Ryne Giddins came to the University of South Florida as one of the most highly touted football recruits in program history.
Giddins, an Armwood High product, was a Parade magazine All-American as a high school senior. He was selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. And the multiple Internet-based recruiting services tabbed him with four stars.
The Bulls could use some of that star power now from their redshirt freshman defensive end.
USF lost one of its best pass rushers in the 38-30 win at Cincinnati when senior defensive end Craig Marshall broke a bone in his right foot. Marshall had successful surgery last week and coaches are hopeful he can return before season's end. But while he's out, Giddins is among a group of players who will see an increased role, beginning with Wednesday's nationally televised matchup with Rutgers.
Giddins, along with redshirt freshman Julius Forte, redshirt junior Claude Davis and junior Patrick Hampton, who will start, will be seeing more snaps in the rotation while Marshall is sidelined. "We came out here this week and went a little harder than we usually do because we know we've got to step up, the younger cats got to step up and fill those shoes while Craig's gone," Giddins said. "That's what we're looking to do as a whole (defensive) line, as a unit. We're ready to come out here and take the challenge on."
Giddins is coming off perhaps his best game of the season in the win over the Bearcats, when he was able to provide some pressure off the edge and finish with three tackles and a half sack. Both USF coach Skip Holtz and defensive coordinator Mark Snyder point to the same reason for the success: Giddins' change in practice habits.
While practice can oftentimes become monotonous for young players, they have to understand the effort put forth during the week leads to what transpires on the field during game day, Snyder said. Holtz echoed those sentiments, and added that Giddins has been challenging and pushing himself in practice the past few weeks, consequently raising his level of play.
"When you start your growth and development out here on the practice field, you come into work every day, that's when you really start to see the fruits of your labor out here on Saturdays," Holtz said, "and that's what Ryne Giddins has done."
"It's amazing watching the maturation of Ryne Giddins," Snyder added.
Giddins points to the veterans, such as Marshall and senior defensive end David Bedford, for setting the example for which to follow.
"They come out here consistently working hard, and that showed me what I had to do," said Giddins, who has eight tackles, three for loss, and 1.5 sacks on the year. "I feel like I'm more confident in my game play and getting things done consistently, and that's what you've got to do. I'm getting pushed by my teammates to keep going hard, to keep pressing hard, and just working hard."
And that's what he aims to do Wednesday, as USF's defensive line will look to help exploit an area that looks good on paper for the Bulls. USF is ranked seventh nationally with an average of three sacks per game, and the Bulls will be going against a Scarlet Knights offense that ranks last among all Football Bowl Subdivision teams in protecting the quarterback. Rutgers allows an average of 4.71 sacks per game.
"I'm going to go out there and give my heart for my team," Giddins said.