TAMPA, Fla.-USF will be a young football team when the 2009 season kicks off with a visit from Wofford on Sept. 5.
However, that doesn't mean the Bulls will be without talent when they play host to West Virginia on Friday, Oct. 30. Especially with the likes of Big East Defensive Player of the Year candidate George Selvie and his offensive counterpart-senior quarterback Matt Grothe.
The Bulls lost four starters on its offensive line, one at wide receiver, two at linebacker and two in the secondary. For many college football teams that would signal a rebuilding season in the making.
Not at USF, however.
With an incoming class of 28 newcomers slated to hit campus over the summer and as many as 40 returning letterwinners from its St. Petersburg Bowl champions, the Bulls appeared primed to make another run at the Big East title.
The following is a breakdown of what Mountaineer fans can expect to see from the Bulls in 2009:
Grothe returns as arguably the marquee offensive player in the Big East. The senior has started every game (38) since his first appearance as a redshirt freshman in 2006.
His numbers are staggering-674-of-1,089 for 8,157 yards and 47 touchdowns passing and 522 rushes for 2,085 yards and 23 touchdowns on the ground.
Those numbers alone should be enough to keep defensive coordinators awake at night. But, USF will return running backs Mike Ford and Mo Plancher as well.
Ford carried the football 102 times in '08 for 407 yards and five touchdowns while Plancer rushed 60 times for 322 yards and six scores.
Grothe will also have his top four pass catchers from a year ago.
Senior Jessie Hester led the team with 54 catches for 579 yards and a trio of six-pointers during the team's 8-5 campaign while juniors A.J. Love, Carleton Mitchell and Dontavia Bogan combined for 85 receptions, 1,129 yards and four touchdowns.
The offensive line will be the key.
Jake Sims is the lone returning starter at right tackle, but junior Zach Hermann (6-3, 304) comes back from a foot injury which sidelined him for six games in 2008.
Defense (4-3 Base)
What Grothe means to the offense, Selvie means to the Bulls' defense.
The senior heads into his final season in Tampa with 25.5 career sacks and 61.5 career tackles for loss. Numbers which not only make him a sure bet to win the Big East's Defensive Player of the Year award, but ones which makes him a favorite to win awards nationally.
Lining up on the opposite end will be senior Aaron Harris (6-4, 260) while the nose tackle position appears to be in the hands of redshirt freshman Cory Grissom (6-2, 289).
Rounding out the front four will be junior Terrell McClain (6-3, 306) at the other tackle slot.
Senior Kion Wilson is the lone returnee at linebacker, but look for senior Chris Robinson (6-3, 233) and junior Sabbath Joseph (6-0, 230) to make the move from backup to starter with ease.
Free safety Nate Allen and border cornerback Jerome Murphy are the lone returnees in the secondary.
But look for sophomores Jerrell Young (6-2, 205) and Quenton Washington (5-10, 183) to make an impact at the strong safety and field cornerback positions, respectively.
USF returns an experienced punter in Delbert Alvarado and an experience placekicker in Maikon Bonani.
Alvarado averaged 39.7 points per pun and dropped 33 percent of his attempts inside the opponent's 20-yard line while Bonani connected on 15-of-21 field goals, 12-of-13 inside the 40 yard line, and the game-winning 3-pointer in his first career game against Kansas.
Next Opponent: The Cardinals from the University of Louisville.