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Marlon Mack Leads High Octane Bulls Rushing Attack

It's the Return of the (Marlon) Mack and the rest of the stable of USF RB's in 2016. Can they top their 2015 campaign that saw them set the program record for rushing yards?

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

As spring practice for the South Florida Bulls draws even closer, we continue along with our look at each individual unit for Willie Taggart's bunch. While USF did take several steps forward through the air with Quinton Flowers last season, the bread and butter for the Gulf Coast offense came through their high octane ground attack.

By design, the Bulls offense boasted a top ten rushing attack in 2015 as they throttled opposing AAC defenses through an efficient philosophy of up-tempo pace and gaining at least five yards per rush. USF ran the ball 65.24% of the time while averaging 245 yards per game, ranking ninth in the nation in both categories. Out of these stats, their 5.4 yards yards per carry gave the most accurate indication of their ability to shred past defenses and move the ball down the field at a booming pace, especially within the final four contests.

To give you an idea of their improvement on the offensive side of the football, the Bulls improved dramatically S&P+ wise on the ground, going from 125th in Rushing S&P+ in 2014 to 19th in 2015 with plenty of room for improvement this upcoming season.

2015 S&P+ Category Rating Rank
Offensive S&P+ 31.5 50th
Rushing S&P+ 114.9 19th
IsoPPP+ 113.0 34th

The combined efforts of Marlon Mack, Darius Tice, and D'Ernest Johnson (along with the rushing ability of Quinton Flowers) helped contribute to a program record 3,205 rushing yards this past season. That same core returns in 2016 to cause even more destruction.

RB CoachDonte Pimpleton

RB Roster*:

  • Marlon Mack (Junior/Sarasota, FL)
  • D'Ernest Johnson (Junior/Immokalee, FL)
  • Darius Tice (Senior/Miami, FL)
  • Zaybreion Gunter (Junior/Baldwin, FL)
  • Tyler Pippens (Redshirt Freshman/Riverdale, GA)
  • Trevon Sands (Freshman/Miami, FL)
Incoming Freshmen:
*Roster based off team website at time this was written.

Return of the Mack

The first video is an amazing highlight package of Marlon Mack's 2015 campaign in which he compiled a school record nine 100+ games on his way to breaking the school's single season rushing record. The second link is the video for Mark Morrison's 1996 hit "Return of the Mack" which like SB Nation's editorial policy to link the Still Tippin' video for Houston, should be played every time Marlon breaks off a game-breaking run.

We already speculated earlier on where and when Mack could shatter the USF career rushing mark this season, but a lot is to be said about the remarkable two seasons he has compiled in Tampa so far. The Sarasota native debuted as a freshman with a 275 rushing yard performance in the 2014 season opener vs. Western Carolina and has quietly risen into the conversation of college football's best rushers, carrying AAC defenders on his back with him.

While not quite on the national platform of fellow juniors Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, and Dalvin Cook, his two-year statistics aren't too far behind the Heisman elites. Take a look at his career comparison to Clemson standout Wayne Gallman, who played a critical role in the Tigers' run to the ACC Championship and national title game:

Career Stats Att Yards YPC TD
Marlon Mack/USF 412 2422 5.9 17
Wayne Gallman/Clemson 443 2283 5.2 17

The quick-snap attack that new co-offensive coordinators Darren Hiller and T.J. Weist  are cooking up will certainly lean on Mack to produce yet another AAC leading season as the Bulls set their sites on their first conference championship in program history. The ability for Mack to break into the second level of the defense and duplicate the 6.6 yards per carry in 2015 will spell success for the Gulf Coast. However, he's not alone in the backfield...

Johnson and Tice Take Stage

As we'll see with the wide receivers, the fruits of Willie Taggart's recruiting has produced solid talent depth at their skill positions. This is where we get Darius Tice and D'Ernest Johnson once again rounding out USF's three-headed monster at the running back position.

Having been in Tampa during the entire tenure of Taggart, the senior Tice has been through the ringer, seeing multiple offensive systems, coordinators, and assistant coaches arrive to and leave Fowler Avenue. In spite of all of these changes and being jumped on the depth chart, Tice has remained a constant presence within the offense, finally breaking free in 2015 with 460 yards on 88 carries and four touchdowns.

D'Ernest Johnson on the other hand was a versatile force all over the field. While the junior only posted 457 rushing yards on the ground, he was a force in special teams and the air throughout 2015, even leading the team in receiving through the first four contests. His numerous abilities to create plays in all aspects of the game could catch several teams off-guard once September comes around.