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December 7, 2013

USF takes on Rutgers: The Breakdown

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Rutgers hasn't been able to stop any passing attack. The Scarlet Knights have given up an average of 326 yards passing per game. In fact, Jamal Merrell - a linebacker, leads the team with two inteceptions. Rutgers has forced only seven interceptions this season with its secondary and has given up 31 touchdowns through the air. Freshman Ian Thomas will be a target for the Knights. Lorenzo Waters has 47 tackles from his corner position and has one interception. While the Bulls will start a freshman at quarterback, this might be the best-case scenario for Mike White and company to exploit. USF has a distinct advantage height-wise - so look for a few fade patterns and jump balls. Mike White has comfortably assumed control of the USF offense and it showed last Friday. Despite a fourth-quarter interception that sealed the game, White's command of the check-downs was evident. No longer locking on to Andre Davis and finding the open receiver, White continues to progress and with the opposing defensive secondary he'll face today, White could easily pass his career high of 311 yards. Look for Davis, as well as Chris Dunkley to have big days - and watch out for the tight end - as USF looks to go vertical.


Rutgers has a trio of linebackers that all make big plays. Jamal Merrell (mentioned earlier) along with Steve Longa and Kevin Snyder patrol the middle. Rutgers plays a 4-3 and the backers do their job well. Longa leads the teams in tackles and has three sacks. Snyder is second on the team with 84 tackles and two sacks. Rutgers gives up 129 yards a game on the ground - and does a good job with its linebackers to stop the run. This is an even match. Forget the fact that Marcus Shaw was on pace to rush for 1000 yards four games into the season. Then came the hamstring injury and Shaw hasn't been the same. Shaw will make his last start in the green and gold and wants to go out with a win. Look for USF to utilize Shaw to set up the pass - and possibly throw it to him out of the backfield. The emergence of Willie Davis and Darius Tice. That will give USF more than one option.


Rutgers use of a 4-3 defense is led by its defensive ends - Jamil Merrell and Marcus Thompson - interior is where the game will be won or lost. The tackles, Isaac Holmes (pictured) and Darius Hamilton aren't big, but they are fast. USF may have an edge size-wise, but the Bulls have struggled with smaller, quicker defensive lines. Rutgers has 29 sacks this season and will try to bring pressure against White. Thompson and Hamilton have 8 sacks among them - and will get pressure early. How USF adjusts could determine the outcome of the game. Perhaps the most beleagured unit on the field - the USF offensive line has been picked on, talked about and flat-out ridiculed time and time again. For some of them - this is the final time to show they have the drive to move the offense. After last week's game with UCF, the unit isn't being 'picked on' quite as much. For seniors Austin Reiter and company - this is it. A chance to go out with a dominating performance. Give Mike White time and open some holes for Shaw - something they haven't really been able to do all year.


Yes, Rutgers has had some issues at QB - creating a battle between Gary Nova and Chas Dodd. Nova started the first 10 games and Dodd got the start last week, against UCONN (a loss by Rutgers, 28-17). Dodd has three interceptions and zero touchdowns. If USF can get to him and force him to throw - the young secondary could benefit from a non-mobile QB. Dodd has played back-up to Nova for two years and is 8-9 as a starter at Rutgers.There isn't a lot of depth for the Knights - so an injury could be cosstly.

The dismissal of Mark Joyce and Jaquez Jenkins opens the door for a very young secondary to continue to grow. Hassan Childs, Lamar Robbins, and Johnny Ward have stepped up - as has Nate Godwin. Can USF control the tempo by forcing Dodd out of the pocket and get teh turnovers. Rutgers has thrown 18 interceptions and yielded 29 sacks. Look for Rutgers to test the Bulls secondary - but the way USF played against UCF last week should be encouraging for Bulls fans for 2014. The experience factor continues to grow in the secondary and the confidence of DB coach Ron Cooper in


Rutgers is led by RB Paul James back from injury. James had 720 yards and seven touchdowns before going down with an injury. He has not been the same in the last three games back. James has got to establish the run if Rutgers is going bowling. Give USF a chance to dominate up front and it may be difficult. Rutgers will also use Justin Goodwin - who spelled James during his injury and has 500 plus yards on the ground. The linebacking corps has come a long way for USF. Of course, senior DeDe Lattimore and junior Reshard Cliett have led the way, but the play of freshman Nigel Harris and others has enabled LB coach Raymond Woodie to keep a fresh group out there and that will important for USF to force Dodd to pass. The 'Tampa Two' coverage package does expose the middle for passing, but USF has adjusted in its coverage schemes. USF bent but didn't break against UCF on Friday - running game-wise, but needs to step it up this week.


Rutgers lost center Betim Bujari midway through the year and taht could spell trouble for the Sarlet Knights. up front, OT's Taj Alexander and Keith Lumpkin have got to keep Sager, Lynch and Giddins off their QB. The interior line isn't as big as USF has faced in the past, but has experience, with experience up front. Can the Knights stop a Bulls front line that has gotten better and better with the adjustments made by DC Chuck Bresnahan.

The play of Ryne Giddins and Julius Forte has been consistent, and Luke Sager. Elkino Watson and Aaron Lynch played very well last week and has had an extra day to recover. The biggest question is - can the Rutgers offensive line stop them. Rutgers has given up 29 sacks and that's not be the strength of USF's defensive front. For Forte, Sager, Giddins and Watson - this is it. Leave nothing on the field. USF may get the younger guys out there for experience - so watch out for Derrick Calloway


Jacksonville (Fla.) native Kyle Federico handles the kicking duties for Rutgers. He's 9-14 on field goals and 29-30 on extra points. He has had one blocked. Federico's longest field goal is 48 yards - and he's struggled from 40 yards or longer. Punter Nick Marsh has nine punts of 50 yards or more. Marsh also handles the kickoff duties and has 12 touchbacks. Kick returners Janarion Grant (from Pasco High School in Dade City) and Quron Pratt. Both have kickoff returns for touchdowns. Marvin Kloss became the first USF player to be named as a finalist for a national award when he was named as one of three kickers in contention for the Lou Groza award. While Kloss has struggled of late (missing three of his last four), he's still the best weapon offensively USF has - unfortuantely. Mattias Ciabatti continues to keep offenses backed up with his 40-plus average. Can USF find a consistent kick returner?


Taking over for Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, Kyle Flood has a 14-10 record and needs one more win to make the Scarlet Knights bowl eligible. This is Rutgers' final game as an American Athletic Conferece/Big East member - as the Scarlet Knights head to the Big 10 next year. Rutgers is in the midst of a three game losing streak where the offense has struggled to score and the defense has struggled to stop anyone. Flood may not be on the hot seat yet, but a loss to USF to end the season could turn the burners on. Willie Taggart has worked his way through the fire - the costly mistakes and the 'could-have-been' games. The Bulls gave up the lead in the fourth quarter last week to UCF - and for the first time, lost to the Knights. The coaching staff at USF has galvanized and went with the 'youth movement' and it's paying off. USF may have a slight edge with the experience of Bresnahan and Cooper on the defensive side. Taggart's first season at USF mirrors his record at Western Kentucky. Can he get that third win?



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