr (6-2, 235)
WLB Brouce Mompremier-Sr (6-1, 227) Sabbath Joseph-So (6-0, 221)
CB Jerome Murphy-So (6-1, 176) Tyson Butler-Fr (5-10, 183)
CB Tyller Roberts-Sr (6-1, 185) Quenton Washington-Fr (5-10, 172)
SS Carlton Williams-Jr (6-4, 214) Danny Verpaele-Sr (5-11, 200)
FS Nate Allen-Jr (6-2, 200) Jerrel Young-Fr (6-2, 210)
P Delbert Alvarado-Jr (6-0, 196) Justin Brockhaus-Kann-Fr (6-3, 235)




If the offense starts and ends with Grothe, then the kicking game does the same with Delbert Alvarado. The local product hasn’t quite been impressive enough to keep coach Leavitt sleeping comfortably, so he brings in two prospects to hedge USF’s three-point possibilities. The Bulls won at Auburn DESPITE Alvarado’s four misses, and two misses each in the Cincy and UConn games likely were the difference. Ilia Petrov seems like a better option at punter, too, though Justin Teachey will push Alvarado throughout spring, if not into the fall. Edwards at punt returner looks solid, but the KR-de-jour practiced last time around means Jerome Murphy had better bring one back to the house or risk the same destiny to share his role again.