Holtz eager for first look at Big East foes
Here's Sunday night's practice notes from Times correspondent Kerry Klecic ...
TAMPA -- If there's a time for coach Skip Holtz to pull double-duty trying to rebuild USF's football program while making a run at a Big East championship, it may be this season.
The Big East hasn't lived up to expectations in non-conference play, going 2-10 against BCS conference opponents and falling in seven attempts against ranked teams. As the Bulls -- whose three wins have been at home against I-AA Stony Brook, Western Kentucky and Florida Atlantic (combined records of 2-12) -- prepare for their conference opener against Syracuse on Saturday, Holtz said he's interested to see how his team will stack up.
"I don't think (non-conference losses) have been restricted to the Big East ... We've lost some close games as a league," he said after Sunday's practice. "I don't think it looks very good for the league when you look at the win-loss records and that some of the teams we've lost to were non-BCS opponents.
"But I think we'll learn a lot about this league as we continue to go through it. I'm anxious to kind of see where this league is. I haven't lined up and played against Pittsburgh and Connecticut and Cincinnati and a lot of these teams, so I'm not only excited to see where we match up, but how the whole league plays out."
-- Holtz said he sat sophomore running back Demetris Murray and sophomore wide receiver Sterling Griffin on Saturday against FAU out of precaution, as their ankles hadn't fully healed. However, Holtz said he expects both to play against Syracuse.
Junior safety Jerrell Young is the main injury concern for Holtz this week. Young, who did not practice Sunday night, limped off the field after an ankle injury in the first half against FAU and did not return. Holtz said the team will know more about his status later in the week.
-- Holtz said the Bulls used a new look on special teams that helped junior cornerback Quenton Washington come off the edge against FAU and get USF's second punt block returned for a touchdown this season.
"We felt like we could get it," he said Saturday. "(Special teams) coach (Vernon) Hargreaves did a great job with special teams. We felt like we could turn and get it off the edge so we put together a little scheme for it."
Walk-on Chris Lane blocked a punt and recovered the ball in the end zone in the season opener this season. With two, USF has matched the school record set in 2001.
-- As hard as it is to believe USF's sack leader this season is sophomore safety Jon Lejiste, it's even harder to consider he's on track with a single-season record set by former defensive end George Selvie.
In 2007, Selvie had 87 yards in sacks, the most sack yardage in a single season in program history. A third of the season in this year, Lejiste is a third of the way there with 28 yards. Lejiste got his team-leading third sack of the season in the first quarter against FAU, and coaches said they plan to keep blitzing him.
-- USF is now 50th nationally -- a 47-spot drop from last week -- in net punting after punter Justin Brockhaus-Kann had his least productive game this season against FAU. The redshirt sophomore, who dealt with back spasms during the week, averaged 33.2 net yards -- 10 yards below his season average -- in four attempts.