2012 USF Preview - After the Collapse
South Florida QB B.J. Daniels
2012 CollegeFootballNews.com South Florida Preview
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By Richard Cirminiello
Now that the Bulls have improbably veered off course, head coach Skip Holtz and his reconfigured staff plan to work overtime this offseason to make sure that they get back on track as quickly as possible.
Head coach: Skip Holtz
Third year: 13-12
Off. 24, Def. 18, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 19
Ten Best USF Players
1. LB DeDe Lattimore, Jr.
2. DE Ryne Giddins, Jr.
3. CB Kayvon Webster, Sr.
4. QB B.J. Daniels, Sr.
5. LB Sam Barrington, Sr.
6. RB Demetris Murray, Sr.
7. WR Andre Davis, Soph.
8. WR Sterling Griffin, Jr.
9. LT Mark Popek, Sr.
10. LB Michael Lanaris, Sr.
Sep. 1 UT Chattanooga
Sep. 8 at Nevada
Sep. 13 Rutgers
Sep. 22 at Ball State
Sep. 29 Florida State
Oct. 6 at Temple
Oct. 13 OPEN DATE
Oct. 20 at Louisville
Oct. 27 Syracuse
Nov. 3 Connecticut
Nov. 10 OPEN DATE
Nov. 17 at Miami
Nov. 23 at Cincinnati
Dec. 1 Pitt
South Florida was clearly pointing north when the 2011 season began, and then hit the tarmac with a 4-0 start that included a signature opening day upset of Notre Dame. Unfortunately, though, the program proved unable to handle the prosperity and growing expectations, winning just one of its final eight games to miss the postseason for the first time since 2004.
Encouraging news, though, comes from the return of a slew of starters, more starters in fact than any other team in the Big East. All of that seasoned talent will be getting a good look at a group of coaches that's been tweaked in the hopes of bringing a fresh energy to Tampa. The most prominent newcomer is Chris Cosh, a longtime coordinator who'll be tasked with keeping the defense among the feistiest in the league.
On offense, all eyes will be on B.J. Daniels, as he attempts to finally break through and become the complete quarterback that the Bulls need him to be. He'll be surrounded by an eclectic array of playmakers, especially at wide receiver, but needs to do a better job of employing them.
Don't be hoodwinked by South Florida's aggregate offensive numbers form last fall, a lot of which was accumulated against the likes of Ball State, Florida A&M and UTEP. USF produced at least 37 points versus all three of the aforementioned speed bags, but just once more in its other nine contests. While the D will continue to have a bite, the program has a capped ceiling if Todd Fitch's offensive attack can't begin carrying more of the weight.
It's Year 3 for Holtz, a big one for the coach and his program. South Florida needs to dust itself off, keep 2011 in the past and start acting like the squad that looked like an emerging juggernaut not long ago. With the Big East's automatic bid to a BCS bowl game coming under increasing and intensified scrutiny, the Bulls need to strike now while the opportunity to cash in is at its absolute peak.
What to watch for on offense: The wide receivers to drag QB B.J. Daniels to a new level of efficiency. While Daniels is not a stellar passing quarterback, his numbers might suggest otherwise this fall. Not only does he enter his fourth season in the program, but he'll have access to his best collection of hands since winning the job in 2011. The Bulls are loaded with speed, quickness and athleticism in the form of Andre Davis, Sterling Griffin and Victor Marc. Plus, rookie D'Vario Montgomery and touted Florida transfer Chris Dunkley should become more dangerous as the season unfolds. Daniels finally has the weapons to hurt defenses through the air; now he has to go out and fully maximize their big-play potential.
What to watch for on defense: New coordinator Chris Cosh to keep things simple. Cosh has inherited a lot of talent in Tampa … and he knows it. He'll run a 4-3 base, and essentially get out of the way so that his players can, well, make plays. The coach wants his Bulls to be aggressive, smart and fast to the ball. In other words, just do what they've been doing for the last five years or so. Cosh won't have to coach up this group, which returns a ton of starters, and doesn't expect to have more than one underclassman in the starting lineup on opening day.
The team will be far better if… the special teams is so darn awful this fall. No, it wasn't all that plagued the Bulls during last season's disappointing 5-7 campaign, but the unit sure didn't make the situation any better. South Florida stood 100th in the country in net punting, 83rd in punt returns, 80th in kickoff returns, allowed two kickoffs to be taken back and missed seven field goals. Winning programs are tight in all phases, including the less publicized ones.
The Schedule: It'll be a sneaky-tough first part of the slate going on the road for four games over a six game span. Going to Nevada and Ball State won't be as easy as it seems, while going to Temple and Louisville in back-to-back games will be a challenge in Big East play. USF always likes to get its shot against the in-state big boys, and it has its chances with Florida State coming to Tampa and with a trip to Miami in mid-November. The problem, though, will be the conference road games at Cincinnati and Louisville, but closing out with a home date against Pitt will help.
Best offensive player: Senior QB B.J. Daniels. For all of the knocks on Daniels, he's still South Florida's best offensive player, or certainly its most valuable. Yes, he needs to be more effective as a passer. However, he remains one of the nation's most dangerous scrambling quarterbacks, rushing for 601 yards and six touchdowns a year ago, and is the undisputed leader of the offensive unit. If he can do a better job of completing passes downfield, Daniels is capable of finishing an up-and-down career as the All-Big East quarterback.
Best defensive player: Junior LB DeDe Lattimore. DE Ryne Giddins and CB Kayvon Webster are outstanding players and returning all-stars, but Lattimore continues to be the most important Bull on this defense. Sans a lot of notoriety, he just keeps making plays at South Florida, including a team-leading 94 stops, 13 tackles for loss and seven sacks. He's quick to the ball, unloading on his target when he arrives. The junior's inability to gain much traction nationally should end this season.
Key player to a successful season: Daniels. The senior quarterback needs to be more than just the intermittent playmaker who does a believable Donovan McNabb impersonation every now and again when he leaves the pocket. Now that he's entering his fourth year as a starter, he has to consistently put the dual back in dual-threat by becoming a little more dangerous through the air. South Florida is a top-flight quarterback away from being a formidable contender for the Big East title. It's time for Daniels to become that guy in Tampa.
The season will be a success if ... the Bulls win the Big East Conference. Enough already. It's high time that South Florida puts it all together, and leverages all of its speed and talent. The program boasts a plethora of starters on both sides of the ball, including a fourth-year starting quarterback, and a coaching staff entering its third season on the job. West Virginia is no longer a member of the league, one more sizable hurdle that USF won't have to contend with in 2012.
Key game: Oct. 20 at Louisville. In the wide-open chase for a Big East championship—and the big-payday BCS bowl that goes with it—the Cardinals and the Bulls are two of the frontrunners as the season approaches. The teams have played nine times, going back to when they were Conference USA members in 2003 and 2004. South Florida has won five times, but fell short at Raymond James Stadium last year, 34-24. Rebounding on the road at Papa John's Stadium would be an important first step in the quest to carry the league banner.
2011 Fun Stats:
- Rushing yards per game: South Florida 183.2 – Opponents 107.3
- Time of possession: South Florida 27:42 – Opponents 32:18
- First-quarter scoring: South Florida 85 - Opponents 33
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