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Daniels prepares to step up as QB, leader

Just a little bit short. For three years, those five words have defined the career of USF quarterback B.J. Daniels.After dazzling fans and coaches alike in 2009 while passing for 215 yards and two touchdowns and running through, around and over the 18th ranked Seminolesto the tune of 126 yards in a program-defining 17-7 win in his own hometown of Tallahassee, Daniels was unable to recapture the magic that season, going 3-5 down the stretch to send the Bulls to the International Bowl.Daniels followed his debut season with an up-anddown sophomore campaign, passing for 11 touchdowns to 13 interceptions, while the offense came up short in losses to Syracuse and Pittsburgh, scoring one offensive touchdown combined and eventually dooming their hopes for a Big East championship with their 17-10 loss to the Panthers.His junior campaign started off with a bang when alethally efficient performancein South Bend delivered theBulls another signature win,23-20 over Notre Dame. Afterthree strong games againstFlorida A&M, Ball State andUTEP, Daniels and the Bullsproceeded to go 1-7 in Big Eastplay, coming up short in fivelosses of six points or fewerand missing a bowl game forthe first time since 2004.Entering his final season atthe helm of the Bulls offense,the 6-foot-1 Tallahassee nativeis hardened by his frustrationand itching to break through,to change the phrase fromcoming up short to comingup big. He said the teamsfrustrations mean one thingto him.It means Ive got to hurryup and do something, hesaid. Its my last opportunityto help out the team, to dowhatever we can to win the BigEast. Theres a sense of urgency in really trying to step up asa leader on and off the field. With 7,992 total career yards,Daniels is just 2,883 yards awayfrom breaking the Big East record for total career yardage. IfDaniels is slightly less productive than in 2011, when he had3,205 total yards, he will breakthe record held by former USFquarterback Matt Grothe. According to his partner in thebackfield, however, Danielswont let that distract him. Individually hes a greatleader, he comes to work every day and always ready tolearn, senior running backDemetris Murray said. Thebest thing about him is thateven though that record isright there, he doesnt let thataffect him at all. He works sohard and he sets the standardso high for anyone else on the team. I expect him to continueto cut down on those turnoversand grow. Though he has a chance tomake history, Daniels is focused on making a differentkind of history: delivering USFits first ever Big East footballchampionship. Coach SkipHoltz said Daniels refuses to settle for anything less in hisfinal season as a Bull. According to B.J., were hereto accomplish something, andwe havent, Holtz said. He isso committed and competitive, and that really is exactly what youre looking for as a coach,in a quarterback and a player. Entering his own third yearat USF, Holtz was encouragedby the growth he saw from hisquarterback, despite the struggles of the team as a whole. We had a lot of frustrations a year ago, but youcould also see the offensiveimprovements that we made, and a lot of credit for that willgo to B.J., he said. With a lotof weapons around him, Imconfident in what B.J. can dofor us. Along with the growthon the field, Holtz said hevalues his quarterbackspersonality off the field. I always say that you hopeyour boys grow up to be likeB.J. Daniels, he said. Hesreally a class act. You neverhear him talking badly aboutanyone. Hes not one of thoseguys whos trying to becomethe center of attention.Tired of coming up short,Daniels is ready to take bothhimself and his team to thenext level. And though hesaid hes considered the ideaof breaking the Big East totalyardage record, he said he ismore concerned about comingthrough in a bigger way. Well, yes, Ive thoughtabout it, and doing something like that would be a bighonor, he said. But I think quarterbacks as a whole areremembered for the wins andlosses, so thats somethingthat Im focusing on. Imready for this season, mentally. Me and coach Fitch havebeen going at it in the filmroom, trying to make mentalpreparations, to try to makesure were where we needto be when the game starts,and everything comes a littleeasier.