TAMPA, Fla. – As the Bulls look to replace five defensive linemen from last season, USF is experimenting with a 3-4 formation in addition to their tried and true 4-3 defense.
Second-year defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan spent eight seasons at the same position in the NFL, including the Oakland Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals. He noted that Wednesday’s and Saturday’s scrimmages will tell him who the standouts are on the D-line.
“There’s competition at virtually every position, and that’s a great problem to have,” said Coach Bresnahan.
The Bulls lost defensive lineman Aaron Lynch, who led USF with six sacks and 12.5 tackles for a loss last year, ranking seventh in the American Athletic Conference. Lynch was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the fifth round of the NFL draft this year. USF also replaces defensive ends Ryne Giddins and Julius Forte in addition to Anthony Hill and Tevin Mims on the line.
The Bulls are looking to build on the defense’s success of last season, which forced 25 turnovers and 11 interceptions, and ranked 11th in the FBS with recovered fumbles and 21st in total defense – allowing 350 yards per game.
“We finished the season on a strong note and we finished with decent numbers. But that’s not good enough for what we need to do. We’ve got to get the wins,” Coach Bresnahan said. “I don’t want to have to start slow and grow again. I want to be able to get going, get continuity going in training camp and get off to a fast start against Western Carolina.”
Top returners include senior defensive end Elkino Watson, who started nine games last year, and junior defensive tackle Todd Chandler, who appeared in all 12 games. And while Coach Bresnahan didn’t reveal what percentage they would employ a 3-4 defense, the linemen are embracing the change.
“It just gives us a lot more outlets, gives a lot more of our guys a chance to get on the field, make plays, use their assets – that chance to rush off the edge,” said Chandler.
“What I like the most about the 3-4 is how every other play we’re stunting around, we’re moving,” Watson added. “So nobody’s really standing still; it kind of makes it hard for linemen to block when you’re moving across their face a lot. I could be in the C-gap and have to go all the way to the A-gap one play – it’s speed, but I kind of like it because it makes the offense chase you around.”
The Bulls defensive linemen also are poised to make their own identity this season.
“One thing [Defensive Line] Coach [Eric] Mathies challenged us to was [to] make this our defensive line. We’re going to be compared a lot to last year’s defensive line. We just came together this summer and really tried to jell with each other, learn off each other,” Chandler said.