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Archive for Saturday, September 23, 2006

Know the foe: South Florida

Bulls reinvent offense around QB

September 23, 2006

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With former South Florida running back Andre Hall - the cornerstone of the Bulls offense the last two years - having moved on to the professional ranks, USF coach Jim Leavitt was forced to re-examine his strategy to move the ball downfield.

It now is done with a dual-threat quarterback, a plethora of able wide receivers and an adequate running game that moved to the back of the line in terms of importance.

USF certainly is a different team today - when it faces Kansas University at 6 p.m. - than it was a year ago.

"We're probably like anything else," Leavitt said, "we're going to try to do what we can to move the ball and get first downs."

Little did he realize a few months ago that a freshman quarterback would be the way. But Matt Grothe has proven his promise both running and passing the football, so much so that he was named the Big East Conference's offensive player of the week last week.

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Back in the early '90s, KU coach Mark Mangino and South Florida head coach Jim Leavitt were assistants for Bill Snyder at K-State. Enlarge video

"I think he's doing a good job," Leavitt said. "I think he's probably handling things pretty well. He goes out and competes. He's made enough mistakes that he knows that he still needs to get better and that he has a ways to go."

Grothe beat out senior Pat Julmiste for the job, and he's a dual threat in the truest sense - three games in, Grothe has 45 passing attempts and 47 rushing attempts. He's by far their leading rusher, gaining 213 yards on the ground. Ben Williams is second with 90 yards on 23 carries in three games.

"Our quarterback has been running real well, so that part is good," Leavitt said. "Would we like to have a running back get a lot of yards also? Yes, it would be nice. But I can't tell you if it is going to happen or not."

Grothe's 647 yards passing rank him first among all freshman quarterbacks in Division I-A, and several receivers are benefiting. Though Ean Randolph is the team leader with 10 catches for 159 yards, nine Bulls have more than one reception this year, five have at least 75 yards receiving and four have a touchdown reception to their credit.

Amp Hill may be one of the big threats. An LSU transfer, Hill was one of the most touted prospects in the country out of high school and has six catches for 83 yards so far this season.

KU coach Mark Magnino noticed the even distribution of the football among USF's passing attack, and keeping tabs on so many different threats may be key in how today's game turns out.

"The challenges are getting a lot tougher every week," Leavitt said. "Our team's going to have to play with great effort, but we need to play awful smart and not make the mistakes we've been making."

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