The Bearcats are averaging 27.2 PPG this year, leading them to a 3-1 (0-1) record thus far. They are getting it done both on the ground (154.2 yards per game) and through the air (265.8 yards per game). Here are some of their top offensive playmakers that the USF defense will have to look out for in this key conference opener.
Leading the Bearcats offense is sophomore quarterback Hayden Moore (6’3″ 218 lbs.) who is 61 for 103 on the year for 785 yards (59.2% accuracy) with 7 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Moore also has 17 carries for 57 yards (3.4 yards per carry) and two rushing touchdowns. Moore came into the game last year after Gunner Kiel went down with an injury and went 20 for 36 for 249 yards including one touchdown and two interceptions (one taken back for a score by Deatrick Nicholas). Moore missed last week’s game due to an ankle injury, so it’s not clear he if will be ready to go. Redshirt freshman Ross Trail started in their win over Miami (OH) and was 25 of 38 for 276 but did throw two interceptions (had 9 carries for 19 yards and a touchdown so he can move a bit). Senior Gunner Kiel, who was the starter in the meeting last year, was the back-up to Trail so, if Moore can’t go, I’d expect Trail to get the start.
Whoever starts under center, the Bearcats will have two reliable backs that can carry the rock. Senior Tion Green (6′ 230 lbs.) has 58 carries for 247 yards (4.3 yards per carry) and one rushing touchdown on the year (11 catches for 74 yards as well). He had 10 carries for 51 yards in the game last year and scored two rushing touchdowns, making him someone the Bulls front seven will have to keep an eye on. Splitting carries with him is junior Mike Boone (5’10” 205 lbs.) who has 61 carries for 216 yards (3.5 yards per carry) and two rushing touchdowns on the year (8 catches for 93 yards). He had 8 carries for 28 yards in the game last year. Both backs are capable of carrying the rushing load but can also get out of the backfield and become solid receivers down the field as well. USF is allowing 240 yards a game on the ground (numbers get skewed a bit by that FSU debacle) so the Bearcats might attempt to come out running it right right at USF especially if they inexperience at quarterback again with Trail (if he makes the start). The front seven for USF, especially at linebacker with Auggie Sanchez, Nigel Harris, and others, will have to contain the ground game and force the Bearcats to attempt to air it out.
The top receiving threat the Bearcats will deploy on the field is senior Nate Cook (6’1″ 210 lbs.) who has 23 receptions for 215 yards (9.3 yards per catch) and has four receiving touchdowns. He had just two catches for 14 yards in the game last year as the USF secondary kept him quiet. JUCO transfer Devin Gray (6′ 177 lbs) has 18 receptions for a team leading 331 yards (18.4 yards per catch) and one receiving touchdown. Gray is a big threat in the passing game and will be a key player for Deatrick Nichols and company to slow down. For Nicholas and Ronnie Hoggins, who has 21 tackles and 3 pass break-ups on the year, they will have to step up big against an offense that will spread the field and attempt to use the quick passing game to open things down the field.
by Matt Staton
SoFloBulls.com Columnist | @USFMatt
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