Dr. Saturday - NCAAF

The least you should know about the 2011 Bulls. Part of Big East Week.

Debriefing: USF’s path to the top of the Big East gets a little more rugged

Stand by your man. There doesn't appear to be any serious challenger to B.J. Daniels as the starting quarterback, which has a lot more to do with the lack of quality depth than anything Daniels has done to entrench himself in the job. He threw 13 interceptions last year to just 11 touchdowns, while adding far less as a runner (259 yards, 5 touchdowns) that he did as a redshirt freshman, when plans b), c) and d) if the primary receiver wasn't open all read "run like hell."

Given the dismal results through the air — USF finished 101st nationally in passing offense, 98th in pass efficiency and 105th in total offense — Daniels might have been better off doing a little more scrambling last year. Even as a junior with 22 starts under his belt, anything that reduces the number of times per game Daniels has to throw in a given afternoon is a priority.

Debriefing: USF’s path to the top of the Big East gets a little more rugged Let's get physical. That's one reason all eyes this preseason remain glued on the running backs, a largely forgotten position at USF before Skip Holtz's arrival as head coach last year: Under predecessor Jim Leavitt, the quarterback led the team in rushing four years in a row and conventional, between-the-tackles handoffs were basically ignored. The other reason is that the top candidates for regular carries is none other than Darrell Scott, once heralded as one the handful of elite prospects at any position when he joined Colorado in 2008 as arguably the most hyped signee in CU history. If someone published "Bust" Magazine for the overheated, post-Internet era of recruiting, Scott would be its most frequent cover boy, but they don't pin the "Next LaDainian Tomlinson" tag on guys with nothing to offer.

The second guy in the mix is Demetris Murray, the second-leading rusher last year, who qualifies as the runt of the litter at a mere 215 pounds — Scott showed up for camp earlier this month packing 246 pounds, and Auburn transfer Dontae Aycock was reportedly carrying in the neighborhood of 233 pounds on a 5-foot-9 frame before he left the team earlier this month. With thumpers like that in the fold and an extremely limited passing game, the requisite buzzword is "downhill": Whether it comes via the I-formation (the Bulls frequently deployed an actual fullback last year) or a one-back, zone-blocking scheme, his should be the most rugged edition of the USF offense in ages.

Devekeyan's playground. It took maybe 10 minutes after he arrived in Tampa last spring for defensive coordinator Mark Snyder to begin raving about the speed of the linebackers, which turned out to be prescient: The starting 'backers were the top three tacklers on the team with 205 total stops between them, and regular Sabbath Joseph not far behind with 43 of his own for a defense that (along with most of the defenses in the offensively-challenged Big East) finished in the top 25 nationally in both yards and points allowed.

Debriefing: USF’s path to the top of the Big East gets a little more ruggedThe lynchpin of that group, Jacquian Williams, is on his way out, as is Joseph. But up-and-comers Sam Barrington (Doc Sat's 2009 Recruit of the Year) and Devekeyan "DeDe" Lattimore (right, a freshman All-American according to Phil Steele) were as active in their first season as starters as any returning duo in the conference, and ought to have an All-Big East nod waiting for one or both of them by year's end.

Small but deadly. The buzz on offense may be over the behemoths in the backfield, but the most dynamic playmaker may be the tiniest guy on the roster: 5-foot-8, 165-pound receiver/kick returner Lindsey Lamar. A top sprinter on the USF track team, Lamar's explosiveness in the return game made him the team leader in all-purpose yards as a sophomore, and his kickoff returns for touchdowns against Syracuse (the Bulls' only touchdown of the game) and Louisville made him the coaches' choice for Big East Special Teams Player of the Year.

That didn't translate into fireworks on offense, where he averaged a meager 5.4 yards with zero touchdowns on 37 touches. But Lamar also capped his first season as a receiver (he played running back as a freshman) by pulling in a career-high five passes for 40 yards in the bowl win over Clemson, potentially a preview of a more expanded role as a junior.

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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