Vertical leap: Bulls seek more downfield passing
Here's Tuesday's practice notes from new Times correspondent Joe Polito, a USF senior who will be part of our Bulls coverage this fall:
TAMPA -- Newfound depth at receiver has given the USF offense some much-needed versatility – specifically in the vertical passing game.
“You certainly have more options,” offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said. “You have different body types. I think we can throw the ball maybe vertically a little bit better than we have been in the past. We have maybe more than one guy that can go down the field and get it. So we certainly want to try and do that and grow as an offense.”
Last season QB B.J. Daniels tied for 74th nationally in completions of more than 40 yards, totaling just five. The senior said the offense hopes to open things up downfield with help from players like 5-foot-5 junior WR Derrick Hopkins.
“He’s our little secret weapon — and when I say little, I mean that,” he said. “We always joke that he’s the fastest man in the Big East … we’re just hoping he gets out there and shows what he’s been doing and how hard he’s been working.”
Hopkins, a proven track star at USF, saw the field in just five games in 2011. But after working on his hands, the junior is now listed at first string on the latest depth chart.
“That was a big concern for with me these last couple years,” he said. “And I really tried to buckle down this offseason, really work hard and make sure I got better at that.”
Coach Skip Holtz noticed his improvement, estimating that Hopkins caught over 90 percent of his passes during camp. Holtz added that having the proven receivers back and healthy will make for a well-rounded passing attack.
“I just think there’s more speed on the field than we’ve had in the past,” he said. “When you look at Terrence Mitchell, who was out all of last year, Sterling Griffin missed quite a bit of time… the big-play ability that Andre Davis showed a year ago… I think we have more deep threats out there at the wide receiver position than we’ve had in years past.”
But while Holtz said he’s confident the receivers will be able beat their defenders, getting the ball to them is the offense’s real challenge.
“We’ve got to make sure we can throw it to them,” he said. “They can get behind them, but if we can’t throw it and catch it, then it won’t matter… I’m more worried about us and whether we can execute and be polished.”