USF's Selvie seeks big finish

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
Last summer, George Selvie publicly projected 20 sacks as his goal for 2008.

It was a bold but not too outlandish claim for the South Florida defensive end, coming off a sophomore year in which he led the nation in tackles for loss with 31.5 and finished second in the country with 14.5 sacks. Bigger things seemed in store for a guy still learning the position.

Instead, Selvie put together disappointing stats, at least by his own lofty standards. He finished with 13.5 tackles for loss and just 5.5 sacks, a victim of constant double teams and a midseason ankle injury. Though he still made the All-Big East first team and at least one All-America team, Selvie said last year's performance contributed to his decision to return to school for his senior year.

"I felt like I didn't want to end on that type of season when I knew I could have done better," he said.

The Bulls star hopes a few changes will lead to better numbers for him this year -- and push the team into championship-contender status.

Selvie's always been an undersized defensive end who uses his speed and neverending motor to his advantage. Now he says he's worked his way up to 250 pounds for the first time ever after playing at just under 240 at the end of last season. He's targeting 255 by the fall, hoping that will make him harder for offensive tackles to push around.

Selvie also picked something up when the Pittsburgh Steelers trained at South Florida before their Super Bowl win over the Arizona Cardinals. He saw how Steelers linebacker James Harrison, the NFL's defensive player of the year, spent a lot of time stretching every day after he lifted weights.

"I hadn't done that before, but now I'm stretching, too," Selvie said. "I want to follow in their shadows and do everything they do because I want to be on their level someday."

While Selvie didn't put up huge sack totals last year, he often occupied at least two blockers and allowed his teammates to make plays. Opponents might not have the luxury of concentrating so much on him this season.

South Florida returns three starters on the defensive line and veteran reserve Craig Marshall at defensive end. The Bulls are also bringing in highly-touted junior-college defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and prized true freshman Ryne Giddens. They might have the most talented defensive line in the Big East.

"I think we can be great," Selvie said. "There's going to be some good competition this spring, but come fall, I think there will be some great competition.

"I got beat up like the first three games last year and I didn't know what to do. So I created things for my teammates. But we've got playmakers all over the field this year. So that might happen the first couple of games, but after that it's going to be over."

If he sees those double and triple teams this season, Selvie should have a better idea of how to handle it.

"Now he knows more of what to expect going in," Bulls defensive line coach Kevin Patrick said. "If you've never driven a forklift before, it's going to feel a little weird. Instead of being single blocked like he was his whole career, teams were putting two and three guys on him, sprinting away from and using different protections to stop him. He's gone through that now and will be ready for it in 2009."

At this point, Selvie isn't making any predictions for the coming season. He'd rather let his play do the talking this time around.

"I really don't know what we've got in store," he said. "We'll see what goes on as we go."