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USF discovers a new big-play option
By ZACH BERMAN, Times Correspondent
Published November 11, 2007
SYRACUSE, N.Y.- Aston Samuels was meeting with reporters after rushing for 101 yards in Saturday's 41-10 win over Syracuse, basking in the attention when his offensive coordinator, Greg Gregory, interjected.
"Hold on. Tell them to talk to someone with speed who won't get caught from behind at the 3-yard line," Gregory said, jokingly referring to the 75-yard second-quarter run when the speedy runner was caught just shy of the end zone on the longest non-scoring play in USF history.
That was the only blemish on Samuels' best day as a Bull. The 5-foot-10, 176-pound redshirt freshman from Belle Glade tallied his 101 yards on just two plays. He entered with 46 yards.
Gregory said the offensive staff decided Wednesday to involve Samuels' speed in the gameplan.
With running back Ben Williams out with an ankle injury and receiver Taurus Johnson slowed by one, the coaches saw Samuels as a candidate to add a jolt to the offense. The answer was to line him up on the outside as a receiver.
On the 75-yard run, Samuels was lined up in the left flank. A running back as a flanker could either be gimmick or deception.
Gregory went with gimmick.
Samuels' steps were back and toward the middle, where quarterback Matt Grothe pitched him the ball for an end around. Samuels sprinted around the right tackle and the entire defense, past the Orange's sideline with nothing in front of him except a dejected Carrier Dome crowd. Safety Dowayne Davis tripped him at the 3-yard line.
"I got caught in the moment and slowed down," Samuels said.
"I would have started slowing down, too, if I was that fast because I wouldn't think anyone would be near me," Grothe said.
Two drives later, Samuels lined up in the right slot and carried on an end around. He was held to a meager 26-yard gain.
"I guess they knew it was coming," Samuels said.
Lining up on the outside provides a different look for Samuels. It allows him to get open in space rather than running between tackles.
"This is about speed," Samuels said. "When you're behind center, you need to see everything and read everything."
Gregory said the Bulls might consider lining up Samuels outside more often as the season winds down to take advantage of the speed and create mismatches. Coach Jim Leavitt just wants Samuels on the field - especially after Saturday's performance.
"He's got some serious speed. We've got to get him on the field somehow," Leavitt said. "I'd say we better look at it if we're smart."