TSX: USF Ready to Open the Season

The Sports Xchange takes a look at USF as it prepares to open the season Saturday against Stony Brook. From strengths to weaknesses and player reports, TSX provides the insight to the Bulls as they open the season under Head Coach Skip Holtz.

INSIDE SLANT

For the first time since the program's inaugural season in 1997, USF will have a new coach on the sidelines when the Bulls host Stony Brook in their opener.

And Skip Holtz, named to replace Jim Leavitt after last season, is looking forward to it. There's no question about that.

"From my standpoint, I am giddy," he said at a press conference kicking off game-week preparations. "I am like a school kid. I am really excited."

The opener against the FCS foe isn't likely to be that big of a challenge for the Bulls.

But Holtz hopes to come up with some answers for his Bulls, particularly at wide receiver and defense, before they travel to Gainesville to play the Florida Gators the following week.

Injuries have depleted USF's receiving corps, and true freshmen are going to have to step up. Only four starters return on defense.

"I think we have depth on the defensive side of the ball to keep fresh bodies in -- the defensive end, the defensive tackle," Holtz said. "But there are a lot of unknowns at linebacker.

"DeDe Lattimore hasn't played a whole lot, Mike Lanaris has not played a whole lot, and then in the secondary there's a lot of youth back there.

"The skill positions and how they are going to respond is my concern. I'm not concerned about attitude or talent or work habits."

NOTES, QUOTES

--This USF team is being touted as possibly the fastest Bulls group yet. The St. Petersburg Times notes that WR Lindsay Lamar was clocked at 10.35 seconds in the 100-meter dash in 2008 and CB Terrence Mitchell was timed at 10.64. WRs Sterling Griffin and Derrick Hopkins and CB Kayvon Webster were part of a state record 4x100-meter relay team in 2009 while at Miami Monsignor Pace High.

--Coach Skip Holtz said several freshmen will have the opportunity to play this season. RB Marcus Shaw and S Mark Joyce are sure to see time this week. Mitchell, RB Marcus Shaw, S Mark Joyce, RT Quinterrius Eatmon, QB Jamius Gunsby, QB Bobby Eveld, WR Stephen Bravo-Brown and WR Deonte Welch also are possible candidates to give up their redshirt year.

--Depth at wide receiver is a major concern, and help is a bit of a ways off. Senior WR A.J. Love, who tore an ACL in the spring game, is expected back sometime in mid-October. Sophomore WR Sterling Griffin, who injured an ankle during offseason workouts, could be back four weeks into the season.

SERIES HISTORY: South Florida and Stony Brook have never met.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Coach Skip Holtz wants to get more out of his running game than last year, when QB B.J. Daniels led the Bulls in rushing with 772 yards. Senior RB Moise Plancher (581) and redshirt freshman RB Bradley Battles, who are co-No. 1s on the depth chart look to pick up that load. The line is a veteran group, but receiver took a hit with injuries to A.J. Love and Sterling Griffin, leaving Dontavia Bogan as the top threat.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Five starters from last year's unit are in NFL camps, but overall the Bulls have good depth if not big names throughout the two-deep. The secondary looks to be the strength with competition for starting spots at corner going down to the final week. Sophomores Kayvon Webster and George Baker are battling at one spot, senior Mistral Raymond and junior Quenton Washington at the other.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "That is one of my biggest concerns right now, the wide receiver position," said Coach Skip Holtz, noting the number of newcomers who are going to have to step up immediately at wide out for the Bulls.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Stony Brook at USF, Sept. 4 -- Stony Brook returns only eight starters (four on each side of the ball) from a 6-5 FCS team. The Seawolves from Long Island, N.Y., should be little more than a warm-up for the Bulls, who go to Florida a week later.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Put the accelerator down and don't let up. The Bulls will be making their debut under new coach Skip Holtz, and they don't want to stumble out of the gate against an overmatched foe. It's time to see if the Bulls have met their goal of improving their ground game.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

QB B.J. Daniels -- Thrown into a starting role as a redshirt freshman last year, Daniels needs to be more disciplined if the Bulls are to contend in the Big East. He has the ability to make the big play but has to learn that he doesn't have to do everything himself. Self-discipline could help improve his 53.7 completion percentage.

RB Moise Plancher -- If the Bulls are to get more out of their running game than Daniels' scrambles, Plancher is going to have to have a solid, if not big, year. He rushed for 581 yards last season.

DEs Craig Marshall and David Bedford -- With George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul both gone, the two seniors have to step up to fill the pass rushing role. Marshall had four sacks last year, Bedford one in spot duty.

ROSTER REPORT:

--Senior PK Eric Schwartz likely will handle field goals and sophomore PK Maikon Bonani is likely to handle kickoffs, but that could change as game day approaches. Schwartz was 11-of-16 on field goals last year when Bonani, 15-of-21 as a freshman in 2008, was sidelined because of a back injury sustained in a fall last summer.

--RB Moise Plancher has been limited in practice by a shoulder injury. Redshirt freshman Bradley Battles would have started if the game were a week earlier, coach Skip Holtz said.

--WR Dontavia Bogan may see his time as a returner cut out because of concern about injuries and lack of depth at wide receiver. Bogan averaged 21.4 yards on 36 kickoff returns last season.


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