Anyone that's watched Willie Taggart's offense at Western Kentucky knows it's heavily influenced by his mentors in the Harbaugh coaching tree. They preach power football at its zenith: running between the tackles, using bigger lineman to move the point of attack, loading up on tight ends that can be a threat via both blocking & pass catching. But someone has to physically take the football from the backfield and across the line, and finding someone that can be a playmaker with the rock might be the difference between success & failure in 2013 for the Bulls.
What might be remembered as the heady days of Demetrius Murray & Lindsey Lamar (230 carries for 1040 yards combined in '12) are gone, leaving USF paper thin at a crucial position for the success of the system. Mike Ford isn't walking through that door. Andre Hall isn't either. Someone has to tote the rock behind what could be a pretty successful offensive line, and a player stepping up at this position could be the difference between 3-9 and 9-3.
Marcus Shaw has had a great camp by all accounts, and enters as the lead back in a system that will feature many of them. The Arcadia, FL senior is just 5'9, 178 lbs, so asking him to give you 20+ carries every game might be too much. Shaw showed some burst and playmaking ability during his 51 carries for 236 yards last season, and can also be a threat after chipping with routes to the flat, with 8 catches for 34 yards last year. That will need to improve in '13, as the threat of him as a pass catcher will also help to keep one linebacker out of the box.
Following Shaw is exactly seven yards of college offense listed at running back, all belonging to redshirt sophomore Willie Davis. The Lithonia, GA native is bigger at 5'9, 213, and will be thrown into the fire after watching most of the time in his two years at USF. Mike Pierre redshirted last year after two seasons at Golden West College, where he had 227 carries for 1160 yards in two JC seasons.
Darius Tice (Miami Northwestern) & Sta'fon McCray (Osceola) enter as freshman, and should be asked to carry an important role immediately. Both posted gaudy stats in high school, but being thrown into the fire of FBS as a true freshman at a position as bruising as running back is difficult. In any running back by committee system, the depth these players could provide will be crucial.
USF fans might not be familiar with the position of fullback, but apparently it's a role where someone stands in front of the running back and then attempts to block for him directly from the backfield. I know, weird right? But the importance of the position is shown by the Bulls having five players listed as FB on the roster presently. Redshirt senior Ryan Eppes converted to the role after very limited duty as a linebacker in his four seasons on Fowler. Grant White redshirted as a walk-on last year after transferring from Jefferson Community College, but didn't see the field last season.
The other three fullbacks are all true freshman that could get an opportunity this year. Kennard Swanson (Lake Gibson HS) had just 34 carries in his final two prep seasons, but would seem to be very familiar with the role of fullback. Auggie Sanchez (Northeast) mostly played defense in high school, and Elliot Jacobs (Fort Pierce Central) is a walk-on that doesn't even have a page on GoUSFBulls.com yet.
Someone people out of this group will need to step up for USF to go bowling or beyond. But with practices being closed, who knows who it'll be.