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South Florida linebacker Auggie Sanchez is grabbing attention

Although Auggie Sanchez was originally recruited on offense out of Northeast High School in St. Petersburg, Florida, he knew he could impact games for the University of South Florida on the other side of the ball, too. "When I first came here they recruited me as a fullback," said Sanchez in a 2014 video. "I loved playing linebacker in high school; I talked to [defensive coordinator Raymond Woodie] and told him I wanted to play linebacker."

Almost three full seasons later, it's hard to argue with the decision. Sanchez's wish was granted, likely because of his penchant for big hits, and because his brother, Armando Sanchez, had been a special-teams standout for USF from 2009 to 2011 who earned Big East All-Academic Team honors each year. Now a fan favorite, Auggie has emerged as a decisive playmaker on the South Florida defense.

In 2015, his redshirt sophomore season at middle linebacker, Auggie posted 117 tackles, the second-highest total ever at USF, and made the All-American Athletic Conference second team. He was also named South Florida's defensive MVP and was a candidate for the Butkus Award. This season, he's on pace to reach triple digits in tackles once more, with 85 in 10 games. He's gotten to quarterbacks as well: his 6.0 sacks are a career high.

"He's consistent with what he does," USF coach Willie Taggart told The American. "You don't ever hear him blame anyone or make excuses," he continued. Auggie's leadership on the defensive side of the ball, coupled with the Bulls' strong offense, has helped the team achieve an 8-2 (5-1 American, tied for first in the East) record, with notable wins against top-25 ranked Navy at home, as well as Syracuse, Cincinnati and Memphis on the road. For the second consecutive year, the university is bowl eligible and in the hunt for a conference championship.

His impact play, predictably, has also made the opposition stand up and notice ahead of remaining games. The SMU Mustangs, his next opponent, have been alerted to Sanchez's prowess: "[South Florida does have] playmakers on defense, namely linebacker Auggie Sanchez," reads the preview for Saturday's game in Texas.

Bolstered by impressive numbers on a strong team, it's becoming increasingly likely that Auggie could have a future in football beyond USF. Ranked as a rising prospect on boards looking toward the 2018 draft, he could very well be the next Bulls linebacker in the NFL.

Though South Florida has only recently become a hub for pro-level talent (since 2010, the Bulls have had 13 players drafted, including first-rounder Jason Pierre-Paul), defensive players have been favored, a positive omen for Auggie. In the last six drafts, USF has had four linebackers selected.

With a high-profile bowl bid increasingly likely (USF could very well first face off for the American championship against Navy on ESPN in early December), Auggie would again get the chance to display his talent to a national audience and make NFL scouts notice ahead of his senior season.

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