With sophomore quarterback B.J. Daniels still recovering from non-throwing arm shoulder surgery and receivers getting acquainted with a new system, offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said the passing game is still trying to find its way.
Saturday’s scrimmage was very productive, with the team running 170 plays, said coach Skip Holtz, but offensive improvement – specifically with the passing game – is a focal point in the buildup to the spring game Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.
“The running game was a little more consistent (than the first scrimmage),” Fitch said. “The passing game is still a ways away – just the connection between the quarterback, the receiver and the protection.
“The passing game always comes last … There were about four or five plays that were relatively simple that if we connect on those, we would have had a heck of a day overall … We’re just not all in sync yet. These next two practices we have to make sure we correct that.”
To help take pressure off Daniels, who led USF in rushing attempts in 2009, Holtz said he’s pushing for consistency with the receivers, so he doesn’t have to rely on Daniels to make plays with his feet. The Bulls lost Carlton Mitchell, the top receiver last year, after he opted to enter the NFL draft following his junior season.
One of the things Holtz made clear this offseason was that Daniels will not lead the team in rushing attempts.
“You throw it all at him and see how much he can absorb, then pull back a little bit,” Holtz said. “B.J.’s got to continue to play in the system. I don’t know how much freedom B.J. had before … but he just needs to be able to take what the defense gives him and let some people around him make some plays.”
The system, which consists of less quarterback-designed runs, is predicated on receivers and backs making plays. Last year, the Bulls often utilized Daniels’ ability to make plays with his legs.
And with Daniels taking less hits this spring, Holtz said it’s a good opportunity to see how the receivers and running backs perform with an extended amount of work.
“Let’s watch the guys around B.J. run. Let’s watch those running backs run,” Holtz said. “Let’s see where they are, (sophomore) Lindsey Lamar and some of the receivers, in space … I’m taking probably about 80 percent of the offense from a year ago out of this spring, which was B.J. running around making some things happen.”
Fitch: Lamar is a weapon
Fitch said the development of Lamar, a running back converted to wide receiver this spring, has been “encouraging.”
Saturday’s scrimmage proved it, with Lamar making several nice plays as a receiver. With the Bulls trying to get all the help they can around Daniels, Lamar could play a major role in 2010, Fitch said.
“Every day out here, I think he gets a little bit more comfortable,” Fitch said. “In terms of our skilled athletes, he’s the one that has a little juice and will give us a chance to make some big plays.”
Holtz said Lamar, who also excels as a sprinter for the USF track and field team, could see the ball a lot next season.
“He’s a very intelligent football player,” Holtz said. “He’s doing a nice job of picking it all up and adjusting. He’s had to go out and learn another position. … His role will continue to increase. With his speed and athleticism, we’re going to have to find him a way to get him the ball in some space.”
Men’s tennis travels to LSU
Coming off a 4-3 loss against UCF, the Bulls will look to bounce back in today’s regular-season finale at LSU, which starts at 3 p.m.
USF will then compete in the Big East championships, which are held at Notre Dame next week. The Bulls won the Big East title last year.