USF head football coach Skip Holtz is a man of his word.
When he took over the Bulls last January he promised the quarterback position was not going to lead the team in rushing anymore.
It was a bold statement regarding an offense that has saddled up its quarterback and rode him until the spurs fell off going back to Marquel Blackwell, then Matt Grothe and now B.J. Daniels.
People snickered and laughed even more after the Florida game when Daniels ran for 117 yards. The way things were done around USF, it didn’t matter that he threw four picks and connected on only 5 of 20 passes.
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In this program, you lived or died by how much juice the quarterback could muster in his arms and legs.
It was often reckless. Under the regime of Jim Leavitt, the staff took unnecessary chances like running Grothe in a game that was already won when he suffered a career ending torn ACL.
Holtz didn’t want any part of it, though the history at USF made his sales pitch difficult.
Daniels is the most athletic of the signal callers who have held the reigns of the USF offense. Taking away his keys to the car might seem like he was being punished by an over-bearing parent.
But in last week’s 24-12 victory over Western Kentucky, Daniels threw the ball just 11 times. The redshirt sophomore ran only nine times, and Holtz said on seven of those runs he took off on his own.
Holtz is the type of person who doesn’t need a stamp of approval from anyone when it comes to coaching football except perhaps from his dad, Dr. Lou, who now practices football doctology as an ESPN analyst. “It was ugly,” Skip admitted after the WKU game.
No matter. The Bulls won and he will do it again. Holtz is a football coach not a fashion designer.
It could likely happen this Saturday against FAU.
But Holtz knows you can’t keep a da Vinci locked up in the vault forever. Someday you are going to have to bring it out and let folks see what it looks like.
Holtz is trying to keep the wraps on Daniels until his receiving corps, minus their three best receivers, heals from its rash of injuries. Dontavia Bogan is expected to play this Saturday, Sterling Griffin could be ready soon and A.J. Love is about a month away.
“When you look at us having a young quarterback in a new system with a lot of inexperienced receivers we just felt like we could put the saddle on the offensive line and the running game,” Holtz said. “We said let’s not throw the ball around and get a lot of statistics and lose the game because we are trying to win left-handed. We played right handed. It’s not flashy, it’s not pretty. It’s winning ugly unless you love the running game. But it was the smart way to play.”
Daniels was diplomatic after the game. He couldn’t hide his disappointment, but knows you don’t criticize a win and there will be days when Holtz will put all the gas in his tank.
“Sometimes it’s frustrating that we are not clicking with our passing game,” he said. “It’s hard to throw only 11 times, but the most important thing is to win. I wouldn’t want to throw 40 times and lose.”
Daniels also found himself on the hands team when WKU tried an onsides kick. It went right to him and he snagged the ball. The move even caught Hilltoppers coach Willie Taggart by surprise.
“We had BJ as a backup on the (hands team) and when we were practicing he got every kick,” Holtz said. “I told coach (Vernon) Hargreaves put your best athletes out there. We put him in there and the ball bounced up and he got it.”
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Like the other Big East Conference coaches, Holtz has had to field questions about whether his league deserves its automatic BCS Bowl bid. A lot of people, including ESPN analyst Lee Corso, want it taken away.
The Big East doesn’t have a ranked team and is 1-10 versus the other BCS Automatic qualifying conferences and 0-1 against the Mountain West and the Western Athletic Conference, two leagues that don’t have automatic bids.
“I would probably say this is just one of those years. I’ve looked at our game with Florida and if we don’t turn the ball over five times that is a classic college game that goes right down to the wire,” Holtz said. “Look at West Virginia and LSU and that was a competitive game. We are just in that year where we are not closing the door, but I think this is a good football conference.”