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January 28, 2013

Breaking down the linebackers

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What was supposed to be the strength of the defense in 2012, the linebacker corps struggled quite a bit last season. Going into 2013, many questions arise, especially after the departures of seniors Sam Barrington, Mike Lanaris and Mike Jeune. Can the Bulls quickly reload at the linebacker position? Let's take a look at what USF has on the roster and whom they are hoping to add from the recruiting class.

To find out more information on each player, just click on the player's name for a complete Rivals.com profile. All classes indicated are for the current year.

Returning
DeDe Lattimore

6-foot-1 | 232 | R-jr. | Cedar Shoals (Athens, Ga.)
The Buzz: Lattimore was a bright spot for the Bulls linebacker corps in 2012. The Athens native led the team with 7.5 tackles for loss, tied for first on the team with 3.5 sacks and was third on the squad with 76 tackles. The Georgia product broke up two passes and was a special teams star, blocking two kicks. Going into next season, Lattimore should be the undisputed leader among the linebackers. Look for Lattimore to have another stellar season in his senior year with USF.

Zack Bullock

6-foot-3 | 214| R-Fr.| Sebring (Sebring, Fla.)
The Buzz: Bullock got his feet wet in 2012, playing in the final nine games of the year after missing the first three for the Bulls. The Sebring High School product finished the season with seven tackles and half a tackle for loss. The Sebring native had, by far, his best game of the season on the road against Cincinnati, registering four tackles. Bullock should be in the mix for playing time next season under new defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan, the question is whether or not Bullock will get that playing time. There are a lot of potential difference makers already on the roster and committed for the Bulls, playing time will be a hard thing to attain.

Reshard Cliett

6-foot-2 | 223 | R-So.| Thomas Central (Thomasville, Ga.)
The Buzz: Cliett finally cracked his way into the starting lineup last season. A Rivals.com two-star recruit from the class of 2010, Cliett played in 11 games and started seven, replacing Mike Lanaris in the lineup, and played SAM linebacker. The Georgia native tallied 40 total tackles, two for a loss and a sack in 2012 after registering just five tackles in 2011 in nine games and redshirting his first year with USF. Going into next year, Cliett should be the clear cut starter at the the SAM linebacker position, especially after the graduation of Barrington.

Ruben Garcia

6-foot-0 | 242 | R-So.| Durant (Plant City, Fla.)
The Buzz: Garcia is another player that received a great deal of playing time, but did not start in 2012, for the Bulls. The Plant City native played in 11 games last season for Skip Holtz and USF. Garcia did not rack up the stats last season, amounting just one total tackle. Going into next year, expect Garcia to most likely have the same role in Chuck Bresnahan's defense, as a quality backup.

Tashon Whitehurst

6-foot-3 | 190 | Fr.| Gainesville (Gainesville, Fla.)
The Buzz: Whitehurst burst on to the scene for the Bulls in 2012, playing in ten games, making his first career start against Connecticut. Last season, Whitehurst registered 15 total tackles, one tackle for loss and one sack. The Gainesville native also registered a forced fumble and blocked a kick in his ten games for USF. Whitehurst was a good surprise for USF. The Gainesville High School product showed a nose for the football and a good ability to anticipate the offensive at an early age.

Committed - Enrolled
Rahmon Swain

6-foot-2 | 225 | LB | Butler CC (El Dorado, Kan.)
The Buzz: Swain was one of the early recruits for Willie Taggart and the Bulls, verbally committing on December 19th. A Rivals.com three-star recruit, Swain garnered a lot of attention, receiving offers from USF, Boise State, Kansas State, Memphis, Mississippi St., Texas A&M and UCF. Going into next year, expect USF to keep to their tradition of rebuilding quickly by inserting JUCO players. Swain should compete for the open starting position in the linebacker corps, and it would be no surprise if he reaches that goal.

Committed, not signed
Nigel Harris

6-foot-1 | 215 | LB | Hillsborough (Tampa, Fla.)
The Buzz: Harris was one of many big pick ups for the Bulls in the 2013 recruiting class. A local talent, Harris received 12 offers and made official visits to Wake Forest and USF. Harris committed to play for the Bulls on January 23rd, just five days after his official visit to Wake Forest. One thing that played a large factor in his committing to USF was education, Harris partly chose the Bulls because of the strong Engineering program in Tampa. A Rivals.com three-star recruit, Harris will be another guy who competes for early playing time.

Mitchell Wright

6-foot-3 | 210 | LB | Plant (Tampa, Fla.)
The Buzz: Wright committed to play for the Bulls on July 17th, while Skip Holtz was still the head coach and Chris Cosh was the defensive coordinator. Although the staff looks quite different now, Wright reaffirmed his commitment in an interview with RunningtheBulls.com after his official visit in early January. A Rivals.com three-star linebacker, Wright committed to play for the Bulls after receiving offers from Boston College, FAU and Massachusetts.

Targeting
James Hearns

6-foot-3 | 230 | LB | Lincoln (Tallahassee, Fla.)
The Buzz: Hearns is a late possibility to the Bulls after the Rivals.com four-star recruit and Florida cut ties. It was reported that Hearns and the Gators parted ways because of problems in the classroom, but the linebacker is still very getable for schools. Hearns has received 19 offers and visited Kentucky this past weekend. It is clear that the Wildcats are in the lead for the Tallahassee native, but the Bulls are in the hunt five with Kentucky, Auburn, Louisville, Florida State, South Carolina and Houston. Hearns would be a huge addition for Willie Taggart and USF, to say the least. The inside linebacker is the 31st ranked player in Florida, seventh ranked linebacker and 197th ranked linebacker nationally by Rivals.com.



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