TAMPA -- When Ryne Giddins signed with the University of South Florida out of high school in 2009, it was considered a coup for the Bulls football program.
A first-team USA Today All-American and Rivals.com’s Florida defensive player of the year, he became the most ballyhooed and decorated recruit to join the team.
Then-head coach Jim Leavitt was hailed as recruiting guru for landing the Seffner Armwood High product. Giddins was the type of kid who normally went to Florida or FSU.
He was a big, strong defensive end who had great speed and could jettison an already-strong defense to another height.
Fast forward to 2011. Everyone is still waiting for Giddins, who is a redshirt sophomore. He hasn’t been bad, but he also hasn’t lived up to expectations, though perhaps all the hype was a bit unfair.
Giddins’ freshman year ended after three games because of an injury. Last year, he started two games on a veteran defensive line and had what you might call modest numbers with 3.5 sacks.
With three starters gone from the defensive line, this was supposed to be the year for the “real” Giddins to emerge. He was called a speed rusher who could bring back memories of former USF All-American defensive end George Selvie.
Giddins was labeled “potential superstar.”
The 6-foot-4, 261-pounder has yet to remove the “potential” from his bio.
A lot of it might not be his fault. The Bulls defensive line had to be rebuilt and is still a work in progress. The debacle at Pittsburgh two weeks ago that resulted in 44-17 loss, in which the Bulls allowed 523 yards, didn’t help.
“I still have a big chip on my shoulder from the game, and when I watch the film I get sick to my stomach,” Giddins said. “We broke down as a team and just didn’t trust in each other. When one person missed his assignment the other said let me try and make up for that and then I miss my assignment. We had a bunch of those and missed tackles. It was a snowball effect.”
Giddins doesn’t have the numbers he wants and, at least statistically, has been outshone by true freshman defensive tackle Elkino Watson, who leads the Bulls with 6.5 tackles for loss.
But Giddins could never be accused of lack of effort. The criticism on Giddins was that he had the speed to be an effective pass rusher, but lacked fluidity to get around offensive linemen. He worked hard during the offseason to improve his technique and said things will be better this weekend at Connecticut.
He also is not afraid of competition and is among the first to praise Watson.
“We had a great week of practice and made some minor adjustments, which will help along with trusting our teammates to do what they are supposed to do,” Giddins said. “Pitt kicked our butt, but we feel we fixed what needed to be fixed. Elkino is a playmaker above everything else. He is very committed and doesn’t take anything for granted.”
USF defensive coordinator Mark Snyder agrees with Giddins that the Bulls didn’t take care of their own assignments and showed a lack of trust in each other.
He is concerned that Giddins has only one sack this season and that the other starter at defensive end, Patrick Hampton, doesn’t have any. Backup defensive ends Claude Davis and Julius Forte have combined for six, but that could be more the result of being in the game at a more opportune time.
“We would like to see more production (from Giddins and Hampton),” Snyder said. “Those guys need to start coming and providing us with some pass rush. Then again, it’s hard. Pittsburgh was a little bit of an option football team.”
Giddins is ready to amp up his game and take advantage of how he improved his technique over the summer.
Most NFL scouting reports list Giddins as USF’s most promising pro prospect, and some publications predicted a double-digit sacks.
So far, the production hasn’t met the expectations, but no one is giving up on Giddins, especially himself.