Alan Dell

Commentary: Bulls usher in Holtz era with spring game


He wore a red jersey with a big number 7 on his chest that stood apart from the others, who were dressed in green or white.

It was Skip Holtz’s way of saying don’t even think of putting your hands on his most valuable commodity.

B.J. Daniels was coming off shoulder surgery this spring and was an “untouchable” in Saturday night’s spring game at USF that officially ushered in the Holtz era.

One has to believe even a totally healthy Daniels would’ve earned the full protection of his head coach. He showed he is simply too good a quarterback to leave his health to the fate of the football gods in a meaningless spring game.

The sophomore threw five touchdown passes, displaying an arm that unleashed laser beam passes, which enabled him to connect on 23 of 31 attempts for 381 yards. Four of his scores went to Dontavia Bogan and the other to Southeast High product A.J. Love.

His touchdown passes were for 77, 43, 25, 24 and 5 yards. Bogan was his favorite target with nine receptions for 228 yards. Love caught three passes for 59 yards, all in the second half, including the five yard TD strike.

Daniels’ “USF” team beat the “Bulls” team 49-31 for the highest scoring spring game in USF history.

“We opened up the passing game more than I planned, and I was really impressed with the job B.J. did as a quarterback,” Holtz said.

“We all know he is a great athlete, but I liked what he did from a quarterback perspective and a mental standpoint and how he handled himself in the pocket.

“A couple of plays he showed good patience standing in there and waiting for people to get open. This spring was so valuable for him to get those reps, and it showed tonight.”

In a spring game with the No. 1 offense going against the No. 1 defense, it’s hard to tell if the offense was so good or the defense so bad.

However, it wasn’t difficult to see the immense talent that Daniels brings to the field.

“We were in a base vanilla defense and I just wanted to see guys line up and play the game,” Holtz said. “It made things easier for our offense, but I think we are going to have to look at ourselves defensively.

“I wish we could play base defense a little better than we did, but I like how physical we were and how they hit. They ran to the ball extremely well and there were some big hits out there.”

The only negative moment of the night came when Love went down with an injury to his right knee with 4:33 left in the game.

The senior had to be helped off the field and Holtz fears it could be serious.

Love tore the ACL in his left knee in a bowl game in December of 2008. He had surgery, but was able to return and played all of last season.

“The one injury I am concerned about right now is the one to Love,” Holtz said. “I don’t know what this injury is now. I just hope it’s something he can recover from and be able play this year.”

There was some fierce hitting on both sides. It even got a little personal when Palmetto High graduate Mistral Raymond clocked Love on what would’ve been his first reception in his team’s first possession of the game, separating receiver from ball with a vicious hit.

Raymond played safety and corner and finished the game with two pass breakups and a solo tackle. He is the only starter for the Bulls without a scholarship, and that might change soon for the 6-1, 185-pound senior.

“That hit was some hometown love. Me and A.J. go way back,” Raymond said. “I felt good out there tonight. We simplified our defense for the game and put our guys in difficult positions, but they made a lot of plays and made some nice tackles in open space.”

Southeast grad Faron Hornes caught two passes for 55 yards, including a 48-yard reception. He joined the Bulls last year from junior college and is trying to break into the receiving corps.

Evan Landi, who would go in at quarterback if Daniels got hurt, completed 11 of 24 passes for 152 yards and one touchdown and caught two passes for 62 yards. Walk-on Ryan Epps was 8 of 14 for 93 yards and was picked off once. Mo Plancher led the run game with 54 yards on 10 carries.