Tag:Skip Holtz
Posted on: August 30, 2011 3:30 pm
Edited on: August 30, 2011 3:33 pm
 

Former UF TE cleared to play for South Florida

Posted by Chip Patterson

Former Florida commit Mike McFarland will be allowed to play in the upcoming season for South Florida after being granted a waiver by the NCAA.

The school announced on Wednesday that the Tampa Bay native will not have to sit out a year after transferring to USF earlier this month. McFarland cited an undisclosed family illness as his reason for seeking a transfer closer to home. He has been working out with the team through most of fall camp, and thanks to the NCAA he will be able to suit up for the Bulls in their opener against Notre Dame.

Greg Auman, of the St. Petersburg Times writes that the 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman "has looked sharp in preseason" and can immediately help a position that has already lost potential starter Jeff Hawkins to a season-ending knee injury. Junior quarterback B.J. Daniels has struggled to develop his consistency in the passing game over the last two seasons, so any potential matchup advantages he can get will help the Bulls in their pursuit of an elusive Big East title.
Posted on: August 18, 2011 6:33 pm
Edited on: August 20, 2011 8:58 pm
 

PODCAST: Big East season preview

Posted by Chip Patterson

The Big East gets criticized often on the national level for being the one of the weaker BCS conferences, but with new coaches and high-octane offenses 2011 could be a bounce back year for the league. I join Adam Aizer to sort through the many story lines in the Big East and try to make sense of a league that has had 5 different teams win a share of the conference championship since 2005.

Subscribe to the CBSSports.com College Football Podcast on iTunes

If you are having trouble seeing the player, you can download the MP3 HERE

Posted on: August 9, 2011 4:06 pm
 

Holtz: BJ Daniels tweaks hamstring in practice

Posted by Chip Patterson

South Florida enters the 2011 season a lot of optimism and expectations. They were picked third by the media in the preseason Big East poll, receiving slightly less votes than West Virginia and Pittsburgh but clearly separated from the rest of the conference. In a conference that has had 5 different teams share a hold of the title since 2006, the Bulls feel now is as good a time as ever to claim their first league championship.

But a lot of USF's success will rely on the consistency of junior quarterback BJ Daniels. Daniels has been streaky since taking the field for the Bulls, and suffered a minor setback in practice on Tuesday.



Daniels suffered from a lingering quad injury for much of 2010, holding him out of the second half of the Miami game and all of the finale against Connecticut. Sophomore quarterback Bobby Eveld (42-75, 454 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT in 2010) is the next man up should Daniels go down, and helped lead the Bulls to an upset in the second half of that Miami game. But popular thought is that USF's potential-breakout season is reliant on a healthy Daniels playing consistently.

We'll keep an eye on this injury as more develops in Tampa. Keep it here at the Eye On College Football and the Big East Blog for all the latest.
Posted on: August 4, 2011 3:12 pm
Edited on: August 4, 2011 3:56 pm
 

Preseason Coaches Poll Reactions: Big East

Posted by Chip Patterson

The first official preseason poll was released on Thursday, with USA Today announcing the results of the Coaches Poll. Much to the dismay of Big East football fans, there was not a single representative from the conference in the initial poll. It should not come as a complete shock, as not a single Big East team finished ranked in 2010's final coaches poll either. West Virginia was the only vote-getting team down the stretch of last season, but after a 23-7 loss to N.C. State in the Champ Sports Bowl the Mountaineers fell from the rankings.

With only three teams receiving any Top 25 votes from the coaches, we will look to the "Other Receiving Votes" to find our Big East contenders.  (No. 25 Penn State received 161 points in the poll)

West Virginia, 149 points, No. 27 - The Mountaineers fall just short of the Top 25 after being named the preseason favorite to win the Big East. Dana Holgorsen is looking forward to a challenging non-conference schedule that will include playing LSU and facing Maryland in College Park. In order to be taken seriously on a national level, West Virginia needs to win one of those September matchups. Unless something drastic changes, being first in the Big East standings won't be enough to get you invited to the party.

South Florida, 9 points, No. 38 - Skip Holtz's squad enters the season predicted to be one of the top three teams in the conference. Despite five straight 8+ win seasons, the Bulls haven't finished higher than third in the conference since joining the Big East. Many believe that this season could be the year USF breaks through. They finished the 2010 season with emotional wins over Miami and Clemson, creating what Holtz is calling a "snowball effect" of excitement around the football program. They'll have a chance to show that newfound excitement early, kicking off the season against No. 18 Notre Dame in South Bend.

Pittsburgh, 3 points, No. 47 - The Panthers return eight starters from the eighth-best defense in 2010, and add a new high-octane offensive scheme brought by new head coach Todd Graham. It is not shocking to see Pittsburgh failing to collect Top 25 votes, but they seem to have an advantage when compared to many of the other teams around them. The Panthers will get a chance to prove themselves against Iowa, Notre Dame, and Utah. If they have a squad that deserves to be in the rankings, we will know by the middle of October.
Posted on: August 2, 2011 1:50 pm
Edited on: August 2, 2011 1:51 pm
 

Big East Media Day: Coaches Highlights

Posted by Chip Patterson

Big East Media Day got started in Newport the the release of the preseason media poll and opening remarks from commissioner John Marinatto and all eight head coaches. Each coach was given several minutes to address the media and share some thoughts on the upcoming season.

Pretty much every coach spent some time talking about the competition in the league. It was pointed out several times that 5 of the 8 teams have earned a share of the conference title since 2006, and all eight teams have earned at least one bowl berth in the last two years. Also many of the coaches expressed their excitement for the arrival of TCU and the topic of the upcoming media deal negotiation was not ignored. Other than Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano, no other coach has been in his current post for longer than three seasons. The anxiousness to get into fall camp was another common theme, particularly for new coaches Todd Graham, Dana Holgorsen, and Paul Pasqualoni.

Below are some highlights from each coach's time at the podium.

Rutgers - Greg Schiano

- Schiano acknowledged the late-season collapse from 2010. "The wheels came off," he explained to the media. "We'll return Rutgers football to its winning ways, to bowl games." The Scarlet Knights had been to five straight bowl games (winning four in a row) until 2010's last place finish.

- One of the weakest points in Rutgers' offense a year ago was the offensive line. With new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti, Schiano believes the Scarlet Knights will return to being a "power football team." Says they've made some schematic changes to the line, but also believes they "are a better group than we were at any time last year."

- Highly touted running back Savon Huggins has become a star in the Rutgers football community before even setting foot on campus. Schiano made no promises about the starting running back position, but instead listed the entire group and said that Huggins will "make for great competition" when camp opens.

West Virginia - Dana Holgorsen

- "Excited to get to do this a year early" was the closest Holgorsen came to mentioning former head coach Bill Stewart. However he did spend a considerable amount of time complimenting the work of defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. While the Mountaineers lost seven starters from the defensive unit to the NFL, Holgorsen believes they have a "good nucleus" of players coming back to lead the 2011 edition of Casteel's defense.

- Holgorsen said that quarterback Geno Smith has picked up the new offensive system well. While Holgorsen has only been head coach since June, he's been working with the offense since his arrival in Morgantown before spring practice. He said that Smith's challenge now is "to make everyone around him better."

- "Tavon Austin is a dynamic kid who can touch the ball in a whole bunch of different ways," Holgorsen said of the junior playmaker. He made it clear the Mountaineers plan on putting the ball in his hands as much as they can.

Syracuse - Doug Marrone

- With an 8-5 finish and a Pinstripe Bowl victory, the Orange are fresh off their most successful season since 2001. Marrone, entering his second year on the job, made it clear that the goals for the program are to create a foundation and "become a competitive team year in and year out" in the league. The media projected the Orange to finish fourth in the conference, but well behind West Virginia, Pittsburgh, and USF.

- The Orange lost a lot of talent on defense, and Marrone made it clear that there will be lots of competition over the next month in camp. While the unit is solid at defensive end and safety, it sounds like the interior line, outside linebackers, and corner back positions are up for grabs.

- There was no update on the medical status of Prince-Tyson Gulley or any team decision regarding recently arrested wide receiver Marcus Sales. It has been reported that Gulley has been released from the hospital and is recovering at home, but the coach made no statement on either situation.

Charlie Strong - Louisville

- Strong won over the Cardinals football community in his first year by taking the team back to the postseason for the firs time since the 2006 season, when the Cardinals were Big East champions. He was able to deliver a bowl game experience to a team that had 25 seniors, with 14 in the starting lineup. Strong made it clear that the Cardinals will be looking for players to step up this fall, filling in for the mass exodus of players from the two-deep.

- There is no hiding the lack of experience at quarterback for the Cardinals. Junior Will Stein has the most experience of the group (2 starts), but Strong made sure to mention dual-threat freshman Teddy Bridgewater and wildcard QB Dominique Brown as well. In spring practice it looked like Stein had a lead on the job thanks to his comfort with the offense, but clearly every candidate will get a shot to earn snaps this fall.

- Strong said that the defense will likely be the team's strength this season, particularly the defensive line. Three starters return from last year's unit, and the entire two-deep has game experience. The Cardinals also return both starting safeties, most notably 2nd team All-Big East sophomore Hakeem Smith.

Paul Pasqualoni - Connecticut

- It seems odd that one of the "first-year" coaches was present for the first season of Big East football in 1991, but such is the way things have worked out for Connecticut's Paul Pasqualoni. He pointed out how different the league is now, noting that the diversity of champions in recent years contrasts to the conference's inception - where Miami took 9 of the first 13 Big East titles.

- With no starting quarterback (Pasqualoni has decided to let all four candidates continue to compete into fall camp), there has been an emphasis placed on the offensive line. The Huskies did a fantastic job moving the ball with Jordan Todman in 2010, and Pasqualoni hopes that USC-transfer D.J. Shoemate will be able to find similar success this fall.

- Expect multiple looks from the Huskies defense this season. Explained that he and defensive coordinator Don Brown (formerly with Maryland) have different backgrounds and are "merging" their systems. There will be some 3-4 and some 4-3 as the Huskies continue to develop the linebacker position. Pasqualoni says that he has an "outstanding defensive line," anchored by all-conference defensive tackle Kendall Reyes.

Todd Graham - Pittsburgh

- When Graham took the podium, it was impossible not to recognize his feeling of pride after being introduced as the Pittsburgh coach. He opened talking about how far he has come, from coaching middle school football 25 years ago to now finally being a head coach in a BCS AQ conference. He mentioned his great memories as an assistant at West Virginia (his first collegiate job), and expressed his excitement to return to the conference. He also indirectly gave credit to former head coach Dave Wannstedt, saying he "has a lot of respect for the job that has been done before him" to bring this team together.

- Graham used the phrase "high-octane" several times during his remarks, and Panther fans should get excited for what it could mean for the offense this fall. Not only will it lead to exciting football, but Graham actually believes that it will better suit quarterback Tino Sunseri as well. According to Graham, moving the returning starter back into the shotgun "accentuates" his talents.

- For all the talk about Graham's new "high-octane" offense, he was sure to point out his excitement for the defense, which returns most of a unit that ranked 8th nationally in 2010. In addition to the returning starters, the coaching staff is excited about the development that they saw this spring on the defensive side of the ball. Graham also singled out senior nose tackle Myles Caragein as "the leader of this football team."

Buch Jones - Cincinnati

- Unlike the rest of his colleagues, Jones spent no time going over personnel or specific team outlook in his opening remarks. Instead he commented mostly on his admiration for the conference and pleasure to be coaching the 5th oldest college football program in the nation. Leadership is clearly a theme of his right now, although he called it "misunderstood" by many in America. It was confusing, I know. I'm guessing he is saving all his specific football chatter for the afternoon.

- One remotely football topic Jones covered involved his opening remarks was returning an entire defensive unit. He described that it is "one thing to be older, but we have to be better," when referring to the returning defense. The Bearcats ranked near the bottom of the conference in most defensive categories, and must improve if they want to turn around last season's 4-8 performance.

Skip Holtz - USF

- I'll give the second-year Bulls' coach one thing: he deliver a straightforward and enthusiastic message. "We were three plays a year ago from winning 11 games," Holtz said. "But we were three plays away from probably winning four." The Bulls went to overtime twice in 2010, and played in seven games decided by 8 points or less. Holtz, who described his first year on the job as "a blur," clearly understands how close the conference competition can get in the Big East.

- Holtz spent a considerable amount of time praising the university's leadership for their efforts in USF's growth. From facilities to funding, the entire athletic department has benefited from an initiative by the school to become more than a "commuter school." According to Holtz, seeing the campus-wide push has created a sense of excitement around Tampa.

- Speaking of excitement, Holtz identified the Bulls' late season wins over Miami in Coral Gables and Clemson in the Belk Bowl as victories that created a "snowball effect" for the team. He said the way the team came together and finished the season created a lot of excitement about the future. But Holtz knows it is still too early to make any projections regarding the 2011 season.

"From August 3 to September 3 we are going to learn a lot about this football team," Holtz explained. "I think that the next month will determine the amount of success we have [as a football team]."

Posted on: May 5, 2011 4:46 pm
Edited on: May 5, 2011 5:01 pm
 

What I learned this spring: Big East

Posted by Chip Patterson

With all eight teams completed with their spring games, we wrap up spring practice in the
Big East.

CINCINNATI:
For Cincinnati, the goal this spring was to improve defensively. To be more accurate, improving defensively is not just the "goal" but really an "only option for improvement." Second-year head coach Butch Jones needs to prove that 2010's 4-8 campaign was a fluke, or else the Bearcats' fans will begin to wonder whether or not hiring the coach from Central Michigan was the best move. Cincinnati returns all 11 starters from last year's defense that ranked dead last in the Big East in scoring defense and next to last in total defense. But there have been reasons to believe that the same unit can turn around their performance in 2011.

For the first time since most of the active roster arrived on campus, there is no turnover on the defensive staff. For the last three years, the defense has had to spend their spring learning a new system. Instead the defense has been able to spend the spring focusing on fundamentals, while simply reviewing last year's scheme. In theory, this should lead to more development for a unit that struggled to prevent big plays and close out games in the fourth quarter. Offensively, quarterback Zach Collaros has continued to grow more comfortable and looks ready to try and sign his name in the Cincinnati record books. Collaros led the Big East in passing yards and touchdowns last season, and has spent spring focusing on his accuracy (also threw a league-high 14 interceptions). Highly-touted transfer wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins did not get to showcase his full arsenal due to a nagging hamstring this spring, but should make an impact lining up opposite returning starter D.J. Woods. Many of the Bearcats' spring workouts and spring game were based much more on situational drills, which tend to reveal very little about the team as a whole, but the pieces seem to be aligning for a bounce back season for Cincinnati.

CONNECTICUT: New head coach Paul Pasqualoni has quite a challenge ahead trying follow up the most successful season in program history. Unfortunately Pasqualoni, a veteran of the Big East and Connecticut native, has to try and repeat the success with two new coordinators and without the 2010 Big East Offensive MVP Jordan Todman. Wrapping up the spring, it is evident that expectations for repeating as Big East champs should be tempered. However, the Huskies do have the pieces in place to return to the postseason for the fifth straight year.

The Huskies' biggest question marks still exist in the offensive backfield, where a true starting quarterback has yet to be named and USC-transfer D.J. Shoemate is still settling in to a Todman-less rotation. Connecticut finished dead last in passing offense last season, and it will be difficult to improve that aspect of their game without a starter. Michael Box, Scott McCummings, Michael Nebrich, and Johnny McEntee(of YouTube trick-shot fame), are all competing for a premiere spot in the quarterback rotation. The hope is that behind a talented offensive line Shoemate will be able to get the running game going against a weak early season schedule, allowing whoever wins the job some time to get comfortable.

Defensively, Connecticut should be fine heading into the fall. They are under the direction of new defensive coordinator Don Brown, who's defensive unit at Maryland forced 29 turnovers last season -- good for third in the ACC. The Huskies return their entire defensive line and secondary, and that experience could anchor a unit that could end up being one of the better defenses in the conference.

LOUISVILLE: It was very difficult to learn anything about Louisville this spring due to a roster that was decimated by injury. By the end of spring practice, head coach Charlie Strong was left with only 38 healthy scholarship players on the roster. Fourteen of the injured players took no part in spring drills, the rest were injured during workouts. For a team that is looking to replace 13 departed starters on the offensive and defensive units, it was a frustrating spring of indecision.

Most of the starting jobs are wide open in the Louisville depth chart, but junior Will Stein was able to use the spring to create some separation in the quarterback competition. Stein has already gotten a vote of confidence from Strong, and the high school state champion has waited patiently behind Justin Burke and Adam Froman for his opportunity to start under center. Cardinals fans entered spring salivating over early enrollee Teddy Bridgewater, but practice showed that the top-rated dual threat quarterback in the nation still has some learning to do before getting the keys to the offense. Stein completed 10 of 17 passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns in the spring "game," but Strong was most pleased that there were zero interceptions. The starting quarterback's primary responsibility is to manage the game, as the Cardinals offense will once again rely on their running game in 2011.

But with Bilal Powell gone, the responsibility will fall on Jeremy Wright and Victor Anderson to replicate the best rushing offense in the Big East last year. Wright demonstrated his explosive potential in his freshman season, and Anderson was a 1,000 yard rusher in 2008 before shoulder injuries kept him limited in 2009 and 2010. Wright missed spring workouts with a knee injury, but Anderson enjoyed one of his best springs of his career. If the duo can be healthy at the same time, they could form one of the most dangerous rushing tandems in the conference.

PITTSBURGH: Another team entering the 2011 season with a new coach, the Panthers are not afraid to promote their new brand of "high-octane" football under head coach Todd Graham. Just a quick click over to the newly redesigned GoPittFootball.com should give just a taste of the kind of what Pittsburgh fans are hoping for out of the program's newest era. Graham comes to the Panthers fresh off a productive year at Tulsa, where his offense ranked 5th nationally in total offense with 505.6 yards per game. Dave Wannstedt had an awkward exit with his firing/forced resignation, particularly when he obviously still had the support of the team. But the squad seems to have embraced the new staff, and Graham believes that Pitt can be back in Big East title contention in 2011.

Learning the new offense has been the most important task for returning quarterback Tino Suneri. The junior signal-caller was inconsistent throughout 2010, finishing the season with 16 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. The son of Sal Sunseri, currently a linebackers coach at Alabama, Sunseri quickly acclimated himself with the new scheme and has finished the spring as the undisputed starting quarterback. In Pittsburgh's Blue-Gold game, Sunseri lit the rainy skies on fire tossing the ball 55 times (37 completions) for 416 yards and a pair of touchdowns. While the Sunseri will likely put up big numbers this fall in the new spread scheme, the offense has no plans of abandoning the run. Ray Graham returns from a strong sophomore campaign, picking up 922 yards and 8 touchdowns while sharing snaps with Dion Lewis. This year he'll be joined by Desmond Brown in the backfield, who was the leading rusher in the spring game with 64 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. Defensively, Pittsburgh has also been adapting to changes with defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. Patterson has been a longtime Graham assistant, and knows that the offense will dominate the headlines. But with spring practice in the bag, Patterson seems pleased with what he has seen out of the unit - particularly the defensive line.

"That front group has a chance to do some special things," Patterson said. "I feel really good about all those guys and what they are capable of. I think in our shceme they are going to be able to make a lot of plays against both the run and the pass."

Pittsburgh's defense will feature three down lineman, with a fourth "Panther linebacker" on the line of scrimmage upright on most downs. The Panthers have several athletic defenders who could fill this position, one early guess is Brandon Lindsey - who led the team with 17.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in 2010. If the defense can force some turnovers to give the offense good field position, one of the Panthers' strengths could be putting teams away early. In the Big East, which is short on big-name, gun-slinging quarterbacks, that could be a huge advantage.

RUTGERS: Of all the teams looking to bounce back in 2011, Rutgers probably has the farthest climb to return to the prominence that led to five straight postseason appearances from 2005-2009. The Scarlet Knights return 17 starters from last year's 4-8 squad, and they are still one of the youngest teams in the league. Head coach Greg Schiano has some of the exact same concerns heading into the new season, though he has stressed that he feels like this squad has grown this spring.

"Fundamentally we made significant improvement, and I think we grew a little with our confidence," Schiano explained following the Scarlet-White spring game. "This summer is going to be critical as it is every summer, but probably more so than any summer we've had here.

"The youngsters have to get tougher, they have to get more disciplined, they have to get more consistent. And again, this summer will be huge."

One of the biggest concerns is on the offensive line. Last season the Scarlet Knights were dead last in Division I in sacks allowed, letting the quarterback drop a whopping 61 times. Sophomore quarterback Chas Dodd has grown more comfortable in the pro-style scheme of new coordinator Frank Cignetti. But Dodd's supposed comfort and improvement in spring could all change when the non-contact jersey comes off in September. If the offensive line shows an about-face in 2011, the Scarlet Knights have talented (but young) skill position players who could help take Rutgers back to the postseason.

All spring the reports from Piscataway have been praising the work of redshirt freshman Brandon Coleman. The 6-6 wide receiver entered Rutgers with high expectations, but any doubters have been silenced since he took the field this spring. Coleman put on a show for the 21,120 in attendance for the spring game with a 78 yard, two touchdown performance. Maybe he was setting the standard for another touted underclassmen who was watching from the sidelines, incoming freshman running back Savon Huggins. The No. 1 recruit in the state of New Jersey, Huggins was a signing day steal that invigorated the Rutgers fan base. He has not even received his high school diploma, but he already carries expectations from a fan base that pines for the next Ray Rice. But again, Huggins will have virtually no chance to showcase his talents without some help from the offensive line. If the Scarlet Knights are going to get back to the postseason, they still have some growing to do before September.

SOUTH FLORIDA: South Florida was the first team in the Big East to wrap up spring practice, holding their final scrimmage almost a month ago. It was an awkward spring schedule, getting started early and having to dance around conflicts for Raymond-James Stadium, but at the conclusion the Bulls appear to be about in the same position as they were a year ago. The Bulls averaged a 7-point margin of defeat and 4-point margin of victory in league play last season, making their season this close to magical and that close to disastrous. Still, head coach Skip Holtz was able to get USF back to the postseason and pull down a bowl victory - the Bulls' third in a row.

South Florida's time in the Big East could be categorized as "good-but-not-great." They have made a bowl every year (4-2 record), but never finished higher than tied for third in the league standings. At the end of spring practice the Bulls look good, but still have some work to do to reach greatness. Starting quarterback B.J. Daniels returns for junior season behind an inexperienced offensive line with a set of receivers that have been less than impressive. But similar to 2010, the playmaking ability of the offensive backfield will make South Florida a threat against most defenses in the league. Demetris Murray returns at running back after picking up 533 yards and four touchdowns as a backup to Moise Plancher a year ago. He will be joined by a pair of transfers, Darrell Scott (Colorado) and Dontae Aycock (Auburn). Both backs are larger than the 5-10, 206 pound Murray, and should compliment his style well. Scott finished the spring listed as the No. 2 running back, despite being setback by a nagging hamstring injury. Defensively the Bulls return six starters from a unit that, in typical Bulls fashion, stacks up right in the middle of the conference. They lose some run-stoppers on the defensive line, but the coaching staff has been pleased with the unit as a whole - particularly the linebackers. If the Bulls are going to go from good to great in 2011, they will need to focus on developing their wide receivers more this summer. Otherwise it might be another vanilla bowl game season for South Florida.

SYRACUSE: Coming into the spring, my one question for Syracuse was how head coach Doug Marrone planned to repeat the success of 2010 with so many playmakers missing from that Pinstripe Bowl-winning squad. But with spring practice in the books, it seems like the Orange are prepared to prove that last season was not a fluke - but the beginning of a new chapter in Syracuse football. The Orange jumped out to strong start last season with solid defense and running the ball. With all-Big East linebackers Doug Hogue and Derrell Smith gone, the responsibility has fallen on sophomore Marquis Spruill to anchor that corps as he makes the move to middle linebacker. Marrone believes that the strengths in the defense this season will be with the defensive ends and safeties. Seniors Chandler Jones and Mikhail Marinovich will begin as starters, but expect to see a good amount of junior Brandon Sharpe as well after a strong spring. In the defensive backfield Phillip Thomas and Shamarko Thomas return as starting safeties while corners Keon Lyn and Ri'Shard Anderson both earned high praise for their efforts during the spring.

Offensively the number one question is how to replace Delone Carter. The 1,233 yard rusher from 2010 carried the Orange on his back when Ryan Nassib and the passing game sputtered, carrying the ball at least 18 times in eight different games. Antwon Bailey was exceptional as Carter's backup, but some people wonder whether the 5-7 running back can be an "every-down back." Bailey will be backed up by another speedster, the 5-9 Prince-Tyson Gulley. Orange fans are hoping that an improved passing game will help alleviate that pressure, and that responsibility falls on Nassib. Luckily, the offensive line returns 4 of 5 starters from last year and redshirt senior tight end Nick Provo showed his ability as a big, reliable target for when Nassib gets in trouble. The players claim that last year's success has changed the attitude this spring, and now they have a new belief in themselves. Talk is great in March and April, but we'll check back in on these guys in August.

WEST VIRGINIA:
The Mountaineers fell one game short of returning to a BCS bowl game in 2010, after an inability to score led to two early season conference losses. The Mountaineers offense eventually got going, finishing the regular season with at least 35 points in 3 of 4 straight victories. So in the interest of preparing for the future, and ensuring offensive stability, athletic director Oliver Luck arranged for the arrival of Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen. His impact has been obvious and immediate on the West Virginia offense, with quarterback Geno Smith falling comfortably into Holgorsen's spread system from day one. Smith finished the spring by throwing for 388 yards and four touchdowns in the spring game. Even against a talented Mountaineer defense, Smith was able to connect with his wide receivers for 44, 67, and a 38 yard touchdown pass. Holgorsen plans on supplying Smith with a deep rotation of running backs and receivers, pushing the ball horizontally and vertically. If Smith continues to improve on his already hot start in the new system, the Mountaineers should have no problem scoring the ball against the Big East defenses.

Defensively it is hard to make judgements based on performance against their own offense, but West Virginia does still have some work to do in the secondary. Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel has admitted he is already anxious to get back to camp, particularly after seeing how the unit performed in the spring game. The unit only returns four starters from last year, with defensive line likely being the Mountaineers strength. In Casteel's 3-3-5 scheme, the pressure is on the secondary to be everywhere on the field at once. Despite a wealth of athleticism at that position, there is still plenty of gelling left for the unit. But if the offense is putting up 30+ points per game (which they may), it should give the defense some time to come together before conference play begins.

Posted on: February 25, 2011 12:52 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2011 1:04 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: South Florida

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 

Click here to check out the other Spring Practice Primers
Posted on: February 18, 2011 3:48 pm
 

Friday Four Links (and a cloud of dust), Feb. 18

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Every Friday we catch up on four stories you might have missed during the week ... and add a few extra links to help take you into the weekend.


FOUR LINKS ...

1. This week saw several under-the-radar position coaching moves made. Arizona State filled their defensive line coaching position with Colorado State's Scott Brown; Wisconsin defensive assistant Greg Jackson has taken a position with the San Francisco 49ers; and TCU has hired former Frog graduate assistant Trey Haverty as their safeties coach.

2. The big story this week in the law enforcement crackdown on rogue agents was the arrest in Alabama of a Virginia-based agent who'd sent a runner to meet with the Tide's Tyrone Prothro five years ago. But that wasn't the only one: in Oregon, the state's attorney general was forced to drop a case against an agent who'd tampered with a Duck football player in 2008, thanks in part  to the player refusing to cooperate with investigators. The Oregon legislature is considering a bill that would broaden the definition of agents and allow law enforcement to pursue such cases against a wider net of perpetrators.

3. Remember Washington State running back Kevin McCall? Unless you're a Cougar diehard, probably not; he ran for fewer than 450 yards his entire career. But the Carson (Ca.) product is putting together quite the post-football career, having being nominated for a Grammy as a songwriter in the "Best Rap/Sung Collaboration" category.

4. New Minnesota coach Jerry Kill sat down for a Q&A this week with Big Ten blog Off-Tackle Empire. Among other topics (including the Twin Cities' "five tremendous hospitals" making Kill's list of what he'll sell to recruits), Kill reveals that he feels "the biggest play on offense is the punt." Clearly, this is a man who was born to coach in the Big Ten.

AND THE CLOUD ...

The athletic director who hired Ron Zook may not stay in the office past July 1 , putting Zook in a potentially awkward position ... Skip Holtz has oversigned at USF, but says he's been up front with some members of the incoming class about possible grayshirts ... The Orange County Register profiles new NCAA vice president of enforcement Julie Roe Lach, who our own Bryan Fischer caught up with in this space not too long ago ... Being the first-ever Arizona State Sun Devil mascot sounds like it's about the least interesting thing Phoenix's Dick Jacobs has done ... a new film will chronicle the 1934 incident in which Michigan's agreeing not to field their lone African-American player against visiting Georgia Tech nearly led Gerald Ford to quit the team ... A study of which of college football's winningest teams have earned the highest percentage of their wins against other winningest teams puts Auburn on top.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com