Holtz sees 'no animosity' toward walk-on Miller
Joel Miller was at the center of the locker-room incident that ultimately cost Jim Leavitt his job, but now the sophomore walk-on running back is glad for a return to normalcy, going through spring practice and focusing on football.
"Everything's good," Miller said. "We're all excited to get back out here for spring. No difference. Coach (said) everyone has a clean slate and we can all come out and show what we've got, so that's what I'm here to do. I'm just here to play football."
A USF investigation ruled that Leavitt grabbed MIller by the throat and slapped him twice in the face during halftime of the Bulls' Nov. 21 game against Louisville, and Leavitt was fired on Jan. 8. Coach Skip Holtz said that during his initial interviews with his new players, he asked them about Miller and found no instances of any ill will toward him.
"I haven't heard of anything or seen anything that would make me say there's any kind of animosity toward him right now," Holtz said. "I addressed it with everybody individually to find out if it was a problem. I don't think it is. People will talk individually a whole lot more than they will in groups. I think time heals a lot of things, and I think people, these players right now are interested in moving forward."
Miller remains a walk-on, but should continue to be busy on USF's special-teams units. He had seven tackles as a freshman in 2008 and four tackles last season.
-- More track from Friday night: We told you that Kayvon Webster and Derrick Hopkins were part of USF's school-record 4x100 relay. Webster, Hopkins and Lindsey Lamar all ran in the individual 100 meters and qualified for the Big East championships -- Lamar ran a 10.53, just behind USF's Greg Fontus, Webster ran a 10.66 and Hopkins a 10.91. Receiver Sterling Griffin took 12th in the 400 meters.
Holtz said he agreed to allow his sprinters to run in Friday's meet and at the Florida Relays in Gainesville in two weeks, but expects them to participate in both scrimmages and the spring game on April 17.
"I'm all for those guys playing two sports," said Holtz, who coached at Notre Dame when Raghib "Rocket" Ismail ran track in addition to football. "They'll sit down and eventually they'll make a decision. I felt like I could give here a little bit, let them go over there. I know they want to qualify for Big East, and they want to qualify for NCAAs in their 4-by-1 team. Good for them. I want them to make us look fast as a football team."
-- Holtz continues to like his team's enthusiasm and energy, but said the execution -- even in March -- leaves plenty of room for improvement.
"It wasn't good because we did everything right, because it was picture or epitome of execution," Holtz said. "I think we fumbled 10 snaps today. I bet we made a million mistakes. I bet we turned 10 guys free, bet we blew 10 coverages. There were mistakes all over the place. As I told the staff, let's keep tempo, let's keep energy, excitement, keep the enthusiasm going for what we want to get done. What makes it positive is that I saw attitudes wanting to get better."
-- Another pair of losses Friday for USF baseball and softball -- baseball got eight strikeouts and a solid start from Randy Fontanez, but couldn't give him any support in a 2-1 loss to Mercer that drops the Bulls to 5-13 on the season. Softball, meanwhile, dropped to 12-11, losing 2-1 to a Northern Illinois team that came in with a 4-13 record. The Bulls outhit NIU 7-2 but stranded 12 runners and lost on an unearned run in the eighth inning on two sacrifice bunts. USF had the tying run at third with one out in the bottom of the eighth, but hit two infield groundouts to end the game.