NCF Nation: Sabbath Joseph
"Everybody is blowing up my Twitter and Facebook, asking me how they can get tickets," Joseph said.
The senior has a lot of requests to fill as he returns to his hometown this weekend for the Bulls' game at Miami. Joseph has already secured tickets for about 40 friends and family members and is trying to find more.
"I'm very excited about it," he said. "Getting a win would make it even better."
It's easier to forget about those downers when there's an in-state rivalry looming the following Saturday. Joseph is one of many Bulls players who is very familiar with several Hurricanes from high school and youth football days, and USF guys grew up watching Miami dominate the Big East.
For the Bulls, this game brings another chance to prove themselves against the state's powers. They beat Florida State last year but couldn't hang with the Hurricanes at home later in the season, falling 31-10. They got their first crack at Florida this season and were competitive for more than a half before turnovers doomed them to a 38-14 loss.
"Everybody wants to be in the Big Three," Joseph said. "But in order for us to be considered the Big Four, we've got to beat them."
USF coach Skip Holtz has a slightly different take on the in-state pecking order. While Holtz says a win this week would "help our national reputation" and that the Bulls have to beat the Big Three to earn respect, he argues that the best way to be considered a state powerhouse will be to compete for the Big East title year in and year out. They haven't really done that yet, though they got close this year.
As for this week, Miami is a heavy favorite despite its disappointing 7-4 season. The Hurricanes still have elite-level athletes and a punishing defense that could make life tough on B.J. Daniels and the low-wattage South Florida offense. Daniels has been dealing with a quadriceps injury that has limited his movement and scrambling ability, a major part of his game.
At least Daniels has cut way down on his turnovers since the Florida game and other early-season calamities. The same cannot be said for Miami's quarterbacks, who have thrown more interceptions (21) than any FBS team other than Buffalo. The Bulls will likely have to hope their defense can cause some mistakes and capitalize on them.
If USF could spring the upset, it would give the team and Holtz a signature victory on the way to a bowl game. The Bulls would have a chance for an eight-win regular season. And Joseph's social-media platforms might crash from all the congratulatory messages.
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."