With the 2011 spring practice season behind the team, coach Skip Holtz sat down with the media for a lengthy discussion on the depth chart, team strengths and weaknesses and everything in between.
In a two-part series, The Oracle examines the offense today and tomorrow will break down the defense and team goals.
Having run three lengthy scrimmages during the spring, Holtz believes the team made progress, but more importantly stayed healthy.
“I feel like we got a lot done in spring,” he said.
In their first spring scrimmage, held at the football practice facilities, the Bulls ran about 178 plays – the longest scrimmage Holtz has ever experienced. In the Spring Game at Raymond James Stadium, USF ran about 150 plays before Holtz ended it with about four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The final scrimmage, which was held in the USF Soccer/Track Stadium, lasted about 120 plays.
“You start adding all those up, I mean there’s about 500 scrimmage plays in there that we got, and we stayed healthy,” Holtz said. “Staying healthy and getting all that experience work was invaluable to us. I think this summer is going to be critical for us.”
Replacing two starters from last season in tackles Jacob Sims and Jamar Bass, the offensive line was considered among the positions that needed the most work during the spring. Holtz said he now believes his starting five linemen are more or less set, but he needs to add more depth, possibly with the five incoming freshmen linemen.
“I feel really good about five, six of the offensive linemen right now,” Holtz said. “I think we’re going to have a starting five that I think is going to be able to be competitive but we’re really going to need, and I’m excited to see … some of these freshmen come in here. Some of these freshmen are going to have a chance to play.”
As of now, redshirt junior Mark Popek and redshirt freshman Quinterrious Eatmon will play tackle, with fifth-year seniors Jeremiah Warren and Chaz Hine playing guard and fifth-year senior Keith McCaskill at center.
Redshirt junior B.J. Daniels has already started 22 games in his career, but is starting to settle into offensive coordinator Todd Fitch’s offensive system. This is the first offseason that Daniels has not had to deal with a change in the offensive coordinator system.
“I like the progress that B.J. (Daniels) has made,” Holtz said. “Anytime you’re playing with a young quarterback, you’re going to deal with a lot of mental hurdles that they’ve gotta go over. Physically, he’s as good as he’s ever been, but he’s making better decisions, he’s being good with the ball … he’s starting to really understand the game.”
Behind Daniels, Holtz is happy with the depth at the quarterback position, which was a weakness last season. True sophomore Bobby Eveld is listed as the backup quarterback on the post-spring depth chart, followed by freshman Matt Floyd.
“Bobby (Eveld), I think is continuing to progress and doing some good things,” Holtz said. “I think Matt Floyd is going to be pretty special one day. He’s showing all the intangible things: the decision making, the poise, handling pressure, all those things. We have three very talented quarterbacks.”
Neither of the two wide receivers trying to return from injury – redshirt sophomore Sterling Griffin and sixth-year senior A.J. Love – are listed as starters on the most recent depth chart. Griffin, returning from an ankle injury, participated during spring practice, but did not earn a starting position as he continues rehab. Love, who tore an ACL last spring, was very limited during the spring and is not listed on the depth chart.
Instead, the tandem of junior Evan Landi and sophomore Terrence Mitchell has earned the No. 1 spot on the depth chart, with senior Joel Miller earning the starting spot as a slot receiver.
“Obviously, you have Landi and Terrence Mitchell right now, that I would consider to be two guys that have really come out that are playing a solid role for us,” Holtz said.
Beyond those three, Holtz said he believes there is a “bowl” of names that he can choose from to put on the field.
Besides Griffin and Love, Holtz mentioned Victor Marc, Derrick Hopkins, Faron Hornes, Deonte Welch, Lindsey Lamar and incoming freshmen Andre Davis and Ruben Gonzalez.
“Once we get past those first three, there’s a big bowl and you can kind of put them all in it,” Holtz said. “A couple of the freshmen are going to have a chance to come in there and make an impact. When you look at both Andre Davis and Ruben Gonzalez … they’re going to be in that bowl.”
Redshirt junior Demetris Murray returns as the rusher who gained the most yards a year ago, but faces stiff competition from Colorado transfer Darrell Scott, a former No. 1-rated running back prospect. Auburn transfer Dontae Aycock is also a candidate for time in the backfield, along with sophomore Marcus Shaw.
“Demetris Murray is not giving that position up lightly,” Holtz said. “Darrell Scott is a phenomenal talent. He had a great spring. He’s tough, he’s hard-nosed, he’s playing with the ball, without the ball, he’s doing some great things, but I think a lot of that, too, is the competition he has with Murray.”
With four capable players, running back figures to be one of USF’s deepest positions.