Holtz happy with early spring practice progress

After four days of spring practice, coach Skip Holtz is happy with where the USF football team is.

The team began practice Thursday and Friday in shorts and helmets before putting on full pads for the first time Saturday.

“We’re doing great,” Holtz said. “Day two in pads and we’ve had two really spirited practices. I thought we went out today with a lot of energy, a lot of excitement and a lot of enthusiasm. I think the carryover with the players and what we’re doing schematically has been excellent.”

Wide receivers A.J. Love (ACL) and Sterling Griffin (ankle) are both back from injury and participating in practice after missing all of last season. They will bolster a receiving corps that was spread thin last year.

“I feel good. I’ve been working hard to get back,” Love said. “Everything feels good, but I’m taking it slow. I just want to help the team and get on the field. (Evan) Landi is looking really good, Sterling (Griffin) had a really good day today. We’ve got Terrence Mitchell, one of the fastest guys on the team. (Stephen) Bravo-Brown runs some of the best routes I’ve seen, so we’ve got some good guys out here.”

Though a depth chart won’t be released until after the first scrimmage in a few weeks, quarterback B.J. Daniels is continuing as the team’s starting quarterback.

Daniels has pressure behind him from Bobby Eveld – who led the team to a historic victory over Miami last season – redshirt freshman Jamius Gunsby and early enrollee Matt Floyd.

Offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler has the most difficult job this spring, rehabbing a line that lost a combined 35 starts with the departures of tackles Jacob Sims and Jamar Bass, as well as center Sampson Genus.

“I feel good about the kids we have, I really do,” Shankweiler said. “I don’t know if you can replace a guy like (Genus) at the same level, but how many people have a center like that to begin with? Jacob Sims and Jamar Bass were good players, Jacob especially with his knowledge of the game, but I think we’ll be OK.”

Juniors Mark Popek and Damien Edwards and redshirt freshman Quinterrius Eatmon are the three players battling for the vacant tackle spots.

Over the weekend, Holtz and his staff cut a group of about 60 walk-on candidates down to a group of 16 that will stay with the team for the duration of spring practice.

“They’ll be competing with (last year’s walk-ons) for a spot in the 115 as we come back to camp,” Holtz said. “Every day they come out here on the field, they’re competing for their job. Whether that job is as a starter, as a backup, as a third or as a spot on the roster.”

With a March 3 start date, USF was the first Big East school to begin preparations for the coming season. Syracuse will become the second school to start when they open today.