How we respond to adversity often reveals who we are as a person.
With that being said, we should find out a lot about Skip Holtz in the next few days.
In his first year as the USF head football coach, Holtz committed the cardinal sin: He lost to Syracuse.
To many in Bulls Nation that is worse than hitting a player, an act which sent predecessor Jim Leavitt out the door.
Leavitt never lost to Syracuse, which has been the league doormat since USF entered the Big East Conference six years ago.
So, it was understandable why Holtz was not his usual glib self in the aftermath of the Bulls’ 13-9 loss to Syracuse. But the bigger question is what is happening between the coach and his quarterback, B.J. Daniels.
They often say the right things, but actions speak louder than words, and the redshirt sophomore seems lost at times or not the right fit for an offensive scheme that sees him as a drop-back passer, which takes away from his natural talent.
How Holtz communicates with his quarterback from here on out may determine the season and whether his stay at USF is long and prosperous or short and preposterous.
It’s obvious Holtz hasn’t figured out yet the best way to use Daniels, a gifted athlete who is often best when he is free to roam, ad-lib and wear defenses down until he finds an open receiver.
The only problem is that can lead to trouble. He can get wild, take chances and make a costly mistake or two, which happened when the Bulls lost to Florida and he threw four picks.
This is not quantum physics, and maybe all Daniels needs is to feel free to do what he does best.
Daniels has golden wheels and an arm that sometimes looks as if it is operating on its own. He also has an inexperienced receiving corps, which has not been consistent.
Against Syracuse, he had his least productive game running since he became the starter, registering a net minus-1 yard on 13 carries. He was intercepted twice, sacked four times and misfired on 12 of 23 passes.
He could’ve survived that if he hadn’t twice missed receivers who were wide open and most likely would’ve headed into the end zone untouched if he had thrown them the ball.
Syracuse wanted to keep Daniels in the pocket and contain him. The USF game plan did half the job for the Orange.
Holtz defended how he has used Daniels, and offensive coordinator Todd Fitch says the staff is still in the process of evaluating the best way to use the quarterback.
“We are trying to build this offense around B.J., and right now we are not having a lot of success,” Holtz said. “It’s not so much fitting him into our offense as it is we are trying to build the offense around him. We are not trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. They applied pressure at times. He got bothered and we put him under center to try and calm things down.”
Holtz can often contradict himself when it comes to Daniels, sounding like a frustrated parent who can’t understand why his son cannot follow through on his assignments.
“You are going to have to throw the ball at this level of college football if you want to win because people can scheme you if the only thing you can do is run the ball,” Holtz said. “They tried to pressure us and outnumber us in our run game and had their safeties played downhill, and we didn’t respond.”
On the Bulls first possession of the game Daniels was intercepted at the goal line trying to hit Dontavia Bogan when Evan Landi was wide open in the middle of the field at about the 10 and could’ve waltzed into the endzone. In third quarter at the Syracuse 38, he missed a wide open Bogan and instead threw to the other side of the field and was picked off.
To his credit, Daniels is the perfect company man. He doesn’t make excuses and doesn’t blame his coach for perhaps not allowing him to use the God-given talent he has been blessed with.
“Sometimes people are open and I don’t see them,” Daniels said. “Guys are on my backside and they are the last that I look at. But I am fine with this offense. It’s not frustrating because I don’t pay attention to what people or the media say. It’s not in the game plan for me to run around and scramble. If the opportunity presents itself I will do it.”