When you think South Florida, two names immediately pop into your head: Matt Grothe and George Selvie. And while Selvie is the better player, the more-known name and a legitimate first round pick, you tend to hear Grothe's name come out first. It simply has to do with him being a QB, sure, but he is still a darn good one, one of the nation's top QBs.
In order to gain a firmer grasp of USF's offense and offensive talent, I Tivo'd a replay of last weekend's game between South Florida and Central Florida and watched it. It wasn't a pretty game, and they didn't always play all that well, but they are still an incredibly tough game upcoming. I'll go through this position-by-position, starting out with the QB and ending up with the offensive line, which is having to replace RG Zach Hermann.
Quarterback - Matt Grothe (JR) :: Matt Grothe is a good QB. That is generally accepted. However, many people tend to compare him to our own QB, Todd Reesing, and other QBs of that ilk. Sure, he is a little on the short side, as he barely pushes 6'0", but still comfortably stands taller than Reesing. Plus, he frequently runs the ball. Like, not just when there are no passing options, but there are regular, designed runs from Grothe. Numerous times throughout the game they split out all five WRs, leaving an empty backfield, only to call a QB draw for Grothe. Plus, that doesn't get into the 10-or-so times they called the spread-option, which Grothe would, of course, occasionally keep. In any case, look out for Grothe continually leaving the pocket, whether it is because of some pressure in the pocket or simply a play call to get Grothe moving on his feet. He is like a shorter, white, less athletic version of Vince Young. Honest.
Of course, he is also worlds better than Vince Young in the passing game. He wasn't terribly accurate in the short passing game, frequently misthrowing passes with receivers only 10 feet away. However, he found himself chucking the ball far downfield way more often than not, attacking the defense vertically time-after-time. And, I've got to tell you, his deep ball was frickin' amazing. Not just good, but I'm talking drop-it-in-the-bucket good. He had one throw, thrown down the right sideline, that dropped right into the hands of Taurus Johnson, who caught the ball, without breaking stride, some 40 yards down the field. Touchdown. Especially with Kendrick Harper out, we are going to have to play extra well in the secondary to keep the WRs in front of us. As long as we force Grothe to beat us by nickel-and-diming his way down the field, we should be fine.
Running Back - Moise Plancher (JR) :: Part of the reason that Grothe has to do so much is that they don't have the best RBs in the world. Plancher would be a tremendous complimentary back, but he doesn't have the size (5'9") to be an every-down back. Still, 6.8 YPC is really, really good, and he shouldn't be overlooked. It will be crucial to shutting the running game down, as no matter how good Grothe's deep ball is, he can't beat a defense as good of ours using that alone.
While Plancher is the spread RB, often being the one lining up next to Grothe in the shotgun, two other RBs frequently see some action. One is Benjamin Williams, an even smaller back than Plancher at 5'7", and another scat-back kinda guy. However, Williams is also a seniorso he brings that whole experience kind of fun. He is a reserve, through-and-through, and only saw a single carry against Central Florida, which went for all of -1 yards. The #1 thing that Williams provides is pass protection, as he is a damn good blocker for a RB. Pay attention; whenever #30 is in as the RB, it is likely going to be a passing play. He is a third-and-long RB, if you will.
Another guy to look out for would be FB Richard Kelly, who saw some decent action against UCF. 8 carries for 39 yards, sure, but he failed to stick out even once on semi-film. In any case, he is the short-yardage back, and is often the back they bring in when they go all-big, no-wides (honestly, whenever they had 3rd-and-short or a goal-to-go situation, they would bring in 3 RBs [Kelly, Williams and Plancher] and two TEs. It was quite interesting, especially considering that, occasionally, they woulld go the very next play with five WRs).
Wide Receiver - Taurus Johnson (SR) :: Most of the deep passes Grothe launched high into the air were directed at Mr. Johnson. He is the best revier on the team, no questions asked, and is plenty good enough to keep Chris Harris occupied. That will be a fascinating matchup to watch throughout the game, one that will certainly be discussed further in-depth in my 'Matchups' post coming sometime tomorrow. He exploded against Central Florida, catching 6 passes for 143 yards, including that one, long 42-yard completion.
The other WR to really watch out for is junior Jessie Hester, who also saw himself being on the receiving end of some of Grothe's long throws down the middle. Another really interesting matchup to watch, as the veteran will be matched up against a redshirt freshman in Isiah Barfield.
Considering they go with that whole, nice 5 WR set sometimes, here are the other WRs to keep an eye out for: Dontavia Pogan, a sophomore, senior tight end Cedric Hill, sophomore A.J. Love and sophomore Carlton Mitchell.
Offensive Line :: The offensive line is an incredibly veteran unit, posting four senior starters, with the only non-senior being sophomore Zach Hermann. And of course, the only non-senior is the one that gets hurt. Hermann broke his foot in the game against UCF last Saturday, forcing Jim Leavitt to replace him with Jacob Sims, a fellow sophomore. It will be interesting to see how we attack the brand-new starter, as he obviously won't be fully up-to-speed after only a short week of practice.
Defensive Preview, Matchup Breakdown and some Final Thoughts all coming on Friday...