Historically in recent years, USF’s defensive line as always been tough against the run, but the Bulls lost some crucial pieces from last season’s defensive line, including defensive tackle Keith McCaskill (29 tackles, four sacks) defensive end Patrick Hampton (23 tackles and four tackles for loss), and defensive end Claude Davis 16 tackles and six sacks). Collectively, these players had 23 starts.
This season though, they have five of their top eight players returning on the D-line including redshirt junior defensive end Ryne Giddins.
Giddens (6’3’’, 266 lbs) who started in all of USF’s games last season, is arguably the most talented player on the D-line. Last season, he tallied 44 total tackles and had 5.5 sacks. Not only that, Giddens had three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Last season, he was ranked 2nd team in the Big East.
Giddens had also career high in tackles against last season against Connecticut, adding 11 in that game. He is on the 2012 Lombardi Award Watch List
The depth at the defensive position end is quite limited beyond Giddens however. After Giddens, the other defensive end starter, as it’s listed on the initial fall depth chart, is junior college transfer Tevin Mims.
Mims (6’3’’, 245 lbs), posted 19 tackles, four sacks, seven TFL last season at Navarro College.
Out with an ankle injury is Junior defensive end Julius Forte (6’2’’, 260 lbs). Don’t be shocked if Forte challenges Mims for the starting gig once he is healthy. Also look for true freshman Eric Lee (6’3’’, 240 lbs) to get some playing time this season.
The other side of the defensive line is where the depth is for the Bulls.
Defensive tackle Luke Sager is expected to contribute a lot more this season, emerging as a starter due to the absence of senior Cory Grissom. According to defensive tackle coach, redshirt junior Sager (6’3’’, 297 lbs) is the “rock” of the defensive line.
Although Grissom (6’2’’, 316) has been limited most of training camp, he is back and healthy. Last season, he started in all 12 games and had 38 tackles, 1.5 sacks, six TFL, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. As a senior, Grissom will be a leader to the less experienced defensive tackles including redshirt sophomore Todd Chandler and redshirt junior Demi Thompson.
Also look for sophomore defensive tackle Elkino Watson to have a bigger impact this season. Although Watson (6’2’’, 293 lbs), only started in one game last season, he saw action in all 12 games in 2011 which adds more experience to the d-line.