2011 Record: 5-7 (1-6 in Big East)
Head Coach: Skip Holtz (13-12 at USF, 85-62 All-Time)
Last Bowl Game: 2010 season Meineke Car Care Bowl: beat Clemson 31-26
Stat to Cheer: held opponents to 43.48% TD rate in red zone (1st in Big East)
Stats to Fear: lost six games by one TD or less in 2011
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: (Offense: 8; Defense: 7; Specialists: 2)
Key Defensive Returnees: LB DeDe Lattimore (94 tackles, 7 sacks), LB Mike Lanaris (87 tackles), LB Sam Barrington (72 tackles, 2.5 sacks), DE Ryne Giddins (44 tackles, 5.5 sacks), CB Kayvon Webster (49 tackles, 2 INT), S Jon Lejiste (47 tackles), DE Julius Forte (3 sacks)
Key Offensive Returnees: QB BJ Daniels (13 TD, 7 INT), RB Demetris Murray (503 yds rush, 8 TD), WR Sterling Griffin (43 rec, 3 TD) TE Evan Landi (29 rec), OT Mark Popek
Skip Holtz enters his third year at USF after a disapointing 5-7 season in which the Bulls went 4-1 out of conference but just 1-6 in conference. The season was highlighted by an inability to win close games. In games decided by one score or less, the Bulls 1-5 and the one win was a game against Notre Dame in which the Irish turned the ball over five times (to USF's 0).
Statistically, USF had one of the better offenses in the Big East. If you strictly looked at stats, you would have thought USF finished in the upper half of the conference. Stats can be misleading and USF came up just short on the scoreboard which is where it matters. BJ Daniels is back and we once again hear the "if he can just put it all together" talk. Daniels did improve in a couple of areas last year and one was cutting down on INTs as he reduced from 13 to 7. He also was better on the ground as he increased his rushing total from 259 in 2010 to 587 in 2011. Demetris Murray returns in the backfield. He's a solid back that should provide some balance for the Bulls. At receiver, the Bulls returns seven targets that caught at least ten passes. They also have former Florida signee Chris Dunkley on the roster. The weapons are there for USF to have another good year statistically but they need a player or two to step up as a go-to guy.
The defense has a ton of returning talent. The Bulls return eight of their top ten tacklers and should have a good front seven with the linebackers being a strength of the team. The pass defense was an opportunity last year. For USF to take a big step forward this year, they will need a few guys to step up in that unit. Based on how many close games they lost last year, they should be able to take a good step forward by just closing out some of those close games this year.
2012 Prediction: 8-4
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