As has been mentioned before, when now former defensive coordinator Tom Allen arrived from Ole Miss to Tampa in January of 2015, he brought with him the aggressive 4-2-5 base defense that would suit the athletic abilities of South Florida's defenders and counter the various spread offenses throughout the American Athletic Conference.
You can read about the nuances of what makes the 4-2-5 effective here, but a main focal point of the scheme is the ability of the Mike linebacker to serve as the leader of the front six (and the entire defense) while the Will linebacker (Stinger) roams the field causing disruption in a variety of assignments from blitzes to coverages. Allen's enthusiasm and energy earned him great success and a job as DC in his native Indiana this past off-season. Now taking his place is Raymond Woodie, the man responsible for the LB unit.
Before looking at the actual linebacking core, you have to look at it's architect Raymond Woodie, who earned the promotion to defensive coordinator after Allen's departure in January. A longtime Taggart assistant going back to the staff's tenure at Western Kentucky, Woodie's prowess as a master recruiter has earned him the nickname "The Closer", locking down Recruiter of the Year awards in both the Sun Belt and AAC.
A huge factor into his promotion and pay increase is his ability to develop quick, dominant linebackers that play a role in every play, no matter the system. Current CFL player and former Bulls LB DeDe Lattimore earned all-AAC honors with 98 tackles in 2013. WLB Nigel Harris led the nation in forced fumbles in 2015. Finally this past season, team Defensive-MVP Auggie Sanchez tied for second-most tackles in a single season in school history with 117 tackles.
Woodie made it clear immediately that he would continue on with the 4-2-5 scheme as well as the "Bull Shark" identity, even issuing these cool gray jerseys for defensive starters. Continuing to have his hand in guiding a linebacking unit that returns both Sanchez and Harris, his guys will continue to serve as the tempo-setters for his entire defense.
LB Coach: Raymond Woodie
- Auggie Sanchez (Junior/St. Petersburg, FL)
- Nigel Harris (Senior/Tampa, FL)
- Jimmy Bayes (Sophomore/Immokalee, FL)
- Josh Black (Sophomore/Tampa, FL)
- Juwuan Brown (Sophomore/Tampa, FL)
- Cecil Cherry (Redshirt Freshman/Frostproof, FL)
- Nick Holman (Sophomore/Madison, AL)
- Devon Jones-Stewart (Senior/Lake Mary, FL)
- Greg Reaves (Redshirt Freshman/Bradenton, FL)
- Nico Sawtelle (Redshirt Freshman/Jensen Beach, FL)
- Danny Thomas (Sophomore/Fort Lauderdale, FL)
*Roster based off team website at time this was written.
Quarterback of the Defense
It's almost a borderline football cliche' to deem the Mike linebacker the "quarterback of the defense" but the leadership of junior Auggie Sanchez has appropriately earned him that moniker as he is on pace to etch his name as one of the all-time defensive players in South Florida Bulls history by the team he graduates.
An original class of 2013 Willie Taggart recruit out of St. Pete, Sanchez has started 25 out of 25 eligible games during his green and gold career at middle linebacker. As mentioned before, his 117 tackles led the entire team last year as he picked up second-team All-AAC honors for his sophomore campaign.
Now one of the more experienced and battle tested players for the Bull Sharks as the program continues it's return back to relevance, Sanchez will be tasked with calling plays for not only the front six in the box, but the entire defense as well. Like last season, it will be his role to read the play and determine if he should play towards the line of scrimmage to counter the run or drop into coverage to protect against slot receivers and tight ends going over the middle. Backing him up at MLB will be sophomore Danny Thomas and Cecil Cherry, a four-star LB in 2015 who committed to Texas but quickly transferred to USF after a short stint in Austin.
Patrolling the weakside of the defense is Nigel Harris, who returns for his senior campaign as in the "Stinger" position. Having seen the field since his true freshman campaign of 2013, Harris has twenty-eight starts under his belt and has fit in well to the 4-2-5. As mentioned before, he became the just the second NCAA statistical champion in program history leading the nation in forced fumbles (six) in 2014 while also picking up 77 tackles and 10.5 TFLs along the way. His production took a dip in 2015 with the implement of the new scheme, but his sideline-to-sideline ability to react and make plays wherever the ball is located will one again be heavily needed when USF opens vs. Towson.