Big plays from receivers key for Bulls

Its a different offensive unit lining up for the USF football team this season one ofexplosive plays, spreading the field horizontally andvertically with speed and size.

The Bulls are a far cry from the stagnant offense that scored 13 points against Syracuse in 2010, that scored 17 or fewer points in four of seven Big East games in 2011.

According to the calculations of coach Skip Holtz, the team onlycompleted five plays of 40 or 50 yards or more last season.

Senior quarterback B.J. Daniels almost matched that against Nevada when he connected for passes of 51, 52 and 56 yards.

We have a lot of talent on the outside and the inside,sophomore receiver AndreDavis said. From the outside receivers to the inside receivers, everybody is working hard.

Davis was responsible for much of the teams success in Reno, setting school records for receptions and yardage with 12 catches for 191 yards, while adding two receivingtouchdowns to his total, earning him the Big East offensiveplayer of the week award.

Daniels said the cause of that came in offseason practices.

Right now, Andre Davis is a year older, more experienced, more ready to step in; and in the first game Sterling goes down, (Davis) catches 12 balls for190 yards, Holtz said. Whereaslast year (Davis) was a true freshman, making mistakes, running the wrong route half the time. I think were much more prepared to handle the injuries, having Terrence Mitchell helps us and the addition of Chris Dunkley helps us.

Offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said he appreciated what he saw from Davis, who was thrust into action a year ago thanks to a plethora of injuries to the teams receiving corps.

I think the first half of the season last year he was like a deer in the headlights, butstarting from that second half, hes been our most consistent receiver, Fitch said. Ill be honest with you, he made some great, great plays, but theres still some things to work on with him. Part of that isconditioning.

Though the production from the sophomore Tampa native has caught the majority of USFs national attention, the Bulls also have depth at the wide receiver spot that was not present in the teams injury-riddled 2011 campaign.

The return of junior Terrence Mitchell from injury and thearrival of transfer ChrisDunkley, who caught the52-yard touchdown to bring the Bulls within five points late in the fourth quarter Saturdayevening, are expected to keep the offense strong even after the team announced that a knee injury to junior wide receiver Sterling Griffin would keep him out for theentire season.

Hailing from Pahokee High School, a football hotbed widely known as The Muck,Dunkley arrived in Tampa after aredshirt season at the Universityof Florida. He broke through in his second game with the Bulls, against Nevada, grabbing a touchdown and giving the Bulls an opportunity to pull off amiraculous victory.

The thing about thattouchdown is that I went up to him after he made his first catch of the game, Davis said. I told him, Youve made your first catch of the day, youregoing to get your first touchdowntoday, too.

Holtz said his teams offense, which made an emphasis on big plays throughout the offseason, is OK with trading dominant running game for bigger plays over the top.

I think over time, they can load the box and stop ourrunning game, but if you can get 28 points from four plays over the top, Ill play that game, he said. If theyre going to load the box, try to rob Peter to pay Paul, we have got to be able to go over the top.

As the team moves toward the more difficult part of its schedule,beginning with a Thursday night game against Rutgers to open the conference season at Raymond JamesStadium, the Bulls will look to take advantage of a moreexplosive offense and put more wins on the board.

Last year we had four of our receivers go down after Mitchell was hurt, and we were playing freshmen Andre Davis and Ruben Gonzalez, and Deonte Welch was a redshirt freshman coming in, Holtz said. I think with the depth we have now, we felt like making big plays are something that we have to do, and I think weve done that in the first two games.