Bulls seeking improvement in punting game
TAMPA -- USF's players reported for the start of preseason camp, and coach Skip Holtz made it clear he expects more from his special-teams units, especially in punting and punt returns.
"I think we can definitely do a better job kicking the football, especially from a punting standpoint," Holtz said. "When your goal is 38 yards for a net punt, which would put you as a top 20 team, and you average 34 yards a punt, it's hard to make your net. I thought we did a good job, we didn't give up a lot of return yards, but we have to do a better job punting the ball."
Last year's starter, senior Justin Brockhaus-Kann, is being pushed by redshirt freshman walk-on Mattias Ciabatti, a Hillsborough grad who came out of spring drills listed as the starter. Net punting has been a concern in both of Holtz's seasons at USF, with an average of 34.7 yards last year and even lower at 34.2 in 2010.
Improvement on punt returns should be easier, with the healthy return of sophomore Terrence Mitchell, who missed most of last season after suffering a concussion. The Bulls averaged just 6.5 yards per punt return last year, down from 11.5 in 2010, when Mitchell earned freshman All-America honors. He returned healthy this spring and will be back deep for the Bulls this season.
"Terrence Mitchell is our starting punt returner," Holtz said. "I will say this very comfortably that he would have to lose it. I haven't seen anything to tell me that would happen. We missed him badly when he was injured a year ago. ... He's catching the ball much smoother than he has in the past. He brings that speed and athleticism."