Holtz: Spires named special-teams 'Iron Bull'
Tuesday brought Skip Holtz's first game-recap news conference as USF coach, and that meant a thorough position-by-position review of USF's 59-14 win against Stony Brook, sharing which players graded out as "winners" to gain entry into the program's weekly "Victors Club." Obviously we're more in Florida preview mode now than Stony Brook review, but even two days late, I thought there was merit to mentioning what he said.
-- Senior linebacker Donte Spires was Holtz's "Iron Bull" after playing all 23 kicking-game snaps on special teams -- (10 kickoffs, three kickoff returns, 2 punts, 8 punt returns) so he had a busy day. "He played a great game," Holtz said, noting that he graded as a winner on 21 of the 23 plays. "Every one of those is a 40-yard sprint." Spires, you'll remember, downed a USF punt at the Stony Brook 2-yard line, only to have that negated by the Bulls not having enough men on the line of scrimmage. What followed was Justin Brockhaus-Kann being ruled down when he kneeled to field a low snap, which amounted to a 71-yard net penalty. Holtz named four other players who graded as winners on special teams: captain Armando Sanchez, Kayvon Webster, George Baker and Mark Joyce.
-- He pointed to offensive struggles: two red-zone trips without points, on a missed 32-yard field goal and coming up short on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line; five pre-snap penalties and a handful of fumbles. Defensively, he was pleased with four interceptions, since his "golden number" is three takeaways in a game. He pointed to seven three-and-outs and holding Stony Brook to 2-for-11 on third down. (He actually refers to it as USF's defense going 9-for-11 on third down, which makes it a more active-sounding stat.) He didn't like USF's "response to sudden change" on defense in allowing two touchdowns after the special-teams mistakes.
-- On offensive line, Holtz said five players "really played well": starters Jake Sims, Chaz Hine, Sampson Genus and Jeremiah Warren and backup guard Danous Estenor. "I thought Estenor really stepped in and did a nice job," Holtz said. The name missing from the starting line is left tackle Jamar Bass, but Holtz said Thursday he doesn't anticipate any change to his starting line. In 36 passing plays, the Bulls gave up zero sacks.
-- Holtz was pleased with both quarterbacks, and said that Kevin Gidrey, Richard Kelly and Andreas Shields graded out as winners among the hybrid tight end/fullbacks. Of the running backs, only Demetris Murray graded out in the Victors Club "because of the consistency in which he played." He mitigated his praise for freshman Marcus Shaw (who had a fumble USF recovered), saying "he's got some pop when he turns and puts the ball under his arm."
-- At receiver, he praised Dontavia Bogan and Evan Landi, though neither played more than about 25 snaps on offense, allowing subs to get game experience. He also mentioned Lindsey Lamar and Stephen Bravo-Brown as playing well.
-- On defensive line, Holtz said end David Bedford "played his best game since he's been here," with an interception and two tackles for loss among five tackles. Craig Marshall and Patrick Hampton were the other ends who graded as winners. Both starting tackles, Terrell McClain and Cory Grissom, played well, and Holtz cited Anthony Hill as "playing well."
-- Holtz said linebacker Sam Barrington "really came to life on game day," saying he was pleased his shoulder wasn't a problem. "We're going to start to ramp him up a little bit more. He's going to play more of a major role for us," he said, and we've reported that Barrington will start in the middle against the Gators. All three weakside linebackers drew praise from Holtz.
-- In the secondary, Holtz named three corners and three safeties he thought played well: Jon Lejiste, JaQuez Jenkins and Mark Joyce at safety (so Jerrell Young was not included). He joked the Joyce's touchdown was more of a "right place at the right time" play than anything remarkable, but said he did make the catch when he had to. "That's not always a given on the defensive side of the ball," Holtz said. "Well, it's not a given on the offensive side of the ball, either." He named Mistral Raymond, Quenton Washington and George Baker at cornerback.
-- The kicking game -- with the low snap, muffed returns, missed field goal and kick out of bounds -- was "the biggest disappointment," Holtz said. "I don't think any of the kickers kicked to their potential or to their ability," he said. "It's definitely something that's going to have to take a huge step up this week." He said returner Faron Hornes' muff and fumble and Mike Walsh's two low snaps were "uncharacteristic performances."