Here’s a few statistics that are a telling tale of how Skip Holtz’s first season went with South Florida.
In all four of the Bulls’ Big East losses, South Florida lost by 14 points or less, including a 13-9 loss to Syracuse back on Oct. 9. In its last five wins of the season (including Miami and Clemson), the Bulls escaped by a margin of a combined 20 points.
So while the Bulls’ 8-5 (3-4 Big East) finish was more than solid, Holtz’s first season with the Bulls could’ve easily ended up with 12 wins, or five.
Either way, the seven wins were good enough to earn South Florida a spot against Clemson in the Meineke Car Care Bowl where it dispatched the Tigers 31-26.
It was a solid transition year for Holtz. But to continue the momentum, he’ll need to replenish a starting lineup that lost 12 seniors last year, and has depth issues across the board.
Players to watch for (Offense):
DEMETRIS MURRAY (RB): One of those 12 starters the Bulls lost was leading rusher Moise Plancher (793 yards, five TDs). Murray is the next logical choice to replace Plancher, as the junior rushed for 542 yards and four scores last season. Darrell Scott and Marcus Shaw will get looks at this position as well, but it’s Murray’s job to lose.
A.J. LOVE (WR): Love is now in his sixth season at USF. Love tore the ACL in his left knee in 2008, but still returned for the 2009 season where he caught 26 passes for 489 yards and four scores. He then tore the ACL in his right knee during spring 2010 and was granted a medical redshirt year. Love is finally healthy again, and brings a wealth of experience with him.
Players to watch (Defense):
DEDE LATTIMORE (LB): Lattimore is part of an inexperienced linebacking core. Lattimore enjoyed a solid 2010 season, with 69 tackles, including 6.5 for loss. But there is little depth behind Lattimore, so the Bulls will have to keep him healthy.
JERRELL YOUNG (S): Unlike most areas of the team, South Florida is returning experience and depth at defensive back. Young, a senior, led the team with three interceptions last year and contributed 41 tackles.
Fearless Prediction: If South Florida’s 2010 season is any indicator, the Bulls will play a variety of close games this year. This game will be no exception.
17-13, South Florida.