#58 South Florida Football 2016 Preview

South Florida Bulls
Overall Rank: #58
#3 American
The rebuilding project for Willie Taggart and the South Florida Bulls took a big step forward in 2015 as they won eight games and made it back to the Miami Beach Bowl. After a 1-3 start last season, the Bulls went 7-2 the rest of the way to give a sense of optimism around the program that has been missing for several seasons. With 14 starters back in 2016 fans in Tampa have every right to be excited about the possibilities for this program for this season and the long term as well.
2015 Record: 8-5, 6-2
W2015 Bowl: Miami Beach Bowl vs. Western Kentucky (L 35-45)
Coach: Willie Taggart (14-23 at South Florida, 30-43 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Darren Hiller, T.J. Weist
Defensive Coordinator: Raymond Woodie
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Marlon Mack, RB, 1,381 yards
Passing: Quinton Flowers, QB, 2,296 yards
Receiving: Rodney Adams, WR, 822 yards
Tackles: Auggie Sanchez, LB, 117
Sacks: Bruce Hector, DT, 5.0
Interceptions: Deatrick Nichols, CB, 4
Other Key Returnees: RB Darius Tice, RB D’Ernest Johnson, WR Rodney Adams, DB Nate Godwin, S Devin Abraham
Key Losses: TE Sean Price, OL Thor Jozwiak, DB Jamie Byrd, DL Eric Lee, P Mattias Ciabatti
Running the football is going to be crucial to the success of the Bulls in 2016. Marlon Mack is back as the workhorse running back and will be looking to build upon last year’s 1,381 yard effort. Quinton Flowers will be the quarterback once again and is the type of dual-threat signal caller that will give opposing defensive coordinators headaches all season long. The ability to cause turnovers is another strength of this South Florida football team. It was a turnover margin of plus 10 that played a big factor in the success last season, along with being relentless with their pass rush as well. Stopping the run and forcing opposing offenses to become more one dimensional is another strength of the Bulls heading into the 2016 season. Opponents were limited to just 140 yards per game on the ground last season. The defensive line is deep and that will only help South Florida keep the pressure on opposing offenses all season long.
The offensive line is a concern heading into the 2016 season as there are only two returning starters. So it will be very important for this unit to stay healthy and get as much practice time as they can in training camp in order to build chemistry. Wide receiver is another position group that will need to take a step forward as teams will be loading up the box to stop the run this season. The tandem of Rodney Flowers and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are going to have to take their game up a notch and stretch opposing defenses by making big plays in the passing game.
The Bottom Line:
In the first month of the season the college football world will get a pretty good idea about how good the Bulls could potentially be in 2016. Northern Illinois visits in week two, followed by a trip to Syracuse and then Florida State comes to Raymond James Stadium on September 24th.  This three week stretch will put South Florida in every type of tough situation as both a favorite and a heavy underdog like they will be against the Seminoles. Unlike the second half of the 2015 season, the Bulls will not sneak up on anyone and it will be important for Coach Taggart and the staff to keep South Florida hungry to excel. Overall, look for another eight to nine win season for the Bulls and they will be in the American Athletic Conference title chase all season long.
Projected Bowl: St. Petersburg Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 246.5 (10th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 195.1 (95, 9)
Total Offense: 441.6 (35, 5)
Scoring Offense: 33.6 (41, 6)
Rushing Defense: 141.4 (31, 3)
Pass Defense: 239.1 (84, 7)
Total Defense: 380.5 (52, 4)
Scoring Defense: 22.9 (35, 5)
Turnover Margin: 0.77 (13, 3)
Sacks: 2.62 (26, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 1.62 (42, 4)


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