TAMPA — For the University of South Florida to beat Memphis on Saturday night, the Bulls defense will have to tackle much better than it did in its last game, a 35-23 loss to Houston on Oct. 31.
Against the Cougars, several Bulls tacklers were beaten in the open field or had their tackles broken, allowing what defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan calls “yards after contact.”
As a remedy, Bresnahan and the defensive coaches have preached that USF defenders must swarm to the ball, even if it looks like the tackle will be successfully made.
“When you miss a tackle but you’ve got 10 hats coming to the ball, you’ve got a good chance of getting the guy down without yards after contact,” he said. “We’ve got to continue to stress that.”
In practice since that loss to Houston, all of USF’s defensive assistant coaches have been relentlessly drilling the players on the importance of making every tackle.
DE Ryne Giddins suggested the Bulls may have been a bit complacent in that game.
“It was us not being disciplined on defense,” he said. “I think we took our foot off the pedal a little bit. Stuff like that can’t happen.”
According to Giddins, it won’t happen again.
“Coach (Willie Taggart) has been on us, coach Bresnahan has been on us,” he said. “Before every play, (defensive backs coach Ron Cooper) is running in the huddle yelling, ‘Wrap up! Wrap up! Run to the ball,’ so it’s been exciting. We’ve been getting after it trying to improve.”
The Bulls will also look to limit explosive plays of 25 yards or more, which have a habit of creating momentum swings.
“If we have an Achilles’ heel right now, it’s giving up one or two or three or four explosive plays in a game that make the difference in a win or a loss,” Bresnahan said. “We’re doing some things really well, but that puts a sour taste in your mouth where all of a sudden you’re playing your butt off and then you give up an explosive play.”