WR Huey Whittaker

2002 Statistics

Coach: Jim Leavitt
44-22, 6 years
2002 Record: 9-2
at Arkansas LOST 3-42
at Oklahoma LOST 14-31
at North Texas WON 24-17
at East Carolina WON 46-30
at Houston WON 32-14

2002 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2003 Outlook

South Florida enters its first full season in Conference USA riding an unprecedented crest of confidence following a 9-2 campaign in 2002. Although the loss of Marquel Blackwell will certainly be felt, Jim Leavitt has built one of the fastest-rising programs in the country at USF. This season, facing a souped-up conference schedule and without their top playmakers on both offense and defense, will be the Bulls' greatest test, and also their greatest opportunity.

Will USF be a one-year wonder, like Fresno State, Bowling Green, or Tulane? Or can the Bulls maintain their success in an increasingly-strong Conference USA, altering the balance of power in the talent-rich state of Florida?

If the Bulls' cream-puff schedule has anything to do with the question, the answer will be a resounding yes. Aside from a revenue-influenced trip to face Alabama in the season opener, there is not a game on the schedule the Bulls cannot win. The other non-conference games are against I-AA squads Nicholls State and Charleston Southern.

In conference, USF hosts Louisville, TCU, and Cincinnati. The most challenging game on the schedule, and a possible de facto conference championship match up, comes October 25, when the Bulls travel to Hattiesburg, Miss., to face Southern Mississippi. Young leadership will make it a challenge for either side of the ball to perform consistently, making week-to-week predictions impossible for what these young men will deliver. We should know by mid-season if this team has a winning season in them or not. All bets are off…

Projected 2003 record: 7-4
FS J.R. Reed
RB DeJuan Green
DE Terrence Royal
WR Dishon Platt
QB - 2.5 DL - 1.5
RB - 3 LB - 3
WR - 3.5 DB - 3.5
OL - 3.5 ..

Passing: Ronnie Banks, 18-11-0, 182 yds., 2 TD

Rushing: Clenton Crossley, 92 att., 415 yds., 3 TD

Receiving: Huey Whittaker, 26 rec., 383 yds., 3 TD

Scoring: Santiago Gramatica, 16-21 FG, 35-40 PAT, 83 pts.

Punting: Brandon Baker, 2 punts, 29.0 avg.

Kicking: Santiago Gramatica, 16-21 FG, 35-40 PAT, 83 pts.

Tackles: J.R. Reed, 95 tot., 62 solo

Sacks: Maurice Jones, 6 sacks

Interceptions: J.R. Reed, 6 for 34 yds.

Kickoff returns: Quinton Callum, 2 ret., 14.5 avg.

Punt returns: Brian Fisher, 2 ret., 37.5 avg.


OFFENSE: Marquel Blackwell-QB, DeAndrew Rubin-WR, Hugh Smith-WR, Ryan Hearn-WR
DEFENSE: Tavares Jurineak-NT, Greg Walls-DT, Kawika Mitchell-MLB, Maurice Tucker-CB, Devin Sanderson-P, Chris Daley-DE, Shurron Pierson-DE (NFL)

written by Collin Mickle

After four years of the Marquel Blackwell era, South Florida must look to the future. The future begins now - the team will be built around one of the top offensive lines in the south. All five starters return after paving the way for more than 134 ground yards per game in 2002. Even better for the rapidly improving Bulls, only one of those players, left tackle Derrick Sarosi, is a senior. Two - right guard Chris Carothers and left guard Shelly Houston - are sophomores who entered the starting lineup as redshirt freshman and shone brightly into the USF future.

Under head coach Jim Leavitt, South Florida has used a spread, four-wide offense with a one-back backfield. With the graduation of Blackwell and three of his top five wide receivers, a philosophical change could be in the offing, with the Bulls eschewing their former pass-happy style in favor of a grind-it-out approach featuring the quality offensive line and junior tailback Clinton Crossley. Passing success would develop balance which would make them that much more offensively potent.

Crossley, entering his third year as the Bulls' top back, would relish an increase in his role. Overshadowed by the dual-threat capabilities of Blackwell, Crossley totaled just 180 carries in his first two seasons. If given the opportunity, the tough and durable Crossley could play a much larger role. Senior Vince Brewer, a sporadic starter during his USF career, would also benefit from increased opportunities in the offense. And, with Crossley, the duo could provide a quality one-two punch. Senior DeJuan Green, a former Georgia transfer, could also find himself in the mix. This position's progress should be an accurate offensive barometer in analyzing USF's 2003 efforts.

A more conservative offense would have the benefit of keeping a suspect and inexperienced defense off the field. We hope this is an obtuse statement in hindsight, but its truth could be foreboding.

Quarterback Ronnie Banks has almost everything going for him. The 6-3 junior has a strong arm, three seasons of experience in the Bulls' system, and the momentum of a solid performance in spring ball. Nevertheless, Banks faces the biggest challenge of any player on the team - fill the enormous shoes of Marquel Blackwell, the player who almost single-handedly put USF on the map. Few, if any, players in the country meant more to their teams than Blackwell to the 9-2 Bulls.

Banks is not Blackwell, and he will not be called upon to play the same role. Banks is a dropback passer, less agile than his athletic predecessor, meaning that the Bulls could look to add more vertical routes to their already elaborate spread offense. As long as Banks can play within himself and let his teammates play their role, the Bulls should be able to withstand the loss of Blackwell with little negative impact.

USF will also have to replace three of its top six wideouts, including leading receiver Hugh Smith. The player with the biggest role adjustment to make will be senior Huey Whittaker, who was the team's number two guy. He will have to do without both the presence of Smith, who forced opposing defenses to account for him every play, and the added wrinkle caused by Blackwell's athleticism. The other returning starter at the position is senior Elgin Hicks, the Bulls' fourth receiver.

The new starters - senior Allynson Sheffield and junior Brian Fisher - each have plenty of experience, but may be rusty. Sheffield missed six 2002 games, while Fisher missed two, with a variety of injuries. If the duo can stay healthy, they would be solid third and fourth options. If either one is sidelined, senior Chris Iskra is the most likely candidate to step into the lineup. The position has promise, but development is its own winning reward if this group can excel.


WR Chris Iskra


Returning Starters in bold
QB Ronnie Banks-Jr (6-3, 230) Jean Julmiste-Fr / David Mullins-So
RB Clenton Crossley-Jr (5-10, 210) Vince Brewer-Sr / Billy Henderson-So
WR Huey Whittaker-Sr (6-5, 225) Brian Fisher-Jr (5-9, 180)
WR Chris Iskra-Sr (6-1, 190) Quinton Callum-So (5-11, 205)
WR Elgin Hicks-Sr (5-11, 180) Darren Haliburton-Fr (6-3, 205)
TE Mark Feldman-Jr (6-4, 245) Will Bleakley-Fr (6-3, 230)
OT Derrick Sarosi-Jr (6-6, 295) Frank Davis-So (6-4, 310)
OG Shelly Houston-So (6-3, 295) Devon Small-Jr (6-3, 280)
C Alex Herron-Jr (6-3, 280) John Miller-So (6-2, 265)
OG Chris Carothers-So (6-3, 290) Mark Sepcik-Jr (6-4, 280)
OT Levi Newton-Jr (6-4, 305) David Bailey-Fr (6-5, 305)
K Santiago Gramatica-Jr (5-10, 165) ..



written by Collin Mickle

The strength of the Bulls' defense will be in their secondary, which returns three starters, along with sophomore nickelback D'Juan Brown. The leader of the unit, statistically and otherwise, is senior free safety J. R. Reed. Reed, the team's top returning tackler (his 95 stops were good for second on the team), also tied for the team lead with five INTs from his centerfield spot. The other INT leader was senior cornerback Ron Hemingway, a shutdown corner with good speed and rapidly improving skills.

Joining Hemingway in the lineup will be Brown, who had an interception and seven passes defended in limited duty off the bench. The fourth member of the secondary is strong safety Kevin Verpaele, a physical player who can confidently play close to the line of scrimmage (eight tackles for loss in 2002) and make an impact in pass coverage.

The other strong suit for the Bulls will be at linebacker. Although middle linebacker Kawika Mitchell (2nd round, Kansas City) departed, two capable starters return on the outside in seniors Maurice Jones and Courtney Davenport. Jones is entering his third year as a starter on the strong side, where he recorded 14 stops for loss. 2002 was the first year in the starting lineup for Davenport, an explosive physical force who, if healthy, should follow Mitchell's footsteps into the NFL.

The newcomer in the lineup is talented sophomore Devon Davis, who backed up Mitchell as a true freshman and is preparing to replace him in the middle in 2003. Davis played well in the spring, but could still give up the job to senior Julian Johnson, currently the top reserve behind Jones on the strongside. Any way you slice it, they come up with talent and depth.

The defensive weak spot, though, for USF will be up front, where all four starters from 2002 must be replaced. Defensive end Shurron Pierson (4th round, Oakland) will leave the largest void. Replacing Pierson's contribution on the stat sheet will be a group effort (and then some), but replacing him on the field will fall to sophomore Terrence Royal, who was impressive in his freshman season despite playing behind Pierson and left end Chris Daley.

The other defensive end will be junior Tim Jones. As a sophomore, Jones was a super-sub, recording five sacks despite not starting a game and often playing only in obvious passing situations. It remains to be seen whether he can adjust physically to the grind of starting full-time and the run-stopping that comes with playing every-down. Junior Matt Groelinger moves to NT, despite being incredibly undersized for the position at 255 pounds. Groelinger benefits from his relentless work ethic and his deceptive speed (he was timed as the Bulls' fastest d-lineman, running a 5.1 40-yard dash). Senior Cedric Battles will compete with classmate Lee Roy Selmon, Jr., who is trying to make a comeback from two injury-plagued seasons.


LB Maurice Jones


Returning Starters in bold
DE Tim Jones-Jr (6-3, 225) Jon Simmons-So (6-5, 235)
NT Lee Roy Selmon-Sr (5-11, 280) Howard Campbell-Jr (6-2, 275)
DT Cedric Battles-Sr (6-4, 270) Kenny Huebner-So (6-3, 260)
DE Terrence Royal-So (6-3, 240) Craig Kobel-Jr (6-2, 255)
SLB Maurice Jones-Sr (6-3, 245) Stephen Nicholas-Fr (6-3, 215)
MLB Devon Davis-So (6-3, 225) Vincent Capogna-So (5-11, 210)
WLB Courtney Davenport-Sr (6-1, 220) Julian Johnson-Sr (5-11, 200)
CB D'Juan Brown-So (5-11, 175) Antonio Warren-Jr (6-1, 180)
CB Ron Hemingway-Sr (5-11, 175) Sidney Simpson-Jr (5-9, 175)
SS Kevin Verpaele-Sr (6-0, 195) Johnnie Jones-Jr (6-2, 195)
FS J.R. Reed-Sr (5-11, 200) Javan Camon-Jr (6-0, 175)
P Brandon Baker-So (6-2, 200) ..




Kicker Santiago Gramatica, brother of the NFL's Bill and Martin, returns as the Bulls' placekicker. Gramatica, a semi-finalist for the 2002 Lou Groza Award, hit 16-of-21 attempts, but was just 1-of-3 from beyond 40 yards.

Sophomore punter Brandon Baker must replace three-year starter Devin Sanderson. Baker, who punted just twice, must improve his distance (29 yard average) and hang time to hang onto his job.

Brian Fisher, who backed up DeAndrew Rubin and Hugh Smith at the punt and kick returner spots, is expected to move into both roles. Fisher had only one kick return and two punt returns last season, but showed flashes of his ability with a 66-yarder on a punt return against Florida Atlantic. D'Juan Brown could also see time as a KR.