With players like tight end Sean Price and D'vario Montgomery joining the program Wednesday, the coach is even more confident that the Bulls are on the verge of building something special.
The high school prospects are among 20 newcomers comprising a recruiting class that may get an opportunity to contribute right away to a team coming off a 5-7 finish that stopped a string of six consecutive bowl appearances. Nine of the players have been on campus since the start of spring semester and will compete to fill some key positions.
"Being 5-7 certainly was not what anybody wished for, hoped for, nor thought was going to happen last year," said Holtz, who watched his team lose seven of eight following a 4-0 start that included a season-opening victory at Notre Dame that propelled the Bulls into the Top 25 for four weeks.
"But when you look at some of the injuries we had and all of the close football games we lost," Holtz added, "I think the program is healthier today than it was three years ago."
Price is one of the highest-ranked tight ends in the nation out of North Marion High School. Montgomery had 96 receptions and scored 21 touchdowns over the past two seasons for Winter Park High School. Oklahoma and Georgia were among the school's pursuing Price, and Montgomery was heavily recruited, too.
Snaring both as part of his third recruiting class is evidence USF is headed in the right direction, Holtz said.
"I commend Sean because there are a lot of people out there that are saying you'll never win big time, you'll never accomplish some of the things we've done. I commend him for being strong enough to say: ‘I want to go someplace and build something. We have an opportunity to build something at South Florida, and I want to go there and build it rather than go someplace else and maintain it. I don't want to be the next great tight end at that school. I want to be the first Sean Price at South Florida," Holtz said.
The class includes six junior college transfers — two of them offensive linemen and two others defensive backs that Holtz thinks may be capable of providing experienced help this fall. A fifth JUCO transfer — running back Michael Pierre out of Golden West College — replaces early NFL entry Darrell Scott.
Surprisingly, Holtz did not sign any quarterbacks, saying he was happy with the three he has returning, including starter B.J. Daniels, who will be entering his senior season.
In all, USF signed nine offensive players and 11 expected to play defense. The class features 15 players from Florida, two from Texas and one each from Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.
More importantly, Holtz feels it's the most talented group he's assembled since moving from East Carolina to USF.
"It's a very diverse group and answers most of the needs we have as a football program. … We don't have a lot of guys who are not going to play," the coach said.