USF offense showing penchant for big plays
Here are Thursday's practice notes from correspondent Kerry Klecic ...
TAMPA - USF offensive coordinator Mike Canales’ message to his quarterbacks is simple: Be patient and take what the defense gives them. The result has been a significant boost in big plays this year.
The Bulls didn’t gain more than 47 yards on a play from scrimmage last season under offensive coordinator Greg Gregory. However, in four games this year there have been six plays of 50 yards or more.
"The defenses have given us the looks we’ve been wanting in certain situations," Canales said. "It doesn’t always have to be a long throw. Sometimes it just takes a short throw and then a break … The kids have been seeing it and hitting things for big plays, and we’ve been aggressive with the football."
Canales said Thursday that the mobility of quarterbacks Matt Grothe and now starter B.J. Daniels help set up play-action fakes, which has been a focus of the offense this season. Daniels hit two plays of more than 70 yards off play-action fakes during the second quarter in a 17-7 upset of then-No. 18 FSU.
"They give you the big-play ability. Doesn’t always have to be play action, but it gives you the ability to push the ball down the field," Canales said. "That’s what we’re trying to do, so our quarterbacks aren’t sitting in the pocket all the time."
Syracuse enters Saturday’s game as the worst pass defense in the Big East, allowing 310.5 yards per game on average. The Orange have also given up 11 passing touchdowns.
USF junior wide receiver Carlton Mitchell leads the Bulls in both receiving yards and big-play gains, grabbing two catches of 50 yards and one of 65 yards this season. He’s averaging just under 60 yards per game, good for ninth in the conference.
"He’s matured. Last year he didn’t have quite the year he wanted," Canales said. "He had some distractions we had to take care of and we talked a lot about it in the offseason. If you want to be a part of this offense, you have to lose the distractions. That’s what he’s done."
Wilson limited: Coach Jim Leavitt said Thursday that senior linebacker Kion Wilson has been held back in practice because of a hand injury, but that he should be OK for the Syracuse game. “He’s got some aches and pains,” Leavitt said. Wilson had to get 25 stitches during the FSU game after splitting open his right hand.