Scratching the surface

Everything is there for B.J. Daniels: the running, the arm strength and the movement in and out of the pocket.

USF’s redshirt freshman quarterback has all the tools. But it seems like every time his short career takes a step forward, it takes one back.

In wins against Florida State and Syracuse, he’s looked nothing short of stellar, filling the gap that senior Matt Grothe left when he went down with a season-ending knee injury.

But there have been regressions in bad losses to Pittsburgh and, most recently, a 31-0 drubbing by Rutgers on Thursday night. This is all a part of the process, though, USF coach Jim Leavitt said Tuesday.

“There’s a lot of learning involved for a freshman quarterback,” Leavitt said. “He’s now the guy. We ask a lot of things.”

Inconsistency is something USF has had to deal with as a team – not just at quarterback, Leavitt said, rieterating he’s been impressed with all the things Daniels has handled this season.

Despite sparingly playing in the first two games, the Tallahassee native is ninth in the conference out of all rushers and is third in total offense.

Leavitt said Daniels is a unique player. Thus, the offense has to adjust to Daniels’ skill set.

“We’re trying to still get a feel for the whole thing,” he said. “We kind of knew what Matt Grothe was going to do and what he could do. B.J. is different. They’re different players. Matt’s been around the game for a while. B.J. can do some things Matt couldn’t do.

“We feel like we’ve got a pretty good handle on where we want to go. Now, it’s just getting there.”

The Bulls were set back against Rutgers in terms of offensive production. USF was held to 159 yards and was shut out for the first time in its 13-year history. Leavitt said the progression of a young quarterback takes time, as he learns to lead an offense.

“He’s seen different attacks all the time,” Leavitt said. “And also going on the road … the whole thing – it’s a lot to ask in the style of offense we run. I think it’s a lot to ask in any style of offense with a quarterback.”

But Daniels said he’s up to the task, showing can carry a team while not letting the other distractions, such as the media or the general pressure that comes with starting quarterbacks get to him.

“I don’t go out there and play football to try to please people and get their approval and opinions,” Daniels said. “It’s something I love to do and I’m satisfied with this year so far. Hopefully, we can finish out the season strong.”

The pressure comes with the territory for Daniels, who was a dual-sport athlete at Lincoln High School. He set many football and even some basketball records, averaging 27 points per game as a senior to break the school’s season record for scoring average.

“He’s been in the spotlight,” said offensive coordinator Mike Canales. “He’s been at the forefront of a lot of different programs. Playing basketball, he was in the national light as well. He just plays the game. When he gets on the field and in front of the cameras, I don’t think those things bother him at all.”

Even though he’s played in the spotlight numerous times in his life, Daniels still embraces it.

“It’s a little different because I’ve been there and done it already,” Daniels said. “Right now, it’s going in and executing and doing the things I’m supposed to do.”

USF’s season still rests one win away from bowl eligibility despite the ups and downs. And the coaching staff has acknowledged that every young quarterback goes through growing pains.

However, the season hasn’t just been a learning experience for Daniels. Leavitt said the Bulls now have a good idea of what they’ll have at quarterback the next four years.

“If you put a highlight tape together right now of B.J. Daniels, it’d be pretty impressive,” Leavitt said. “He’s just such an explosive player and has so much talent. I’m real excited about his future. He’s going to be extraordinary.”