NCF Nation: Aaron Harris
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
- South Florida's defensive line: Slap a sticker on all of 'em, including George Selvie, Jason Pierre-Paul, Aaron Harris, Craig Marshall and Terrell McClain. The Bulls' front dominated against Florida State in the 17-7 win in Tallahassee.
- B.J. Daniels, QB, South Florida: The freshman wasn't perfect -- he completed just 8-of-21 passes and threw two picks -- but he also produced 331 total yards and both Bulls' scores in his first-ever start.
- Mardy Gilyard, WR, Cincinnati: Gilyard had nine catches for 177 yards and two touchdowns as the Bearcats held off Fresno State 28-20.
- Joe Martinek, RB, Rutgers: Martinek ran 19 times for 147 yards and two touchdowns as the Scarlet Knights pulled away from Maryland 34-13.
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- South Florida defensive coordinator Joe Tresey could point to schemes and personnel for his team's defensive domination of Florida State on Saturday. But he had a simpler explanation.
"Most of our kids weren't good enough to play for these guys," Tresey said. "They came into this game and they had a little chip on their shoulder. They didn't talk about it a lot. But just kind of deep down inside, they wanted to show up and show them they could play."
There's no doubt about that any more. South Florida's 17-7 win was no fluke. The Bulls didn't just benefit from Florida State mistakes or lucky bounces. They dictated the outcome with a faster, stronger, hungrier group of players.
|AP Photo/Phil Coale|
|Jim Leavitt soaks in his team's win over Florida State Saturday.|
We've seen them do this before. Two years ago, they won at Auburn and beat West Virginia to rise to No. 2 in the nation. Last year, they beat Kansas and made another brief top 10 appearance.
But this was the first time South Florida had ever taken down one of the Sunshine State's holy triumvirate of FSU, Miami and Florida. Now the 13-year-old program can say with a straight face that it deserves a membership in that exclusive club. After all, the Bulls just nailed the interview.
"It's only one game," head coach Jim Leavitt said. "We haven't done what those guys have done. They've won national championships.
"But now when people ask me should you be in the Big Four, I can say, well, at least we should be talked about once in a while."
Speaking of a big four, South Florida's defensive line was the most prestigious group on this field.
The Seminoles rushed for 313 yards last week in a 54-28 win at BYU. On Saturday, they managed just 19 rushing yards. The Bulls' defensive front manhandled the FSU offensive line the whole game, finishing with five sacks and nine tackles behind the line of scrimmage as a unit. Even those statistics don't tell the whole story of how one sided the matchup was.
Because South Florida got so much pressure with just its front four, the rest of the defense could drop into coverage or help out against the run. Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder found success scrambling and throwing the first three games this season; on Saturday he mostly had to run for his life while a Bulls lineman chased him in the backfield.
"We know we're an athletic defensive line, and all we did was come out and be relentless," George Selvie said.
Even field-position disadvantages were turned into an advantage. The Seminoles had first-and-goal on the 3 early in the second quarter but got stuffed on three straight running plays. Selvie flashed his two-time All-American form, while junior college transfer Jason Pierre-Paul -- who just joined the program late in training camp -- provided a menacing bookend, often meeting Selvie at the intersection of Ponder and pounding.
"I've only been here a couple of weeks, and I'm still learning the system," said Pierre-Paul, in what must prompt frightening thoughts for Big East quarterbacks.
Defensive tackles Craig Marshall and Aaron Harris combined for three sacks, too. Safety Nate Allen played like the potential pro he's always been, while freshman Jon Lejiste helped set a tone early with a cannonball hit on Tavares Pressley to cause a fumble. South Florida held the line despite losing starting linebackers Kion Wilson and Chris Robinson to injury and being forced to turn to two true freshmen at that spot.
"The courage was unbelievable," Leavitt said.
After his players had finished celebrating on the field and headed back up the tunnel, Leavitt took a moment to soak everything in. He looked up at his jubilant fans, made a Bulls sign with each hand and leaned his head back, not minding the light rain that was dripping on his face.
He stood there like that for a couple of minutes. Later, he said he nearly broke down and cried then, thinking about this seminal victory over the Seminoles.
"It changes history," he said.
All teams are not created equal. And not all positions on a given team are on a level playing field.
There are some position groups that are much stronger than others. Today, we take a look at the areas where some Big East teams are simply loaded:
• South Florida's defensive line: Probably the most impressive-looking group, physically speaking, that I saw all spring. The Bulls' D-line is full of tall, rangy, athletic specimens. There's George Selvie, of course, but don't forget about Terrell McClain and Aaron Harris. And when Jason Pierre-Paul and Ryne Giddins come in this summer, the defensive line is going to be even more loaded.
• Pittsburgh's defensive line: The Panthers defensive front is just as strong as South Florida's, but in a different way. Dave Wannstedt prefers undersized, hyper-athletic players up front, and he's got them in spades with Greg Romeus, Jabaal Sheard and Mick Williams, among others.
• Rutgers' offensive line: The Scarlet Knights return all five starters from their offensive front, the only team in the Big East to do so. But this is more than just a collection of veterans. There are real stars on this unit in left tackle Anthony Davis and Rimington Trophy candidate Ryan Blaszczyk at center. Throw in improving right tackle Kevin Haslam, and you've got one loaded line.
• Connecticut's linebackers: All three of the Huskies' starting linebackers -- Scott Lutrus, Lawrence Wilson and Greg Lloyd -- are back, as well as the top three backups. And one of UConn's top recruits, Mike Osiecki, also plays linebacker. This is one position that's in extremely good hands for Randy Edsall.
Others considered: Cincinnati's wide receivers, Connecticut's safeties, Louisville's wide receivers, Rutgers' linebackers, South Florida's wide receivers, Syracuse's running backs and West Virginia's defensive line.
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
West Virginia will break with recent tradition and have all of its starters on one team versus the reserves in Saturday's spring game, Dave Hickman says in the Charleston Gazette.
"They've been banging for 14 practices, the ones against the ones. Now I want them to be on the same sideline and start building a team,'' coach Bill Stewart said. "We did the 6 a.m. practices to get them used to different starting times and now I want to start building a team.''
• Doug Marrone was smiling after what he thought was the best Syracuse practice of the spring on Wednesday, Donnie Webb reports in the Syracuse Post-Standard.
"I'm starting to become more pleased with the things that we're doing," Marrone said. "You're starting to see, with some of the players, the competition picking up. What we've been talking about. Am I disappointed that it's the (13th) practice? Probably so. But am I happy that I'm starting to see signs of what we need to do to win? Absolutely."
• Randy Edsall has a good problem on his hand: lots of personnel decisions to make because of competition. Desmond Conner has the story in the Hartford Courant.
• Zach Frazer thinks he's done enough to win the Huskies' quarterback job, John F. Silver writes in the Journal Inquirer.• Senior Aaron Harris, a former starter at defensive tackle, is now running first-string at defensive end opposite George Selvie for South Florida, Greg Auman notes in the St. Petersburg Times.