Numerous times this spring, USF coaches said the offense was lagging behind the defense.
It sure didn’t appear that way at Saturday’s spring game.
Sophomore quarterback B.J. Daniels threw for 381 yards and five touchdowns, senior receiver Dontavia Bogan caught nine passes for 228 yards and four touchdowns and both led the “South Florida” team over the “Bulls” team 49-31 in front of an announced record crowd of 6,357.
“Some guys started getting nicked, so I tried to take some of the pounding off of them and opened it up a little bit more and get a little bit better evaluation of where we were from a passing standpoint,” said coach Skip Holtz.
“I really didn’t want it to be this much of a passing fest. We kind of opened it up, but I was really impressed with the job that B.J. Daniels did (Saturday) as a quarterback. We all know he’s a great athlete and what he can do, but I think he’s starting to do some good things from a mental standpoint.”
Daniels, who wore a red jersey and was not touched all night after recovering from non-throwing shoulder surgery, hit most of his intended receivers, going 23-for-31, including a 77-yard strike to Bogan in the first quarter.
“The only difference is the wear and tear on my body,” Daniels, who should be able to take full contact when fall practice starts in August, said of playing wihout getting hit. “Everything else – the intensity on both sides – was there. It was still fast motion and everybody moving. I really feel like we did a good job on what we had time to grasp and pick up.”
Defensively, Holtz said he purposefully limited the defense, running just basic sets.
“This game was suited a little bit more for the offense because we were a little bit more vanilla defensively,” he said. “We wanted to get into this game, play base defense. There wasn’t a lot of moving and blitzing and stunting and twisting and those types of things. I just wanted to see guys line up and play the game. It was a little bit simpler from an offensive standpoint because you knew what you were going to get. There were only a couple things you could do, but you still have to go out and execute it.”
Sophomore Evan Landi made an impact in a few different spots during the game.
Landi, who took quarterback reps in the last few spring practices, threw for 152 yards, one touchdown and an interception and also caught two passes for 62 yards as a receiver, including a 57-yard reception delivered by sophomore Ryan Eppes on the first play of the game for the “Bulls” team.
Holtz said Landi is a full-time receiver, but if Daniels has an injury, Landi will most likely be USF’s next option.
Love injures knee again
Senior receiver A.J. Love, who was second on the team in receptions and yards last season, left the game with a potential serious knee injury after he caught a pass late in the fourth quarter, and it left Holtz concerned.
“He’s already torn his ACL in his knee before and going through that as a senior right now, I’m just very hopeful,” Holtz said. “I don’t know what it is at this point.”
Love, who caught three passes for 59 yards, is scheduled to have an MRI on Monday.
“I’m just very hopeful … that it’s going to come back (as) something that he can recover from and be part of this football team this year,” Holtz said. “We’ve been relatively healthy as we’ve gone through this spring, so I just hate for it to be right at the end of the game, with four minutes to go in a game like that – if it is as serious as I’m afraid it might be. What a terrible way to end the spring practice, especially for a great young man (who) has worked extremely hard to be here right now.
There were a few other minor injuries, Holtz said, but nothing serious.
Spreading the wealth
Offensive playmakers weren’t limited to Daniels and Bogan. At least seven players had catches that went for more than 17 yards.
Sophomore Lindsey Lamar looked solid at receiver after switching from running back this spring, catching five passes for 40 yards. Senior Faron Hornes and junior Patrick Richardson each caught passes that went for more than 40 yards, and redshirt freshman Derrick Hopkins scored a 17-yard touchdown on a reverse handoff.
Defense not all bad
Holtz said despite the defense giving up nine touchdowns, there were some good things.
The defense accounted for two touchdowns – an interception return by freshman safety JaQuez Jenkins and a fumble recovery by sophomore linebacker Mike Lanaris.
Sophomore corner George Baker was beat several times but led the team in tackles with seven. Redshirt freshman linebacker DeDe Lattimore and senior defensive end Donte Spires, two backups, had six tackles apiece.
“We’re going to have to do more than we did, but I was impressed with the defenses physical nature, the way they hit,” Holtz said. “I thought that they ran around with the ball extremely well. I thought they hustled around.”