USF Preseason Football Ball - Inside Slant

The Bulls kicked off the preseason today and the Sports Xchange provides insight on the start of USF fall camp.

As a quarterback, B.J. Daniels is going to touch the football on just about every offensive play. But it's what he does with it after taking the snap that concerns first-year USF coach Skip Holtz.

"I don't want B.J. to run the ball 200 times for us this year," Holtz said at Big East Media Days. "B.J. Daniels is a great athlete and can do it all, and there are going to be some times -- and I have to be careful because I don't want to take his playmaking ability away from him either -- when B.J. is scrambling around and can turn and make some things happen.

"I want to let him play the game of football. But I want to take some of the wear and tear and some of the banging off him a little bit."

Daniels led all rushers with 175 carries for the Bulls last year, but 160 of those carries came over the last 10 games after he took over as the starter for an injured Matt Grothe. Running back Moise Plancher's 129 carries were the second most on the team. Daniels had 772 yards rushing, Plancher 581.

Holtz, no doubt, would like to see those numbers reversed this fall.

Plancher most assuredly will be the main man in the running game after Mike Ford's dismissal from the team and the move of running back Lindsey Lamar to wide receiver.

Sophomore Demetrius Murray, who had only 14 rushes for 77 yards in 2009, is slated as Plancher's backup.

Whoever handles the load will have the luxury of running behind an offensive line that returns five starters, including senior Sampson Genus, an all-conference candidate at center.

The biggest potential problem on offense is at wide receiver, which has been depleted by injuries to projected starters A.J. Love and Sterling Griffin. That throws a bigger load on returning veteran Dontavia Bogan and opens the way for a newcomer like freshman Deonte Welch and junior college transfer T.J. Knowles to get an early opportunity.

Defense is another story.

The Bulls have some major rebuilding to do with only four starters returning. Seniors Terrell McClain at tackle and Sabbath Joseph at linebacker are the only returning starters among the front seven, where the Bulls are looking to replace pass rushers George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul. Developing run stoppers up front is another priority.

The other two returning starters are cornerbacks Kayvon Webster, who had six starts as a true freshman in 2009, and junior Quenton Washington. Washington has a dozen starts in his first two years.

"We've talked about the defensive ends and who's going to be the starter, but there are six guys competing so we're going to have some depth there," Holtz said. "At defensive tackles, we have six or seven guys competing. So the competition is only going to make everybody better."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Comparing freshman seasons of the Bulls' last two quarterbacks: Matt Grothe rushed for 622 yards and completed 63.7 percent of his passes for 2,576 yards with 15 touchdown passes against 14 interceptions in 2006. B.J. Daniels, who took over when Grothe went down with a knee injury in the third game of last year, rushed for 772 yards as a redshirt freshman. He completed 53.7 percent of his passes for 1,983 yards with 14 touchdowns against nine interceptions.

--Coach Skip Holtz is essentially conducting the first two weeks of his preseason camp in Vero Beach in the complex formerly used by the Los Angeles Dodgers for spring training. The baseball team abandoned Dodgertown following their 2008 spring training session. Vero is about 125 miles across the state from USF's campus in Tampa.

--The best-case scenario for injured receivers A.J. Love and Sterling Griffin is that they will be back four or five games into the season. They will go to Vero Beach, but only to concentrate on rehabbing.

SPOTLIGHT ON SEPTEMBER: USF, which surprised Florida State by beating the Seminoles in Tallahassee last September, takes on an even bigger challenge this year. After opening against Stony Brook, the Bulls go to Gainesville to take on the Florida Gators on Sept. 11. Even though the Gators no longer have Tim Tebow taking snaps, the Bulls' defense still faces a huge task.

KEYS TO SUCCESS: QB B.J. Daniels heads a veteran offense that should be able to move the ball, especially with seven players with starting experience returning up front. The running game also looks to step up behind veteran RB Moise Plancher. But the defense needs to make a major improvement if the Bulls are to challenge in the Big East.

AREAS OF CONCERN: Wide receiver took another hit in the summer when sophomore Sterling Griffin broke his ankle during voluntary workouts in June. He joins senior A.J. Love on the injured list. The defense has some big holes to fill, most notably finding pass rushers to take over for ends George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul and building depth inside.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "If we were very secure at wide receiver, we would have the ability to put Evan Landi there as a full-time player -- as a quarterback. Then you'd have two you'd really feel comfortable with." -- Coach Skip Holtz, discussing Landi's role at receiver as opposed to backing up QB B.J. Daniels.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

HEAD COACH: Skip Holtz, first year at USF; 11th year as a head coach, 72-50.

MOST IMPORTANT PLAYER: QB B.J. Daniels -- Daniels stepped in when Matt Grothe was injured early last season and did a commendable job. As a sophomore he figures to be more consistent with that season under his belt. He may be more effective as a passer if some of the pressure is taken off of his running responsibilities, which coach Skip Holtz has made a priority this year.

BREAKOUT STAR: WR Dontavia Bogan -- With teammates A.J. Love and Sterling Griffin going down with injuries, Bogan looks to be even more favored as B.J. Daniels' No. 1 target. Bogan had 22 catches last year, four for touchdowns.

NEWCOMER TO WATCH: DE Ryne Giddens -- Giddens showed what he was capable of when he registered four sacks in three games before going out with a season-ending ankle injury. In fact, his first two tackles as a collegians were both sacks.

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP:

Offense -- QB B.J. Daniels, RB Moise Plancher, FB Richard Kelly, WR Lindsey Lamar, WR Dontavia Bogan, TE Jeff Hawkins, LT Jamar Bass, LG Jeremiah Warren, C Sampson Genus, RG Chaz Hine, RT Jacob Sims.

Defense -- DE David Bedford, DT Terrell McClain, Cory Grissom, DE Ryne Giddens, LB Jacquian Williams, LB Sam Barrington, LB Sabbath Joseph, CB Quenton Washington, CB Kayvon Webster, SS Jon Lejiste, FS Mistral Raymond.

ROSTER REPORT:

--WR Sterling Griffin's broken ankle occurred while he was taking part in conditioning drills in June. With WR A.J. Love's status in doubt following the knee injury he sustained in the spring, and WR Carlton Mitchell's decision to skip his final collegiate season and enter the NFL Draft, the Bulls are suddenly very thin at the position.

--WR T.J. Knowles, a 6-8 transfer from Saddleback College in California, was a late addition to the recruiting class after signing in May. He will have three years of eligibility. He had 49 catches for 924 yards at Saddleback last year and is expected to provide immediate help at a position of need.

--Former Auburn RB Dontae Aycock is transferring to USF, coach Skip Holtz confirmed. Aycock, a quarterback in high school, was dismissed from Auburn in May for violation of unspecified rules. He will sit out this fall.

--RB Darrell Scott, who announced his intention to leave Colorado last November, has enrolled at USF and will sit out this fall. He played in only five games as a sophomore last year, rushing 23 times for 95 yards.

--LB Donte Spires is back on scholarship after getting his academics in order, and he is listed as a backup on the strong side on the depth chart. He transferred from Pearl River Community College (Miss.) but was not a member of the team last year.


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