The top 10 South Florida football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
RB Marlon Mack, Jr.
Mack raised the bar as a sophomore, delivering an even better encore from his Freshman All-American debut. In Year 2, he earned First Team All-AAC for a second straight year by rushing for 1,381 yards and eight scores on only 210 carries. And he was a model of consistency, running for at least 100 yards in all but three of his outings. The 6-0, 210-pound Mack is a tough inside runner, with the leg drive, pad level and stop-and-start moves to pick up plenty of extra yards after contact.
CB Deatrick Nichols, Jr.
As multi-dimensional DBs are concerned, no one in the American is more versatile than Nichols. He’s the rare athlete who can lead a team in interceptions, yet still make noise in opposing backfields. The eclectic 5-10, 185-pounder was named to the All-AAC First Team for compiling 62 tackles, 8.5 stops for loss, four picks and a pair of forced fumbles. Nichols is an instinctive playmaker who’s about to start getting looks from pro scouts.
QB Quinton Flowers, Jr.
At long last, USF has a quarterback to pilot the offense. Actually, it might have two if UCLA transfer Asiantii Woulard keeps blossoming. As a passer, Flowers still has a lot to learn, even after completing 163-of-276 passes for 2,296 yards, 22 touchdowns and eight picks. It’s as a runner that the 6-0, 209-pound athlete is most dangerous. Flowers rushed for 991 yards and 12 scores, burning SMU for 201 yards on Oct. 24.
LB Auggie Sanchez, Jr.
The quarterback—and leader—of the South Florida defense still has two seasons of eligibility left. Sanchez started all 13 games at middle linebacker in 2015, parlaying the second most tackles in school history, 117, into a spot on the All-AAC Second Team. The 6-2, 242-pound Sanchez doesn’t possess otherworldly measurables, but he’s flush in the intangibles that’ll have him contending for all-league honors again in 2016.
WR Rodney Adams, Sr.
Adams emerged in 2015 as the passing game complement to Marlon Mack on the ground. Even in a run-first attack, Adams established new school records with 822 receiving yards and nine touchdown catches on only 45 receptions. His average of 18.3 yards per reception was indicative of his ability to pick up yards after the catch. Adams goes 6-1 and 190 pounds, with the fluid stride to get behind the secondary.
DT Bruce Hector, Jr.
Hector is a lineman the staff likes to use situationally, turning him loose when pressure is needed on obvious passing downs. He’s very quick for a 6-2, 296-pound interior player, timing his snap and then beating his man to the pocket. Although Hector was only marginally effective at jamming running lanes, seven of his 19 tackles were for minus yards, including a team-high five sacks.
RB D’Ernest Johnson, Jr.
Marlon Mack is the undisputed leader of the South Florida offense. Johnson, though, is a wild card in need of more touches. As a sophomore, he was an all-purpose dynamo, with the athletic versatility to demand a more creative role in the attack. The 5-10, 208-pound Johnson averaged 26.8 yards on kick returns, rushed for 307 yards and a score, threw a pair of touchdown passes and caught 26 balls for 356 yards and four additional scores.
DT Deadrin Senat, Jr.
Defensive tackle figures to be a strength in 2016, with Senat leading the charge. He’s one of the strongest Bulls, and he’s coming off a table-setting campaign in the lineup. Senat led USF linemen with 46 tackles, including 5.5 for loss, and notched 17 combined stops versus Power Five programs Maryland and Florida State. He’s bulked up to 6-1 and 315 pounds this offseason, the first step to what could be an all-conference season.
LB Nigel Harris, Jr.
It’s off a down year that Harris will be looking to bounce back in 2016. He was a guided missile for the Bulls in 2014, leading the team in tackles for loss and the nation in forced fumbles. But after being suspended for the first two games, Harris was never quite the same. Yeah, he remained a ferocious, 6-0 and 220-pound athlete. However, his output plummeted to just 42 stops, 4.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.
S Nate Godwin, Sr.
While rarely spectacular, Godwin is one of the Bulls’ steadiest and most experienced defensive players. He brings three letters and 28 career starts into his final season in Tampa. At 5-10 and 205 pounds, he’s a little undersized for the ‘striker’ position, though it does allow him to stick with receivers in coverage. After ranking third on the team with 63 stops, the staff is looking for more big plays from Godwin in 2016.