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Last year, the USF defensive unit was the shining beacon of hope for the Bulls, becoming opportunistic in creating turnovers and often scoring off those chances.
What a difference an off-season makes.
Defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan described his 2014 Spring defensive unit as 'a work in progress' and used the word 'disappointed' to describe how he felt the first week of practices went.
"Guys have to step up and we haven't done that yet on the defensive end position, we haven't done that the defensive tackle position, the linebacker position, and in the back end. That's probably the thing that stands out the most."
USF lost a ton of experienced players to graduation and the NFL draft, including its defensive captain Dede Lattimore. The biggest transition is filling the giant void left at the defensive end position, where Ryne Giddins, Aaron Lynch and Julius Forte were standouts.
"Right now we've got Elkino (Watson) out there, and it's a work in progress because it's a new position for him," said Bresnahan. "Sean Hill has come in and done a nice job. Eric Lee has kind of picked up where he left off last year. There's some things he still needs to work on."
When you talk about replacing the guys that we lost - you're losing some explosive, passionate players about the game," said Bresnahan. "They're big shoes to fill for us. When you lose the guys who were leaders on this team."
Bresnahan went on to say the offense is well ahead of the defense at this juncture in spring drills.
"I don't think we've stepped up and exploded the way we need to explode. I don't see the leadership on defense, and it's not just the end position," Bresnahan continued. "I am making a general statement here. With those shoes that you've got to fill, when you lose the 'JuJu's' (Julius Forte), when you lose the Tevin Mims, you lose Ryne Giddins, you lose Luke Sager, Dede Lattimore,Mark Joyce - guys that were leaders on this team."
"That's probably the thing that stands out the most. As far as the progress of the d-ends, they'll get there," "We're not there yet, and we've got a long way to go. Right now we're getting out-physicaled by our offense. That's probably the thing that makes me use the word 'disappointed'."
"I want to see us play fast, play physical and finish everything," Bresnahan added. "And that's in every area. We've got the guys who can get the job done. We've got to do a better job of coaching and I've got to do a better job of coordinating it. We've got to pick it up for the second half of spring ball."
Bresnahan voiced concern about the defensive team's physical shape.
"Spring started a couple of weeks earlier than we did last year," Bresnahan said. "I don't see us in the football shape we were last year. That's no excuse. That's their responsibility during the off-season workouts and during the chase to get ready."
USF will hold an open scrimmage Saturday at Manatee High School in Bradenton to conclude the first session of spring football. The Bulls will take a week off and resume March 17.