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USF spring ball: Notes and quotes

Posted Apr 24, 2012 by Joey Johnston

Updated Apr 24, 2012 at 12:50 PM

There were 15 total practices. That included three scrimmages (one to set the depth chart, one called the “Green and Gold Bowl’’ and another designated as the spring game). And now it’s done.

The University of South Florida football program has completed its spring football drills. Coach Skip Holtz said he believes the Bulls are well on their way to burying last season’s disappointing 5-7 finish and building toward something special in 2012.

Here’s a look back and a look ahead:

OFFENSIVE MVP

Sophomore WR Andre Davis. He looked every bit the playmaker he became for Jefferson High School, where he was known as “Freak Show’’ because of his sick athletic skills. Davis had two touchdowns in each of the first two scrimmages, along with six receptions (and a 41-yard catch) in the spring game. USF’s receiving corps appears to be ridiculously deep. There are weapons galore. Davis has the potential to be the best of them all.

DEFENSIVE MVP

Junior DE Ryne Giddins. Those who remember Giddins at Armwood High School probably wouldn’t recognize the kid now. The angular, sleek body has bulked up, making for a power-speed combination on the edge. Giddins looked unblockable at times. He accounted for 10 sacks in the three scrimmages (although most came against a QB wearing the red non-contact jersey). No one ever questioned Giddins’ talent. He just needed more consistency. He has the look of a first-team All-Big East Conference performer.

FIVE IMPRESSIVE PLAYERS

(Excluding Davis and Giddins, who have a category all to themselves)

* Senior OLB Sam Barrington – His leadership skills and experience will be invaluable for USF’s defense. He’s so reliable, it’s easy to take him for granted. “I’ve kind of been assuming that teaching role since my sophomore year,’’ Barrington said. “But it’s a role I embrace. I want to set a good example.’’

* Senior QB B.J. Daniels – If it seems like Daniels has been around forever, well, he has. Not many college football teams have the luxury of a four-year starter. USF must take advantage of that. Daniels has matured and grown in USF’s system. He should leave not only with some of the most impressive numbers in USF history, but in the state of Florida as well. “The first thing I have to do now is deliver the football, that’s my job,’’ Daniels said. “If I have an opportunity to take off (running), I’m not going to second guess myself or fall shot. That’s when you make mistakes. I’m going to play comfortable and relaxed.’’

* Junior FS JaQuez Jenkins – Holtz raved about the impact Jenkins made on USF’s defense. “I’ve been impressed,’’ Holtz said. “He gives us that free safety we haven’t had here, tall, lanky, athletic, can cover a lot of ground. He’s playing with an attitude right now.’’

* Senior RB Lindsey Lamar – He moved from receiver to running back, where his impact could be dramatic. “It looks like it has been a productive move for us,’’ said Todd Fitch, the offensive coordinator. “The productivity is what you see. He has a little burst back there, a little speed. (In one scrimmage) we had a blitz pickup on third down. He stood up and faced the linebacker and stopped the charge. That was fun for us to watch.’’

* Sophomore C Austin Reiter – It’s the big problem spot on USF’s offensive line, replacing Chaz Hine (and the stability of Sampson Genus before that). Reiter erased all worries with an excellent spring performance. “He’s always been talented, but he’s just an undersized guy,’’ Fitch said. “He has shown good ability to go in and run the line, make the calls. As he develops and gets game experience, he has a chance to be a really good player.’’

FIVE NEWCOMERS TO WATCH

* Sophomore DT Todd Chandler – We’re calling Chandler a newcomer, even though he has been around the program for two years. But after a redshirt year, last season was lost to academic ineligibility. He was a highly-touted prep prospect who now seems poised to realize his potential. “He’s starting to become a leader for that redshirt freshman group,’’ Holtz said. “I was proud of the way he handled adversity last year. He didn’t play in a game, but he practiced every day and he practiced hard. He plays with great emotion and passion. Now we just have to channel that.’’

* Sophomore WR Chris Dunkley – The University of Florida transfer is pure magic in the open field. There were brief glimpses of that during the spring, but probably not enough to excite the masses. When the bullets are live, though, we’re betting that Dunkley will have a significant impact on USF’s offense. “What he’s learning now is you have to earn your keep,’’ Fitch said. “He’s as talented a guy as we have on our football team.’’

* Freshman DE Eric Lee – He enrolled early from Daphne (Ala.) High School and already has his name on the map. Coaches love his yes-sir, no-sir approach, his work ethic and the experience he already has gained. In time, he might be viewed as a recruiting steal. “If I didn’t know he was a freshman coming in here, I’d think he has been here a couple of years,’’ said Chris Cosh, the defensive coordinator. “He should be going to the prom in the next month. He has a chance to play real early. I like where he’s at right now.’’

* Junior G Lawrence Martin – The transfer from Merced (Calif.) College and one-time player for Daytona Beach Seabreeze High. Coaches were impressed with his willingness to shift to right guard and learn a new stance, although left guard is his natural position. Either way, he’s going to push for major playing time.

* Junior DE Tevin Mims – The transfer from Navarro Junior College and freshman player at the University of Texas is a high-motor, productive pass-rusher. Expect him to challenge Julius (JuJu) Forte for a starting spot. He wears No. 99, which is an eye-opening designation for any Florida-based defensive lineman because it conjures memories of potential Hall of Famers Warren Sapp (Bucs) and Jason Taylor (Dolphins).

FIVE SPRING STORYLINES

* Injuries. There was a big one in the final week when senior DT Cory Grissom broke his ankle during a non-contract drill. The loss would be huge, but Holtz said he believes Grissom will be ready for part of training camp and the Sept. 1 opener against UT-Chattanooga. Senior DE Anthony Hill (torn ACL) will miss the 2012 season. Others missing significant spring-practice time included senior OL Danous Estenour and senior TE Andreas Shields, two probable first-team players.

* Depth. Injuries wrecked several units of USF’s team the past two seasons. The Bulls have solidified their roster to the point where the two-deep is reliable. In some cases, third-teamers are viable options.

* Backup QB. Daniels is set as the starter. Meanwhile, junior Bobby Eveld and redshirt freshman Matt Floyd are battling to become the backup. That battle might last until the week before USF’s opener. It’s that close.

* Reshuffled Staff. There’s a new defensive coordinator in Cosh (Kansas State) and a new receivers coach in Jerome Pathon (San Diego). Meanwhile, responsibilities on the offensive staff were juggled. Fitch, the offensive coordinator, has shifted from running backs to quarterbacks. Peter Vaas went from quarterbacks to tight ends. Larry Scott moved from tight ends to running backs. Holtz said it opened a direct line of communication from Fitch to the quarterbacks – a common sense move, really – and everyone else has embraced their new roles.

* The Cornerbacks. Senior Kayvon Webster is set at one cornerback. The other spot has significant competition between junior-college transfers Fidel Montgomery and Joshua Brown, along with redshirt freshman Kenneth Durden. And that doesn’t even account for true freshman Chris Bivins Jr., who enrolled early but couldn’t participate in spring due to an injury. Some think Bivins might be good enough to start right away.
 
FIVE SPRING OBSERVATIONS

* Players are responding to the style of Cosh, the new defensive coordinator. Cosh is big on details, accountability and communication. No one is throwing former defensive coordinator Mark Snyder (now at Texas A&M) under the bus, but getting back to basics seems to be agreeing with USF’s defensive veterans. “It’s a game of excitement, emotion and passion,’’ Cosh said. “I want the kids to love the game and be enthusiastic about it. As a coach, you have to be a good example of that.’’

* Eveld and Floyd are competent backups and could fill in during a crisis. But is either player the long-term starting QB answer beginning in 2013? The Bulls didn’t get a quarterback on signing day. They desperately need a good one (or two) next February.

* USF’s speed – on both sides of the ball – might be the team’s most impressive characteristic.

* Lamar is going to have a big season. USF must find creative ways to utilize his skills.

* The Bulls have as good a chance as any team to win the Big East title. We thought the same thing last season, but as it turned out, the depth was flimsy and the ball didn’t bounce USF’s way at all in the final minutes of tight contests. That run of late-game misfortune is bound to change.
 
FIVE NOTABLE QUOTES

“I guess I’m a sheltered kid. I live in a bubble. I don’t have Facebook, Twitter and all that kind of stuff. I just enjoy the atmosphere, being around college football. I want to be part of something I’m always going to remember.’’ – Daniels on how he handles the inevitable criticism of playing a high-profile position.

“You’re born with it.  Maybe it’s instilled in you the way you were raised. I was raised tough. We had very little when I was coming up. My dad was a carpenter, so you know I was tough. If I spoke wrong, I got hit, backhanded. Kids are different these days. … We got to keep pushing them and we got to keep getting them tough.’’ – defensive backs coach Rick Smith as he questioned the overall toughness of his secondary unit.

“Last year, I was basically like Bambi. Now I’m an actual deer. I feel way better.’’ – Sophomore WR Ruben Gonzalez on how he has improved with a year’s experience.

“We just call him the ‘Avatar.’ He’s a freak. He’s starting to get it mentally, on and off the field and it’s making him excel that much faster.’’ – Senior TE Evan Landi on fellow TE Mike McFarland (6-5, 247), who wowed coaches, teammates and fans alike with spectacular catches.

“Why would anyone want to hire you? You were 5-7.’’Jennifer Holtz, Skip’s wife, reacting to reports that USF’s coach was a possible candidate for the opening at Arkansas.

THE 2012 SCHEDULE

Saturday, Sept. 1 – UT-Chattanooga

Saturday, Sept. 8 – at Nevada

Saturday, Sept. 15 – Rutgers*

Saturday, Sept. 22 – at Ball State

Saturday, Sept. 29 – Florida State

Saturday, Oct. 6 – at Temple*

Saturday, Oct. 20 – at Louisville*

Saturday, Oct. 27 – Syracuse*

Saturday, Nov. 3 – Connecticut*

Saturday, Nov. 17 – at Miami

Friday, Nov. 23 – at Cincinnati*

Saturday, Dec. 1 – Pittsburgh*

*—Big East Conference game
 

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