With an open date so early in the season, USF's practices have taken on the look of a second "fall camp" in coach Skip Holtz' assessment.
Holtz said coaches are still developing the depth chart as they began preparations for a three-game home stand that begins with Western Kentucky.
Even players who may be headed for redshirt seasons are getting a lot of work because at this point they may be only one or two injuries away from having that redshirt taken off them, Holtz said.
Holtz remained encouraged by what he saw in the Bulls' 38-14 loss at Florida in their last outing. They ran the ball for 244 yards and had 330 yards total offense to Florida's 423.
But five turnovers led to the game getting out of hand.
"The thing that frustrates me the most about the turnovers was they weren't as much takeaways as they were giveaways," Holtz said, noting the fumble came with a bobbled exchange between quarterback and running back, not a play by the defense.
But he likes the way his Bulls have responded to the disappointment.
"I made the comment after the game that I think how we responded to the loss to the loss at Florida was going to be more important than whether or not we won or lost the game when you look at the next two, three months and the rest of the season," Holtz said. "I'm really proud of the way they have come out here and the way they have been working."
--USF coach Skip Holtz likes the way the offensive line has performed in the two games, singling out senior C Sampson Genus for his leadership. Other starters are senior LT Jamar Bass, junior LG Jeremiah Warren, junior RT Chaz Hine, and senior LT Jacob Sims. "I think those five guys together are really playing well," Holtz said.
--One thing the bye week has provided USF is a chance to look at the situation at wide receiver. With injuries to veterans, freshmen dominate the two-deep at the three spots. Walk-on freshman Stephen Bravo-Brown has been a pleasant surprise (four catches, 48 yards) and redshirt freshman T.J. Knowles (1-9) could see an expanded role.
--The loss at Florida ended a streak of 3-0 starts for the Bulls, who had won their first three games every year from 2006 through 2009.
SERIES HISTORY: USF leads Western Kentucky 3-2 (last meeting, 2009, 35-13 USF).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: USF ran the ball well in the loss at Florida, rushing for 244 yards, but the passing game sputtered. With 130 yards in two games, QB B.J. Daniels once again is the team's leading rusher, which is not something the Bulls wanted this season. Sophomore RB Demetris Murray, however, has shown flashes he may be ready to contribute more. The wide receiver corps remains thin, especially with senior WR Dontavia Bogan nursing an ankle injury.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The defense wore down against Florida, giving up 31 points over the final two quarters, but much of that was the result of turnovers by the offense putting the Bulls in a bad spot. LB DeDe Lattimore, who earned praise for his play in the spring, LB Sam Barrington, and DE David Bedford are leading the unit. But the Bulls have only two sacks in two games, one each by SS Jon Lejiste and DT Keith McCaskill.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "This open date two games into the season is not the time to reinvent the wheel or change our offense or our defense. But we are trying to get better fundamentally." -- Coach Skip Holtz, on the Bulls' bye week practices.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Western Kentucky at USF, Sept. 25 -- The Bulls begin a three-game home stretch with the visit from the Hilltoppers, whose 23-game losing streak is the longest active streak in the country. USF has the opportunity to build some momentum coming off the loss at Florida. Next up are home games against Florida Atlantic and Syracuse.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Get the running game going. The Bulls need production out of RBs Demetris Murray and Mo Plancher to take the load off QB B.J. Daniels. The defense needs to get more pressure up front.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
DE David Bedford -- Bedford has two tackles for losses among his eight tackles in two games, one short of his total for all of last year when he played in 12 games (three starts). He also has an interception to his credit.
QB B.J. Daniels -- Daniels needs to bounce back after an off-game passing in the loss to the Gators. He has completed only 47.6 percent of his passes (20-of-42) with four interceptions.
WR Evan Landi -- After spending time at wide receiver and backup quarterback last year, Landi has become the team's leading receiving with six receptions for 143 yards.
--WR Dontavia Bogan (ankle) is expected to be ready for the game against Western Kentucky.
--DE Craig Marshall (knee) and RT Jacob Sims (ankle) missed practice early in the bye week but should return.