Midway through last year’s disappointing 2-10 season, University of South Florida‘s head coach Willie Taggart admitted that he was so desperate to find offensive and defensive playmakers that he was willing to move players from offense to defense and vice versa in hopes of making the team better. While there were no position changes during the season, that mindset prompted the staff to make a change during the offseason, and it appears to have worked.
With the graduation of defensive leader DeDe Lattimore, there was a hole at the middle linebacker position. However, after a seven tackle performance in the USF spring game two weeks ago, it looks as if defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan may have found Lattimore’s replacement in red shirt freshman Auggie Sanchez.
Sanchez, a native of nearby Saint Petersburg, FL, came to USF as decorated linebacker, but was offered a scholarship by the USF staff to play fullback. While starring at Northeast High School, Sanchez was no stranger to playing both sides of the ball; offensively he lined up at tight end, wide receiver and even “wildcat” quarterback, but he garnered the most attention while playing defense. After being moved from defensive end to linebacker in order to get more attention from college scouts, Sanchez responded by compiling 160 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss during his senior season.
While he has adapted to the physical growth needed to perform on the collegiate level, he currently is 20 pounds heavier than his high school playing weight of 220 pound. The biggest question going into spring practice was if he had the instincts needed to be the “quarterback of the defense.”
“He really does a great job of just dissecting what the offense is trying to do,” said coach Chuck Bresnahan in a recent post-practice interview about the mental ability of his new linebacker. “I think he understands formation tendencies, he picks it up very very quick mentally. So the first time our offense runs something, the very next time he’s one step ahead of them.”
There still is plenty of practice time before the 2014 season opener against Western Carolina on Aug. 30, but the vote of confidence from the defensive coordinator has to please the USF fanbase. Now, if the Bulls can ever find stability from the offensive quarterback, maybe coach Willie Taggart can begin to move the entire team towards winning more football games.