NCF Nation: David Blackwell
TAMPA -- Kion Wilson is aiming high for 2009.
"I want to break Tyrone McKenzie's record for tackles," Wilson said.
|Kim Klement/US PRESSWIRE|
|Kion Wilson has high expectations for himself in 2009.|
McKenzie set the South Florida mark with 121 stops in 2007, then added another 116 as a senior last year. With McKenzie gone, Wilson knows that he's the team's top linebacker and that he's got to pick up that production.
"I'm going to be the starter in the middle, so I feel like I should make one out of every three plays," he said.
If the season started today, the Bulls might need Wilson to make plays even more frequently than that. While he's an anchor at middle linebacker, the team has question marks at the other spots.
Inexperience and inconsistency have plagued the outside linebacker candidates this spring, and the starters there might not be determined until some newcomers arrive this summer.
"We're a ways away from having what you'd say are three really solid starters there," co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach David Blackwell said. "I think there will be an awful lot of competition going into the fall."
Even Wilson, a senior, is not all that experienced himself. A junior-college transfer, he had to play a larger role than expected last season when Brouce Mompremier got hurt early in the year. Wilson finished with 66 tackles, which ranked third on the team.
Like many junior-college imports, it took him several games to adjust to FBS-level competition, but he said he gained more confidence as the year went on. Now he finds himself as one of the leaders on defense.
"I try to mentor the guys and tell them how it is," Wilson said. "I'm more of a lead-by-example guy. But I have to step outside my boundaries for the betterment of the team."
• West Virginia offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen is excited about the Mountaineers' potential for explosiveness this year but says he needs to help develop a "get-after-it mentality," Mickey Furfari writes in the Charleston Daily Mail.
• The Hartford Courant's Desmond Conner caught up with Randy Edsall at the Big East men's basketball tournament and got a few of the UConn coach's thoughts, including the possibility of a bowl game in the Northeast.
"I've heard talk about it before, if there was an indoor facility, to have one," Edsall said. "Other than that, I think it would be pretty tough to have one but if we could, I think it would be great because you're guaranteed a spot. And if you could get one here in New York, because of the media attention and everything else, it would be great. The other thing is, you've got to get the right fit as far as the other conference, too. But I think anything that gives us exposure, if we could do it, yeah, I do think it would be great."
• South Florida coach Jim Leavitt gushes to the Tampa Tribune's Brett McMurphy about his new linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator David Blackwell.
• Kyle Flood and Kirk Ciarrocca expect their roles as co-offensive coordinators at Rutgers to go smoothly because of their close relationship, Tom Luicci writes in The Star-Ledger.
WHO TO WATCH: Clemson's coordinators. Coach Dabo Swinney, who will be coaching in his first bowl game, will also be calling the plays. And the Tigers will depend on linebackers coaches David Blackwell and Ron West to coordinate the defense. How the defense -- particularly the secondary -- responds to its first game without former defensive coordinator Vic Koenning will be important against Nebraska's productive offense.
WHAT TO WATCH: The clock. Nebraska is No. 2 in the nation in time of possession, controlling the clock for 33:60. In order for Clemson to have a chance at winning, they've got to have their playmakers on the field. Clemson's defense should match up well against quarterback Joe Ganz, but it can't be on the field all day.
WHY TO WATCH: It's a matchup reminiscent of the 1982 Orange Bowl, when Clemson beat Nebraska 22-15 for the school's only national title. It's the first bowl game since 2006 that will feature two first-year FBS head coaches. It's also the final game for one of the most talented groups of seniors to come through the program.