The college football off-season is an eight-month long exercise where we kill time by speculating what Pokemon represents each program. This is fact. But when it comes to USF football, it's never too early to start looking at stories and players of note heading into next season, especially with spring practice right around the corner.
Entering the 2016 season, junior workhorse running back Marlon Mack finds himself just 309 yards shy of Andre Hall's career rushing mark at South Florida. The two-time First-Team All-AAC rusher has stealthily emerged as one of college football's hidden running back gems in two seasons in Tampa and looks to continue boat racing AAC defenders in his third season.
Within Willie Taggart's Gulf Coast Offense, Mack one-up'd his 2014 freshman campaign through leading the AAC in rushing while setting a school single-season rushing record with 1,381 yards. The Sarasota native's 6.6 yards per carry helped contribute to a school record nine 100+ yard games in 2015 and was a huge catalyst for the Bulls' late season surge. You want visual evidence of his explosiveness? Check out this cool highlight video the athletics department together recapping his season....
Barring injury of course, it could be assumed that Mack will ascend to the top of the USF career rushing mountain early on in the season. Let's take a look where and when he could accomplish the feat.
September 3rd vs. Towson
Well, considering that Mack rushed for a USF single game record 275 yards in his first collegiate game against Western Carolina in 2014, it's not out of the realm of possibility for the third year player to run wild against an FCS opponent to open the season again. Breaking the record here on the back of a 300+ yard game would be a heck of a way to kickstart the new campaign and get some national recognition, but it's not likely as the starters will most likely be pulled early...if disaster doesn't strike.
September 10th vs. Northern Illinois
The Bulls welcome MAC runner-up Northern Illinois Raymond James Stadium in week 2. The Huskies were so-so against the run this past season, giving up 4.1 yards per rush and 181.1 yards per game in 2015. A pair of back-to-back stellar performances in the first two games could inch Mack closer to the record once this one is settled.
September 17th at Syracuse
The Carrier Dome of all places stands as the game where Mack will most likely eclipse the all-time mark as South Florida visits a rebuilding Syracuse team under new head coach Dino Babers in week three. Last year's Homecoming victory over the Orange was the turning point for USF's season as Marlon Mack's 184 yard, two touchdown game performance made a difference. We will see if he can duplicate that effort this fall.
September 24th vs. Florida State
If Mack only has mere modest showings in the first three contests, he will most likely eclipse the milestone in Bulls' marquee non-conference matchup of the season vs. visiting FSU. Raymond James Stadium will more than likely be sold out for this in-state battle, so the junior could potentially grab the mark in a raucous environment against an extremely talented Seminole front seven.