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Schwartz makes unlikely return to football

Two years ago, Eric Schwartz was just an ordinary fan, wearing his USF gear and watching from the stands as the Bulls beat then No. 5 West Virginia at Raymond James Stadium.

Who would have thought that the junior, who earned a spot on the football team in fall as a walk-on, would be nailing field goals as USF’s kicker on Friday in a win against the Mountaineers?

USF coach Jim Leavitt didn’t.

Schwartz, who was a kicker at Hudson High School in Pasco County, made USF’s spring roster in February after an open tryout. But shortly after the spring game, Leavitt told him there wasn’t room on the fall roster, which had two experienced returners in Maikon Bonani and Delbert Alvarado.

“I said, ‘Why would I put our whole team and the game on the line for some guy who had never been in that situation?’ That’s how I felt,” Leavitt said Tuesday. “He asked me if I would let him (on the team) for the fall and I said, ‘Well, I don’t know why. I’ve got two other kickers. Come see me in June or July and we’ll talk about it.'”

Things changed, however, when Bonani fractured a vertebra in July and was ruled out for the remainder of the season.

“I said, ‘Let’s bring you in and do some kicking, and we’ll see how it goes,'” Leavitt said. “I told Eric (that he) might be one of those NFL stories where a guy’s working at a gas station and then all of a sudden he’s kicking … I told him that may be (his) story.”

Alvarado began kicking and punting this season, but after struggling in the first three games, Schwartz replaced him during USF’s win against Charleston Southern on Sept. 19.

For Schwartz, it was the first in-game kicking situation since fall of 2005 at Hudson – nearly four years – where he played football and basketball. He hit a 37-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, though.

“It’s definitely a unique story for how long I just kept trying to wait for my opportunity,” Schwartz said. “It finally came.”

Schwartz said he received no interest from colleges out of high school, so he enrolled at USF and attended classes while working part-time and kicking twice or three times a week at a local recreation center in Hudson.

He missed a walk-on tryout and later found out he was ineligible because he lacked enough credit hours in two previous attempts to make the Bulls’ roster.

But a good tryout before the fall and Bonani’s injury opened the door for Schwartz, who is settling into the role as starting kicker – even tying a personal-best 50-yard field goal against then-No. 8 Cincinnati on Oct. 15.

“The more opportunities I get, the more confident I’m getting, considering with the layoff,” said Schwartz, who is 6 of 9 this season. “The first time you get out there, you’re pretty nervous.”

Leavitt said he’s glad Schwartz seized the opportunity.

“In life we all have opportunities, and what we do with the opportunities is up to us,” he said. “You can make the most of it, or you just forget it. Right now, Eric is making the most of his opportunities.”

Safe or out: Daniels learning to slide

USF redshirt quarterback B.J. Daniels is looking to improve an unorthodox area of his game: sliding.

The Bulls’ shifty quarterback, who leads the team with 608 rushing yards, has used his legs to avoid defenders 93 times this season, usually taking a hit from an opposing player.

And that concerns offensive coordinator Mike Canales so much that he sought the
techniques of USF softball coach Ken Eriksen, Daniels said.

“I didn’t want this to get out, but Canales has actually talked to the girls’ softball coach to help me out with sliding,” he said. “I haven’t played baseball since 10th grade and I kind of forgot how to. They’re trying to get me to do that a bit more. … Right now I’m just falling.”

Forward out for first two games

Women’s basketball senior forward Porche Grant, who led the Bulls in rebounding last season, will miss the first two games of the season because of NCAA rules violations, USF coach Jose Fernandez said Tuesday.

Grant played in all 37 games last season for USF, which won the Women’s National Invitation Tournament – the first postseason championship in program history.

Fernandez said he would not elaborate on Grant’s situation, other than saying it was a NCAA rules violation.