Scrimmage today; USF Mailbag, Part II
I'm headed back over to Vero Beach for the Bulls' first fall scrimmage -- Skip Holtz says tonight's scrimmage will be used to help set USF's initial depth chart and go a long way toward deciding which true freshmen will be groomed to play immediately this fall. The Bulls have rotated all 105 players through drills in the first week of practice, but after today, they'll focus the reps on the first- and second-stringers.
I'm still catching up on good questions that didn't make into last week's live chat -- here are 10 more to read ...
Red asked: "Will the Sundome sell out for the home opener vs. UCF? How many UCF fans will be there?"
If I had to guess, I think the men's basketball opener will sell out, and that's a significant accomplishment, building off last year's NCAA success. Perhaps the best aspect of scheduling Central Florida for the opener is the help Knights fans give toward a potential sellout -- there may not be a huge amount of UCF fans, but I think there will be a lot of buzz around this game by November. USF hasn't had a Sun Dome sellout in the Big East era -- I am very curious to see how well the fans show up for this team, between the arena renovations and the NCAA buzz.
Mike asked: "Some people suggest that Holtz played it to close to the vest last year and it cost us a few games. Is this just his style or do you expect a little more confindence in letting his players make plays this year?
I think Holtz is a conservative coach to begin with, and even more so with a lead late. It hadn't really cost him in his career until last season, when he'll tell you he took more last-minute losses than in his entire career as a head coach. Does that make him take more risks? Hard to say. I think he'll have plenty of confidence in the senior leaders on this team. Whether that translates to less conservative play-calling late in close games remains to be seen.
Mw98gt asked: "Biggest weakness this fall... RB, CB, other?"
Hard to call running back a weakness -- it's an uncertainty from a depth standpoint, but Demetris Murray has rushed for 500 yards in each of the last two seasons. The Bulls realistically just need one other back out of Lamar, Shaw, Pierre, Battles or Davis to step up as a complementary runner and they should be fine. That second cornerback spot is probably the biggest hole in the starting lineup -- I suppose the left guard spot would be comparable, or the second defensive tackle spot if Grissom isn't ready right away. I think improved pass defense in general is a must for USF to make any major step forward, so I'd probably start with the secondary as far as concerns go.
Red asked: "What are the style of practices at Vero? Is the whole thing open to the public/media? First 30 minutes?"
Very much normal practices for USF -- they have everything they would have in Tampa, so no real difference. This year there's a new football field, so there's no more practicing in outfields. There's a covered area set up for fans so you're not in direct sun as well. All practices and scrimmages in Vero are completely open to fans, including the scrimmages today and on Saturday. That's a great window into seeing how players are developing and something we won't have nearly as much of once the Bulls are back in Tampa.
Bradentonbull asked: "Early guess.. Martin beats out Edwards for the starting LG job.."
We've got to talk about ellipses. Three periods, with a space before and after. Left guard is probably the best starting battle on offense -- we're actually writing a feature on senior Damien Edwards for Tuesday's paper, but January enrollee Lawrence Martin may be the most athletic player on the offensive line, and he'll be pushing Edwards clear up to the opener and beyond. I think we'll see more of the second line this season, so there will be a live competition as the season goes on. I think Edwards will get the opening-day nod and have the chance to keep his job with his play on the field.
Mike asked: "What game this season do see as a must win or a turning point in the season?"
There are a lot, but USF's momentum will take a big hit if they don't open the year 4-0, especially getting the home win against Rutgers on Thursday, Sept. 13. If USF can beat Rutgers, the Bulls will solidify themselves as the top challenger to Louisville in the Big East until October -- it's a win that could move USF into the national rankings as well, judging by where they were in the opening Coaches Poll. Lose to Rutgers, and you're playing from behind the whole conference season. That's a huge game, and sets up the conference season nicely if USF wins.
Guest asked: "ESPN.com says that Notre Dame could lose another transfer to USF and says something about a LT. I couldnt read the article because you have to be an insider. Do you know what they're talking about?"
I think they're talking about Jordan Prestwood, an offensive lineman from Plant City who left the team at Notre Dame. It could be another local who left the state and wants to play close to home. But Prestwood has already bolted from two major programs -- he spent a semester at FSU before transferring to Notre Dame -- so even though he was a highly decorated recruit two years ago, I think there's more baggage inherently coming with anyone seeking a third program without a single snap played. He's a friend of Aaron Lynch, but I wonder whether Holtz would gamble a scholarship on someone who hasn't been very committed to college football so far. I could see him get a chance to join the Bulls as a walk-on for a year, and if things go well, he could go on scholarship when he's eligible in 2013. Just a hunch.
Bartow John asked: "Greg! I have not been posting lately but I continue to read your work. Great Stuff. How many scholarship recruits will we bring in for 2013?"
Thanks for the kind words. I think USF should have a full allotment of 25 scholarships available in 2013, a first under Skip Holtz. There's a chance he'll use some in the next week or two on transfers, but barring that, he should be able to sign very close to the full allotment -- by commitments, the Bulls are already more than halfway there. I think the count is 20 scholarship seniors, and there are three more scholarships unused right now, so all it takes is one or two more through attrition and you'd have a full class.
Guest asked: "If you absolutely had to pick, just yes or no, do you think you'll see an OCS for USF in your lifetime?"
I'm hoping my lifetime is still a fairly long timetable, so yes, if pressed, I'd expect an on-campus stadium for USF before I die. Remember that the economics could radically change in the next decade -- if USF has won multiple conference championships, they're drawing bigger crowds, generating more revenue and becoming more attractive for high-end donors. It's just a huge undertaking to build a new stadium at this level of football. USF has more pressing needs for its fundraising right now, but once the facilities are up across the board, I'm sure that will become a focus for future fundraising efforts. Now whether I'm still covering the Bulls when they get that stadium. ...
Anthony asked: "If we beat a top 5 FSU team in RayJay do we rush the field again?"
Far be it from me to tell fans what to do, but I'm more of the act-like-you-expected-to-win perspective. USF won at Tallahassee three years ago, the Bulls have beaten Miami, so while this would be a huge, huge win, it's not really unprecedented. I'd be more impressed if Bulls fans celebrated in the stands. Now if USF clinches a Big East title on its home field -- remember the last two conference games are in Tampa -- that's probably an occasion you celebrate in grander fashion.