Posted by Chip Patterson
College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice. So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers. Today, we look at South Florida, who opens its practice on March 3.
Can South Florida improve the offensive inconsistencies that kept them from being competitive in a wide-open Big East?
It was some unusual circumstances that brought Skip Holtz to his first FBS head coaching job, and the unexpected arrival helped South Florida fans feel pretty good about an 8-5 finish with a Meineke Car Care Bowl win. But heading into 2011, one of the biggest questions that Holtz will have to answer has to do with the part of the game that is right in his wheel house: the offense. Holtz' offensive roots are deep, serving as offensive coordinator under his father during Lou's stints at both Notre Dame and South Carolina. When he took the head coaching position at East Carolina, he turned a Conference USA cellar dweller into two-time conference champs. Now, he faces the challenge of turning South Florida into Big East title contenders.
An 8-5 season may look successful to a bystander, but it was the four conference losses that kept South Florida from competing in a wide-open Big East title hunt in 2010. In those four Big East losses (by an average of 7.0 points), the Bulls offense put up an average of 10.25 points, 259.75 yards, and turned the ball over 9 times. With a few more points, and a few less turnovers, Holtz could have had South Florida playing in their first-ever BCS bowl game. The results were particularly puzzling because the Bulls were able to produce offensively and win close games against Cincinnati, Rutgers, Louisville, and Miami. But now is no time for "what ifs'." With Spring Practice just days away, the focus must be shifted towards 2011.
The most obvious question in regards to South Florida's offense will be at the quarterback position. B.J. Daniels has shown great promise at times since his arrival in Tampa. But if turnovers were a big part of the offensive issues, Daniels is one of the culprits. In 2010, the starter threw 13 interceptions while only throwing 11 touchdowns. However, he finished on a strong note with a 20 for 27, three total touchdown performance against Clemson in the bowl win. But when Daniels was injured for the end of the Miami game and the following week against Connecticut, Bulls fans saw a glimpse of the other option: sophomore Bobby Eveld.
Eveld is a much more traditional pocket quarterback than Daniels. Standing 6-foot-5 and weighing in at 200 pounds, the young signal caller showed no hesitation in slinging the ball around the field in his limited action last season. Eveld's mentality can also result in turnovers (like the 3 interceptions against Connecticut), but frustrated fans will likely overlook that if they are demanding a change.
Daniels is entering spring ball as the first quarterback on the depth chart, but the word from Tampa is that the starting job is not a lock at all. Eveld will be given a chance to push Daniels for the position, and South Florida fans hope that it will only result in improvements for both players.
The offense will also be moving forward in 2011 without one half of their rushing attack: graduated running back Mo Plancher. Plancher led all rushers with 793 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2010, but often times split carries with junior Demetris Murray. Murray rushed for 533 yards and 4 touchdowns himself, and the Georgia native will have his time to shine in 2011. Murray is not a speedster, but his toughness and field vision make him one of South Florida's biggest offensive threats next season. With Plancher graduated, Spring Practice will be the first time Murray can set the tone for the rest of the running backs.
We know what to look for at the quarterback and running back positions. But the offensive line expectations are more like a game of Guess Who? Holtz said he expects to do a lot of positional experimenting this spring, including mixing up his offensive linemen. Holtz also has to figure out what he has at the wide receiver position. With Dontavia Bogan graduating (and taking his team-high numbers in receptions, yards, and touchdowns with him), the Bulls will have to shuffle out a rotation for a crop of both young talent and veterans returning from injury.
South Florida displayed a lot of potential at time in 2010, but their offensive inconsistencies kept them from making any kind of dramatic impact in the Big East. With one season left before the arrival of TCU, many are considering 2011 one of the last chances to win a weakened conference. Skip Holtz would love nothing more than to entrench his position in Tampa with a Big East title, but he is going to have to make some decisions this spring in order to deliver success to the young program.
South Florida will host their annual Spring Game on April 2 in Raymond James Stadium
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