TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -South Florida's George Selvie nodded his head in agreement, smiling at the suggestion that he's a marked man after emerging as one of the nation's top rush passers a year ago.
The 2007 Big East Defensive Player of the Year nearly set a NCAA record with 31.5 tackles for loss during a breakout season for him and the Bulls, who climbed as high as No. 2 in the country before falling out of national championship contention.
Selvie begins his junior season Saturday night against Tennessee-Martin with a much better idea of what to expect from opponents, who realize one of the keys to beating USF is containing him.
``Last year, nobody knew who I was. This year, everybody's gunning for me,'' Selvie said. ``That's a big change. It's going to be hard to do the same thing I did last year.''
The 6-foot-4, 245-pound All-American end began attracting extra attention the second half of his sophomore year.
After 11.5 sacks during the Bulls' 6-0 start and climb to second in the Bowl Championship Series standings, Selvie had three over the team's last seven games, including a lopsided loss to Oregon in the Sun Bowl.
The Bulls went 3-4 during that stretch, including consecutive losses to Big East foes Rutgers, Connecticut and Cincinnati that squashed their hopes of winning the conference for the first time.
``Going into the Rutgers game, Ray Rice actually told me that they game-planned for me. ... That's the point I knew everybody was going after me,'' Selvie said.
Recruited to play center, Selvie was converted to defensive end his first year at USF. Still learning the position, it took him awhile to adjust to the double-teams and other tactics opponents used to slow him down after his dynamic start last fall.
Nevertheless, he finished second in the nation with 14.5 sacks. He has 20 in 26 games, tied for first on the Bulls' career list.
``George is probably working as hard as I've ever seen him work,'' coach Jim Leavitt said, noting Selvie continues to make strides on the practice field and in the weight room, where the player has worked hard to bulk up to 245 pounds.
``It's not all about athletic talent,'' Leavitt added. ``It's about focus and discipline, being prepared and trying to step up your game every time out. He does a good job of that.''
The Bulls are ranked in the preseason Top 25 for the first time. The first month of the schedule features trips to UCF and North Carolina State, as well as a nationally televised home game against Kansas, one of the other surprise teams from last season.
Selvie knows skeptics are wondering if last season's meteoric rise was a fluke. He and the rest of the Bulls can hardly wait to answer.
``There are always going to be doubters. We went up to No. 2 so fast. Then when we got up there, we lost,'' Selvie said. ``We've still got the underdog mentality, but other teams are not going to take us lightly.''
He smiled when asked if he bought the notion that the Bulls were the second-best team in the country before their losses to Rutgers, Connecticut and Cincinnati dropped them all the way out of the Top 25.
``I think we were. We might have been the first-best team in the country,'' Selvie said. I don't think anybody should beat us. I think we're that good. We can play with anybody in the nation.''

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