As far as actual football played on the field is concerned, a new era begins today when USF kicks off spring practice under new coach Skip Holtz.
But perhaps the major storyline will be the recovery of USF redshirt sophomore quarterback B.J. Daniels, who had surgery on his left, non-throwing shoulder in late January but is expected to participate in seven-on-seven drills and non-contact practices.
“We’re hopeful B.J. will be able to go through spring from a mental standpoint,” Holtz said last month. “He won’t be able to go through any of the physical contact work. I’m OK with that. I just want to make sure he gets the mental reps. It’s one thing to sit there and learn it on a grease board. It’s a whole another thing to get out there and do it.”
USF has just two other quarterbacks on its roster, including sophomore Evan Landi, who saw most of his time at wide receiver last season.
Holtz said Landi is likely to stay at wide receiver while they groom incoming freshman quarterback Jamius Grunsby, a 6-foot-5 athletic quarterback from Georgia, as Daniels’ backup, assuming Daniels is healthy.
“Obviously, Landi is a possibility. He was a quarterback in the past,” Holtz said. “He’s a young man we can put back there to give us some reps at the quarterback position. I’d like to keep Landi at wide receiver because I think he has a chance to be a starter out there in the four-wide package. I don’t want to move him (back) to quarterback only to have him lose out on his opportunities at receiver this spring.”
USF lost its largest productivity at receiver when Carlton Mitchell chose to forego his senior year and enter the NFL draft this spring. Despite a few personnel changes, Holtz brings a spread offense, the same style USF ran under former coordinator Mike Canales, who wasn’t retained by Holtz.
“When you look at college football, having a quarterback who can move his feet where you can move the pocket a-nd do different things is a huge weapon,” Holtz said. “I don’t want a quarterback who is going to be our leading ground gainer … I think so much goes into the development of that position mentally, that you would not want to have the wear and tear of him being your leading ball carrier.”
Running back Mo Plancher was granted a sixth year of eligibility and is expected to be the front-runner for the starting tailback spot.
The Bulls lose just three starters on offense but have many holes on defense after ends George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul, linebacker Kion Wilson, cornerback Jerome Murphy and safety Nate Allen all moved on.
Freshman cornerback Terrence Mitchell, one of USF’s highest-rated recruits, is expected to compete for a starting spot next season. And the Bulls have a number of young players who contributed last season, including sophomore linebacker Sam Barrington and sophomore cornerback Kayvon Webster.