On defense, USF could arguably have the most depth at the linebacker position. This year, they are returning their top three starters from last season which brings 35 of 36 starts of experience to the Bulls’ corps of linebackers.
There is no doubt that senior linebacker Sam Barrington will lead this trio of linebackers. He finished third last year on the team, tallying 72 tackles. He also added 2.5 sacks, forced a fumbled, and had an INT.
Regardless of lining up as a middle or strong-side linebacker, Barrington says he is ready to play wherever the Bulls need him.
“I’m just prepared to you know, play any position…I think that is part of being a football player,” Barrington said.
With the most talented linebackers returning this season, Barrington believes it could improve the entire defense.
“I don’t think it only strengthens the linebacker corps, it strengthens the whole defense, and potentially the team, “ Barrington said. “Those guys are leaders, talking about Michael Lanaris and Dede [Lattimore].”
“We were the top three tacklers on the team last year,” he said. “Hopefully we can do better this year and do a lot for this team.”
Lanaris was second on the Bulls in total tackles with 85, 4.5 TFL, also registering two fumble recoveries, and a sack.
Don’t forget Lattimore’s numbers in 2011 either, which led him to lead USF in tackles last season.
Lattimore had a staggering 94 tackles in 2011, including five games where he posted double-digits in tackles. He also led the Bulls with seven sacks, 13 TFL, an INT, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery.
USF defensive coordinator Chris Cosh raved about Lattimore after Tuesday afternoon’s practice.
“Dede loves football,” Cosh said. “The highlight of his day is coming to practice. He’s the first one out there. He beats the coaches out there. He’s a pleasure to coach.”
Not only is the starting trio boosting the depth at the position, the backup players have also done their jobs and impressed Cosh.
“The thing that we had to develop coming in was some depth and I think Reshard Cliett has gotten himself in the mix; he’s playing like a starter,” he said. “There’s still certain things he’s got to get better at but he’s really made some great strides in this camp as of late so I’m really happy with what he’s done.”
Cliett, a redshirt sophomore, appeared in nine games for the Bulls last season, adding five tackles, a sack, and 1.5 TFL.
After practice Tuesday afternoon, Cosh also credited some of the younger linebackers that have caught his eye.
“I think [Tashon] Whitehurst, the younger kid that has been out there,” he said. “When he was out there he did a nice job, he’s come along well.”
“I think Cory Hamilton is doing some decent things as a young player and I thought Kalin Hall as a walk on for us really improved, maybe added some depth for us there.”
While boasting a strong trio of starting linebackers and quite decent backups, USF could easily have the top linebackers in the Big East conference. Look for this to be one Bulls’ biggest weapons on defense in 2012.