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Running With the Bulls


August 24, 2009 12:02 PM

USF Football: High Hopes, Low Expectations

The University of South Florida has been a tease of a football team.

The Bulls have been a popular pick, a logical pick to make major in-roads in the Big East Conference the past three seasons.

Those three seasons have yielded an uneventful, under-achieving 10-11 conference record.

Expectations for the Big East as a conference are low. The preseason poll that proclaimed the University of Florida a near-unanimous preseason No.1, ignored all the Big East teams.

USF was picked somewhere in the middle of that no-name pack.

And perhaps that's a good thing for the Bulls.

They can prepare themselves for this 2009 campaign without ballyhoo.

Summer camp has been a secret summit for head coach Jim Leavitt and his team. Leavitt banned the media and has been forced to deal with a number of preseason setbacks including the suspension of running back Mike Ford for two games and the knee injury to another runner, Jamar Taylor. Taylor will miss eight weeks but could return after that.

Fortunately for USF, this team is built around two players who are perhaps the best-known commodities in Big East football -- quarterback Matt Grothe and All-America defensive end George Selvie.

Before the season is over, Grothe will hold most of the offensive records in the Big East and Selvie hopes to bounce back after an injury-plagued 2008 season. Both players have been held out of scrimmages, Grothe with a nagging hamstring and Selvie, with his heavily-taped bum ankle.

But there are two other names who will be just as important as Grothe and Selvie.

They are Mike Canales and Joe Tresey. Canales is the team's new offensive coordinator, Tresey comes from 2008 Big East champ Cincinnati to handle the defense.

They are the ones who will impact this USF team as much as any player.

Canales is future head-coach material. He is poised, polished and a player's coach.

Tresey has been where this team wants to go -- to the Orange Bowl. Tresey comes from the Woody Hayes camp of old-school toughness.

Both Canales and Tresey may provide the upgrades this team has needed. Canales is certainly an upgrade from previous o-coordinator Greg Gregory, who Leavitt dumped from the staff after Gregory inquired about a position job at the University of Florida. Tresey fell into Leavitt's lap and may be what the Bulls need. He's a specialist with defensive backs and that was USF's major weakness last year.

USF, like many programs, will ease into its schedule with games against Wofford, Western Kentucky and Charleston Southern.

If the Bulls are not 3-0 when they venture to Tallahassee to play Florida State on September 26, something will have gone horribly wrong.

Twelve days to the September 5 opener at home against Wofford, a team that does not have the talented roster USF holds.

Summer camp is over, the season beckons and this time around, USF can go about its business without the national fanfare.

Leavitt has admitted that in past seasons, "We just haven't got it done."

Twelve days from now he'll get another chance to get it done.

It's a milestone year with no clear-cut favorite in the Big East, a milestone year with games against Florida State and Miami.

For this USF team, it's simply a matter of grand opportunities.

And that's something the program wants more than anything.

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