USF looks to rebound from disappointing season
B.J. Daniels feels a sense of urgency to lead South Florida to
the top of the Big East.
The Bulls are coming off a disappointing 5-7 finish that ended a
string of six consecutive bowl appearances, and the senior
quarterback is eager to prove he and a talented supporting cast not
only are a year older, but a team that’s learned from costly
mistakes that undermined last season.
”Everybody’s joking, saying I’m the old man of the team now,”
Daniels said. ”It means I’ve got to hurry up and do something.
It’s my last opportunity to try to help out the team and do
whatever we can to try to win the Big East.”
USF concluded its second season under coach Skip Holtz by
dropping seven of eight following a 4-0 that included a win at
That attention-grabbing road victory propelled the Bulls into
the Top 25 for a four-week stay that ended when they lost their
conference opener. Four of the team’s seven losses came in the
closing seconds of games the Bulls easily could have won, leaving
Holtz and his players with an empty feeling that lingered in the
With 15 starters returning, including eight on offense, the
Bulls think they have the experience and depth it’ll take to make a
run at their first conference title.
Holtz cautioned, however, that games are not won on paper.
”You look at the way we finished the second half of last
season. We can talk about it, we can make a lot of improvements,
but we can’t do anything about it until we step on the field Sept.
1,” Holtz said, looking forward to this year’s opener against
”So regardless of what people are writing or projecting, who’s
back and what type of team you have, none of that is really
relevant. We’ve got to go get it done on the field,” the coach
added. ”The last time we played is not anything we want to beat
our chests about. That’s a huge motivating factor for me and this
Daniels threw for 2,585 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven
interceptions a year ago after struggling as a sophomore in his
first season in Holtz’s offense. Holtz felt the numbers may have
been even better if a group of talented receivers and running backs
had been able to remain healthy.
A lack of depth also hurt the Bulls on special teams, where
several gaffes contributed to losses.
”When you look at the improvements we made offensively last
year, statistically we made huge strides. That was a tribute to
B.J. and the way that he played,” Holtz said.
”If we can get some things going around him, then I’m very
comfortable that he can have success,” the coach added. ”I don’t
think anybody can do it alone. In a lot of respects, he was asked
to do that.”
Seven starters are back on defense, including end Ryne Giddins,
cornerback Kayvon Webster and linebackers Sam Barrington, Michael
Lanaris and DeDe Lattimore.
The biggest question mark in fall camp is who will wind up as
the second starting cornerback, although Holtz doesn’t sound
concerned because ”there’s an awful lot of talent to decide
Offensively, Demetris Murray is poised to become a full-time
starter at running back, and Holtz said there’s more depth on the
line and at receiver than at any point since he took over in 2010.
In fact, the biggest battle in camp is to determine if red-shirt
freshman Matt Floyd or junior Bobby Eveld will be the No. 2
”Both had good springs, but I don’t think either one had the
type of spring to take over that position,” Holtz said.
A year ago, Holtz had the entire offseason to prime the Bulls
for a season-opening test at Notre Dame. This season, he’s counting
on the way last season ended to set the tone for a strong
After facing Tennessee-Chattanooga, USF will sandwich road trips
to Nevada and Ball State around its Big East opener at home against
Rutgers. Florida State visits Raymond James Stadium on Sept. 29,
wrapping up what Holtz expects to be a challenging first month of
”I don’t think we need a big game to motivate us,” Holtz said.
”I think right now the challenge is within us, not against our
opponent. … We’ve got to play to become a better football