4. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE USF DEFENSE
– It’s a Charlie Strong team. Seven starters return. The defense has to be better after finishing 104th in the nation allowing 447 yards and 32 points per game. The improvement has to start up front around the defensive tackle combination of Kevin Kegler and Kevin Pinkney. They’re not big, but they’re active in a deep position. The group has to hold up a whole lot better against the run.
– Top pass rusher Josh Black is done, but former MLB Greg Reaves is moving to the outside – he’s a better fit as a playmaker behind the line despite finishing second on the team in tackles – and Kirk Livingstone is a 6-4, 263-pound veteran on the other side.
– With Reaves moving and top tackler Khalid McGee done, the linebacking corps is going young with sophomores Tony Grier, Dwayne Boyles and Andre Mims all being thrown into the mix. There’s more speed and athleticism than bulk.
– The secondary was the strength of the defense, and now it get three starters back including both safeties Nick Roberts and Mekhi LaPointe. They have decent size and can move, and 6-1 CB Mike Hampton is back at one corner. Third-leading tackler Ronnie Hoggins is gone from his nickel spot, but sophomore Vincent Davis is a more-than-capable replacement.