- Brian Bennett, College Football
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TAMPA, Fla. -- Despite all the athletes that South Florida has had in its short history, no Bulls receiver has ever had a 1,000-yard season. Not even close.
Carlton Mitchell set the school record last year with 706 receiving yards. And then he skipped his senior year to enter the NFL draft.
Recent offensive philosophy at South Florida has revolved around spreading the ball to a wealth of pass catchers. The new coaching staff has set as its goal to have a 1,000-yard receiver. The question is, do the Bulls have someone capable of doing that?
They bring back five players who caught at least five balls at wideout last year in A.J. Love, Dontavia Bogan, Sterling Griffin, Pat Richardson and Evan Landi. But none has ever established himself as a star.
"That gives us a great nucleus to the receiving group," offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said. "Is there a difference maker in that group? I'm not sure. But I think there are some really good football players."
If there's anyone that fits the profile of a No. 1 guy, it's probably Love. The senior averaged 18.8 yards per catch last season and had 121 yards late in the year against Louisville when Mitchell was hurt. Though that was his first 100-yard game, Love confidently answers "of course" when asked if he can be the main target this year.
"What it means to me is being the go-to guy," he said. "When a tough situation arises, you're going to get it done."
Love had a solid junior year but suffered a knee injury in the 2008 St. Petersburg Bowl. He said he was still tender on the leg until he grew more comfortable on it late in the year.
Right now, the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder is listed as the starter at the 'X' receiver position, which signifies the top wideout. Fitch said he won't really know who is the most dependable guy until the Bulls go through some scrimmages this spring.
"I always watch the quarterback to see who he goes to," Fitch said. "I think B.J. [Daniels] feels very comfortable with A.J. and Dontavia Bogan right now.
"A.J. has good size and is put together pretty well. He works hard at his craft and is a good route runner. And he has deceptive speed -- you're not going to clock him at 4.4 or 4.3, but I see him on tape from a year ago and watch him early in camp, and he gets behind DBs. So he has the ability to get vertical and use his body."
The Bulls are also anxious to see what Landi brings to the table. He's a former quarterback who made the switch to receiver, and the staff likes him so much that they've decided to leave him there even though Daniels is limited this spring by offseason shoulder surgery and currently has no scholarship backup. Fitch also likes the group's size, as Love, Landi, Bogan and Griffin are all at least 6-foot-1.
Soon it will be time to see if one or more of them can really stand tall this year.