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No escaping Selvie
The defensive end is already close to setting USF season records for sacks, tackles for loss.
By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
Published October 4, 2007
[Brian Cassella | Times]
West Virginia quarterback Pat White is brought down for a loss by George Selvie. "The whole line has done a great job, and our secondary is covering well," Selvie says.
TAMPA - If Saturday is a typical game for George Selvie, USF's season records for sacks and tackles for loss will go down, much like anything else put in front of him this season.
The sophomore defensive end has led the nation in sacks since Week One, when he had four against Elon. He's kept that lead, with 9.5 sacks in four games, already a half-sack off the USF full-season record, last set by Terrence Royal in 2005.
"It's been surprising, but we're all playing hard," said Selvie, 6 feet 4 and 245 pounds. "The whole line has done a great job, and our secondary is covering well. A lot of those sacks are coverage sacks."
Selvie has been dominant enough that he has, by himself, more sacks than 79 Division I-A teams, a full two-thirds of the 119 programs in college football's highest level.
All this from a high school center who played defense as an afterthought at Pensacola's Pine Forest High. He totaled six sacks as a senior but got only one Division I-A offer.
Selvie started every game last year, totaling 5.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss and earning Freshman All-America honors from the Sporting News.
USF's defensive linemen point to first-year position coach Dan McCarney, the longtime head coach at Iowa State, and his persistent, demanding style for their progress this season.
"He takes nothing but the best. The thing I like about him is he has really short-term memory," tackle Richard Clebert said. "You can win eight plays, and you can lose one and he will go off, go crazy. That's how he is. He expects the best from us, and that's what has George on top of the charts right now, and the rest of the defense doing pretty good."
Clebert and defensive end Jarriett Buie have been the unsung heroes in Selvie's success. They combine for just two sacks, but have been credited with 25 quarterback hurries - 14 for Clebert, 11 for Buie - flushing out of the pocket and, often, right to Selvie.
"They know I'm the strongest guy on the field, so I'm always getting double-teamed every play," said Clebert, who can bench-press 540 pounds, 100 more than his closest teammate. "They did give Selvie one of my sacks (against North Carolina), but I'm excited for him, because Selvie works so hard, 24/7 and at practice. He pushes me. I can't wait for teams to start double-teaming him, so I can get up in there."
Selvie calls Clebert "one of the best nose guards in the country," and McCarney said the defensive success starts with players getting bigger and stronger this summer (Selvie gained about 15 pounds). McCarney keeps a stack of headshots in his office and puts one up on the meeting-room board each Sunday for each tackle for loss.
"It's an attack and react defense, and I put a premium on tackles for loss," McCarney said. "Any time you're behind the line of scrimmage making plays, it's a good thing. We're striving for second-and-long and third-and-long situations."
That's a big reason the Bulls ranked second nationally in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert just 22.7 percent of their third-down opportunities. (USF's offense converts at a 40 percent clip.)
This week, even as a 151/2-point favorite at Florida Atlantic, USF's defensive line has a challenge, going against an Owls offensive line that has allowed only six sacks in five games.
"I think we've got a real good scheme from (defensive coordinator) Wally Burnham, but the scheme won't matter if you don't have players playing like they are," McCarney said. "If you don't have the tenacity that George has on every play, it doesn't fit together the way it has for this defense."