USF Spring Ball - Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange provides insight on the start of USF spring ball.


Although there are other issues, probably the No. 1 priority at USF is for the coaches to get to know their players and vice versa.

For the first time since the Bulls started playing football in 1997, someone other than Jim Leavitt will be on the sidelines.

Skip Holtz came from East Carolina when Leavitt was dismissed following a school investigation into allegations he had grabbed a player by the throat and slapped him at halftime of the game against Louisville.

Holtz brings with him new coordinators in Mark Snyder (defense) and Todd Fitch (offense) in addition to new assistants Rick Smith (defensive backs), Vernon Hargreaves (defensive ends), Peter Vaas (quarterbacks), and Steve Shankweiler (offensive line).

The Bulls have issues to deal with on both sides of the ball -- quarterback B.J. Daniels won't be at full strength which means progress on offense will be slowed a bit -- but probably the most pressing is on defense.

The losses on that side of the ball are heavy, with defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and George Selvie, linebacker Kion Wilson, safety Nate Allen, and cornerback Jerome Murphy moving on. All five likely will end up in the NFL draft somewhere.

Two seniors, David Bedford and Craig Marshall, look to step in at end, and Sam Barrington, a sophomore who had 41 tackles as a backup in 2009, looks to move into the middle linebacker spot.

Sophomore Kayvon Webster (one interception) and Jon Lejiste are strong candidates for the secondary spots.

The leaders of the unit look to be senior linebacker Sabbath Joseph (48 tackles, four for losses) and senior defensive back Mistral Raymond, a walk-on who had four starts at safety and nickel back in 2009 (one interception).


SPRING OBJECTIVES: USF will do some retooling on offense under new coordinator Todd Fitch, but some things likely will be slow to develop with returning QB B.J. Daniels limited. The approach in 2009 seemed to be to let Daniels get out and do his thing, which was scramble and then either run or throw deep. Defensively, there is a lot of rebuilding to do with coordinator Mark Snyder installing a 4-3 front.

BUILDING BLOCKS: QB B.J. Daniels is a raw talent who can do a lot of good things, but USF sometimes paid the price with his inconsistency in 2009. That should be more settled. The Bulls look to have a stronger running game with Mo Plancher (581 yards rushing in 2009) returning for a sixth year along with sophomore Lindsey Lamar. WRs A.J. Love (26 catches) and Dontavia Bogan (22) are solid, and the offensive line is a veteran unit. Senior LB Sabbath Joseph needs to step up and become the leader of a green defensive unit.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Everyone starts from scratch. I haven't seen one of these players in pads and a helmet, so it would be unfair to draft a depth chart without seeing them fly around the practice field. They all have a clean slate, and everyone will be competing for a starting spot." -- Coach Skip Holtz, on why there was no depth chart at the start of spring practice.


2010 OUTLOOK: The Bulls look to have some offensive punch with the return of QB B.J. Daniels and seven players with starting experience up front. But the big questions will be on defense, where five potential NFL draft picks must be replaced. The Bulls have gotten off to fast starts in recent years only to fade near the end of the season when the schedule toughened up. This year they play Florida in the second game of the season. But that is the only road game among the first five contests, so the Bulls have a chance to develop an identity on both sides of the ball before getting into Big East play.


LB Curtis Weatherspoon -- A junior college transfer who enrolled early to take part in spring drills, Weatherspoon will move to linebacker after playing in the secondary at Dean College in Franklin, Mass. He was Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the Northeast Football Conference.

DE Claude Davis -- Another junior college transfer (East Mississippi CC), Davis will get an early opportunity for playing time. He also is taking part in spring drills.

CB Ricardo Dixon -- The redshirt freshman will sit out spring drills after having shoulder surgery, but he is expected to compete for a backup job in the secondary in the fall.

DE Ryne Giddens -- Giddens played in three games last year, registering sacks on his first two tackles, before going out with an ankle injury. He was rated a four-star recruit when he signed in 2009.


--Sophomore QB B.J. Daniels is limited in spring workouts after having offseason shoulder surgery. Evan Landi, who likely will be a wide receiver exclusively in the fall, is taking some snaps at quarterback. C Sampson Genus and RB Aston Samuels, both seniors, also are limited by injuries.

--Injuries have sidelined four players for the spring: CB Tyson Butler, redshirt freshman Ricardo Dixon, sophomore DE Cody Durakovic, and senior WR Jason Sherman.

--RB Mo Plancher was granted a sixth year of eligibility. He had a shoulder injury in 2005 and then sustained a knee injury in the 2006 opener. He ran for 581 yards last year.

--RB Mike Ford's career at USF came to an end in late February when he was dismissed from the team for a "violation of team rules." Ford had a turbulent time at USF, including a two-game suspension at the start of last season, but was the MVP in the International Bowl after rushing for 207 yards in the win over Northern Illinois.

--Coaches added 14 walk-ons to the spring roster.

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