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University of South Florida Bulls Spring Football Preview

Updated: Apr 21

Byrum Brown dropping back for a pass
© Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Since assuming the helm as USF’s sixth head coach in December 2022, Alex Golesh has orchestrated a remarkable inaugural season. The pinnacle of their resurgence came in 2023, culminating in a resounding 45-0 victory over Syracuse in the Boca Raton Bowl, marking the lone FBS bowl triumph for a Florida program that year and securing the largest shutout victory in FBS bowl history.

Under Golesh’s leadership, the Bulls shattered records, setting 12 team records, achieving five other significant milestones ranking among the top five all-time, and notching 16 individual marks, with another 11 notable achievements placing in the top three all-time. With the program’s highest-ranked recruiting class in a decade, USF surged to a 7-6 season, boasting a six-win improvement over the previous year, second only to Northwestern’s seven-win leap in 2023.

Additionally, USF experienced a notable increase in home attendance, leading the AAC in this metric. The team achieved several milestones, including its first home-winning record since 2018, its first bowl victory since 2017, the first road win in three years, and its most conference wins since 2017.

Offensively, USF ranked No. 17 nationally, averaging 451 yards per game, with five games surpassing 40 points, marking the most since 2017. The season also saw the program’s first-ever 3,000-yard passer in Byrum Brown and a 1,000-yard receiver in Sean Atkins. Alex Golesh’s remarkable achievements earned him recognition from College Football News, ranking among its Top 15 coaches of 2023 and garnering consideration as a finalist for its Coach of the Year Award.

Key Returning Offensive Players

SO QB Byrum Brown #17

In a standout performance during the 2023 season, sophomore quarterback Byrum Brown left an indelible mark on USF football history. Brown shattered multiple passing records for the season, including yards (3,292), touchdowns (26), and completion percentage (64.6%). His exceptional dual-threat abilities were evident as he also led the team in rushing, accumulating an impressive 809 yards and scoring 11 touchdowns on the ground. Brown’s dynamic play earned him a rare distinction, joining Heisman winner Jayden Daniels as one of the only FBS players to achieve both 3,000 passing yards and 800 rushing yards in a single season.

Gr. WR Sean Atkins #38

During the 2023 season, wide receiver Sean Atkins showcased his prowess on the field, earning him recognition as a Second Team All-AAC selection. Atkins delivered a standout performance, etching his name in USF's record books with an impressive 92 receptions for 1,054 yards and seven touchdowns. His consistency was evident as he recorded six or more catches in each of the last eight games and surpassed the 90-yard mark in five games. Atkins' stellar contributions solidified his status as a key playmaker for the Bulls.

Gr. RB Nay’Quan Wright #5

Wright transferred to USF from Florida in the spring of 2023 after completing his bachelor's degree at UF in the fall of 2022. His experience and contributions have been invaluable to the Bulls' success. In a standout performance during the 2023 season, Wright emerged as the Bulls' second-leading rusher, amassing a career-best 797 yards at an average of 4.4 yards per carry.

His impact was felt on the field with three career 100-yard rushing games, showcasing his consistency and ability to produce. Notably, Wright delivered a memorable performance against UConn with 26 carries for a career-high 186 yards, including two rushing touchdowns, marking the team's highest rushing total of the season. Additional standout performances included a 106-yard outing against FAU and a 111-yard effort in the season opener against WKU.

Sr. C Mike Lofton #65

An integral part of the Bulls' lineup, Lofton showcased his reliability and leadership as the starting center in all 13 games during the 2023 season. With a total of 16 career starts, ranking fifth among returners, Mike brings invaluable experience and stability to the team as they gear up for the 2024 season. Beyond his contributions on the field, Mike Lofton is revered as a team leader, known for his outgoing and infectious personality. He fosters team camaraderie through his innovative social media feature 'Mike on the Mic,' where he chauffeurs teammates around campus on a golf cart, engaging them in lively interviews. A native of the Bay area, hailing from Clearwater, Lofton transferred from UCF, adding local flair and a wealth of experience to the USF football program.

Notable Additions

Grad transfer WR Abdul-Rahsaan Yaseen of Purdue

Four-star TE Jonathan Echols of IMG Academy

Grad transfer OL Junior Uzebu of Vanderbilt via West Virginia

Key Returning Defensive Players

Sr. LB Jhalyn Shuler #7

In his debut season of extensive action with the South Florida Bulls in 2023, Jhalyn made an immediate impact on the defensive side of the ball. He showcased his defensive prowess by leading or tying for the team lead in tackles in six games. Notably, Shuler recorded a career-best performance in the Boca Raton Bowl against Syracuse, tallying 12 tackles along with 1.5 tackles for loss and a pass breakup. Throughout the season, he demonstrated his versatility and playmaking ability, highlighted by leading the team with 10 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, and a sack against UAB, and returning a fumbled PAT for a two-point conversion against Navy.

Gr. DT Rashad Cheney #99

In a standout performance against UAB on October 7, Rashad Cheney tallied a season-high 2.5 tackles for loss, totaling 6 yards. Cheney transferred to USF in the spring semester of 2022 after three seasons at Minnesota, bringing his talent and experience to the Bulls' lineup. Despite starting six games for USF in 2022, Rashad encountered an unfortunate ankle injury during the Cincinnati game on October 8, prematurely ending his season.

Sr. CB Aamaris Brown-Bunkley #9

Entering the 2024 season, Aamaris boasts an impressive 23 career starts, leading all returners with 12 starts in 2023 and 11 in 2022. His experience and leadership on the field have been invaluable to the Bulls' defense. In the 2023 Boca Raton Bowl against Syracuse, Brown-Bunkley made a significant impact with a 64-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown, in addition to three tackles. Notably, he showcased his playmaking ability with two interceptions and a career-best five tackles against Temple in 2022.

Notable Additions

Senior transfer S D’Marco Augustin of Youngstown

Senior transfer S Kajuan Banks of South Carolina

Junior transfer DE Jaylen Pettus-McMullen of Iowa Western

Junior transfer CB Deshawn Rucker of Tennessee

Coach Alex Golesh celebrating after bowl win over Syracuse
© Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Be Who You Say You Are at The South Florida Bulls

Under the guidance of second-year Head Coach Alex Golesh, the University of South Florida (USF) football program is embracing a new mantra centered around process-driven excellence. Instead of solely focusing on wins, Golesh emphasizes the importance of mastering every aspect of the journey toward success at an 'elite level.' This holistic approach extends beyond the field, encompassing habits such as proper nutrition, punctuality, teamwork, academic achievement, community involvement, and more. Additionally, USF has implemented a Big Brother program, where returning veterans mentor newcomers, ensuring seamless integration and a deep understanding of team culture and expectations. The future of Bulls football is looking bright.


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