Ryne Giddins was a wanted man early in 2009. He was considered one of the nation's top five high school defensive ends and he basically had his choice of colleges.
Giddins, from powerhouse Armwood High in the Tampa suburb of Seffner, chose to stay home and signed with USF. But his career hasn't gone as expected.
A senior, Giddins has 91 tackles, 14.5 sacks and 22 tackles for loss in his career. Those aren't the type of numbers "can't-miss defensive ends" usually put up. Indeed, he heads into the season in the shadow of third-year sophomore Aaron Lynch, a Notre Dame transfer who has received a lot of preseason All-AAC notice.
After starting 12 times and racking up 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles as a sophomore in 2011, Giddins seemed to be on the verge of a breakout season in 2012. But he suffered a left shoulder injury in the season-opener against Chattanooga -- on Chattanooga's first drive of the game, in fact -- and never was the same after that. He played in all 12 games but started just seven, and he had surgery for a torn labrum after the season.
"During the season, I was pretty bad," Giddins told the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times. "My left shoulder feels better than my right one now. I feel pretty good, but I'm still a work in progress, have to rehab every day still and get back to normal."
Giddins, who is 6-feet-3, weighed 235 pounds when he signed with USF, played at about 260 last season and told the Times he now is up to 280 pounds and feels a lot better. If he indeed is healthy, USF will have four veteran ends to work with: Giddins, Lynch and seniors Tevin Mims and Julius "JuJu" Forte.
Defensive line coach Eric Mathies, who came with new coach Willie Taggart from Western Kentucky, has mentioned that he would consider using three or four ends at one time on passing downs. While USF averaged 2.1 sacks per game in 2012, the defensive ends managed just 6.5 total all season.
USF has three key games early in the season: Sept. 7 at Michigan State, Sept. 28 vs. Miami and Oct. 5 vs. Cincinnati. Some kind of pass rush is going to be needed if USF wants to pull an upset.