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Holtz: Banning players from Twitter not the answer

When Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher came out with news that he was banning players from using Twitter, I used that very platform to argue against such a move, saying it’s far better for a football program to show its athletes the right and wrong way to use such a forum for public expression rather than take away the privilege from all of them.

Twitter can definitely get you in trouble, as two Olympians have found out in London, but I was pleased at Tuesday's Big East media day to hear Skip Holtz’s take on players and Twitter –- on a fundamental level, and to keep what has been a great window into USF players and their personalities off the field.

“I think it’s part of our future, part of our culture. To say right now ‘Nobody can tweet’ is not the answer," he said. "The obligation we have as coaches is to educate our players to the do’s and don’ts of social media. Not just Twitter, but Facebook and everything else. So to run from it and say you can’t do it, I don’t believe is the answer. …

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Amid change, Big East confident in its future

NEWPORT, R.I. -- Speaking to reporters at the Big East preseason football media gathering Tuesday, associate commissioner Nick Carparelli made the case that more has changed in the past year -- for the Big East and the NCAA -- than in any year in recent memory, possibly since Teddy Roosevelt brought about the formation of the NCAA in 1906.

In that year, the Big East has seen 12 schools announce they are leaving or joining the league, creating a new 12-team football lineup that will take shape next fall, with West Virginia and TCU gone to the Big 12 and Pittsburgh and Syracuse in their final seasons in the conference.

There is more change ahead, with a commissioner expected to be named in the next month and a potentially lucrative TV deal to be negotiated in coming months. And Carparelli said he is confident that when the details are finished on a new playoff system, that the Big East will have its proper place in such a system, both in consideration for elite bowls and a playoff and also in the distribution of TV revenues. …

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Preseason poll adds more hype to USF-Rutgers

NEWPORT, R.I. -- The early date and Thursday night spotlight already made it a big game to circle on USF's football schedule, but the Big East's preseason football media poll -- with the Bulls picked second and Rutgers third -- adds another level of prominence to the Bulls' Sept. 13 home game against the Scarlet Knights.

"Those conference games early, they're hard because if you lose them, there are such high repercussions for the year, but I think the two of us playing in the third game is going to create a lot of excitement," coach Skip Holtz said.

Louisville, with 24 of 28 first-place votes, is the consensus pick to win the Big East, but USF earned the other four first-place votes, and a home win against Rutgers would cement the Bulls' status as the top challenger to the Cardinals. It won't be easy, with USF having a quick turnaround from a Saturday game at Nevada just five days earlier.

"It's a challenge, definitely a challenge, especially with the quick turnaround coming back from Nevada," quarterback B.J. Daniels said Tuesday. "But that will be a test of the maturity of our team, if we can be mentally ready and prepared for the turnaround to do what we're supposed to do." …

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Jesuit DT Garcia latest local to commit to Bulls

USF's incoming recruiting class for 2013 will have the biggest Tampa presence since the Bulls moved into the Big East, with another local standout committing to join that class Tuesday when Jesuit defensive tackle Robbie Garcia committed during a campus visit.

"The biggest part was that it's here in Tampa, so it's home," the 6-foot-3, 260-pound prospect said. "I get to stay close to my family. I like the coaches a lot and developed a relationship with them."

Garcia said he chose USF over Iowa State, Air Force, Navy and Florida Atlantic -- his stepfather and uncle graduated from USF with engineering degrees, and he hopes to do the same. He's the fifth Tampa recruit to commit to USF this summer, joining Jesuit teammate Cameron Ruff, Robinson's Bruce Hector and Connor Rafferty and Plant's Mitchell Wright.

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Jokes aside, Daniels says ball security a priority

bjcover.jpgNEWPORT, R.I. -- At least B.J. Daniels can laugh about things a bit in retrospect.

The USF quarterback is one of eight players pictured on the cover of the Big East football media guide, but head coach Skip Holtz had some fun at his expense Tuesday, pointing out via Twitter that the picture shows Daniels holding the football out away from his body, like the proverbial loaf of bread.

"Proud of BJ Daniels for being on the Big East media guide cover but obviously we need to work on that ball security," Holtz tweeted.

Daniels was able to cut down on his interceptions last season, but did have costly fumbles in close losses to Connecticut and West Virginia, something he said he'll be careful about this coming season.

"I don't think I had a lot of turnovers as far as fumbling, but there were, for example the West Virginia game and UConn game, they were moments that it was big," Daniels said. "Honestly, we want to continue to prevent the bad play. Ball security is a big thing, and (Holtz) deserves to get on me about this."


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Notes: USF working on hardship waiver for Lynch

Lots of little notes to get to from Newport, but one question you've been asking for updates on is the status of an NCAA hardship waiver that would allow Notre Dame transfer Aaron Lynch to play this fall.

"They're compiling everything and putting it together. Once it's submitted, it will be ruled on rather quickly," coach Skip Holtz said. "Just trying to get all the letters in place and everything else. You have to remember he started here four weeks ago. I would imagine that would be done probably here within the next week."

Lynch, a Freshman All-America defensive end, is already in classes at USF and working out with his teammates. He'll wear No. 19 for the Bulls, the same number he had at Notre Dame. …

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USF picked second in Big East football media poll

Despite finishing 1-6 in the conference last season, USF football has been picked to finish second in the Big East in the league's preseason media poll, released Tuesday morning in Newport, R.I.

USF got four of 28 first-place votes, with consensus favorite Louisville getting the other 24. The rest of the league, in projected order: Rutgers, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Syracuse and Temple. USF got 176 vote-points, a full 21 ahead of Rutgers, so the winner of the Sept. 13 USF-Rutgers game in Tampa should be clearly seen as the top challenger to Louisville.

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Good morning, Newport: Big East media day at 9

Should be a busy, newsy morning here in Newport, with lots of questions potentially answered as the Big East football media gathering takes place at the Hotel Viking. One we know we'll get the answer to: Where will USF fall in the league's preseason media poll? Word is we will not be finding out long-awaited details on the conference's divisional splits for 2013, and we'll be following up on an ESPN report that the league is looking into a Florida bowl game for its champion to play in after this season.

We'll get a new roster for USF, which should mean news on off-season attrition, with several backups on scholarship potentially not returning for 2012. There's a chance we'll find out if Notre Dame transfer Aaron Lynch got his hardship waiver, though I'll caution that I've heard nothing yet to suggest good news on that front. So stay tuned, and remember that today is a good day to follow me on Twitter at @gregauman. Stay tuned.

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Greetings from Newport: Landi embracing senior role

NEWPORT, R.I. -- Greetings from Rhode Island, where the Big East hosts its annual preseason football media gathering, starting with tonight's big clambake at the Eisenhower House.

Tomorrow's Times previews the big day with a feature on tight end Evan Landi, one of four seniors representing the Bulls here in Newport and part of a huge senior class loaded with experienced leaders.

We'll have updates from the clambake later -- can anyone in USF's party uphold the high lobster expectations set last year by Jeremiah Warren? Those answers and more are coming, with tons of notes tomorrow as well.

RECRUITING: Another name to keep an eye on: Amari Williams, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound tight end from Ellsworth Community College in Iowa, is making an unofficial visit to USF on Friday and is hoping to land a scholarship offer from the Bulls. …

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Full disclosure: My Big East football poll ballot

The Big East preseason football media gathering in Rhode Island starts up Monday night with the league's annual clambake, and the big unveil each year -- the Newport news, if you will -- is the conference's preseason poll, selected by 24 media members covering the league and announced on Tuesday morning around 9.

I had to submit this nearly a month ago, but the Times requires its writers to disclose any ballots they participate in. (I'll be back voting in the Associated Press top 25 again this fall, so I'll have that ballot out in the next week or two as well). So without any further fanfare, here is my ballot for the Big East preseason poll -- was close enough for me that at one point, I had first and fifth place separated by one game in the standings ...

1. Louisville

2. USF

3. Cincinnati

4. Rutgers

5. Pittsburgh

6. Connecticut

7. Syracuse

8. Temple

(Ballot came out before Temple picked up Boston College transfer running back Montel Harris; I would have been tempted to bump the Owls up a spot as a  result.)

As always, I'll welcome you guys to offer up your picks for the Big East, from first to eighth. We'll come back in December and see who was closest ... and not-so-closest ...

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Tight ends' goal in 2012: Catch everything thrown

USF assistant coach Peter Vaas moved to a new position this spring, taking on the tight ends after two years as the Bulls' quarterback coach. His new position has a few different positions within the tight end grouping -- pass-catching tight ends, blocking tight ends, versatile H-backs and traditional fullbacks. We sat down with him to catch up on one of USF's deepest positions, with a mix of senior veterans and promising young players.

I asked Vaas how many catches he would like to see from the tight ends this season to consider it a successful year at the position -- the group had 43 last year, with Evan Landi getting 29 and Andreas Shields getting 11.

"I would go the other way. It's more important that as a position we don't have any drops," Vaas said. "I think the catch has become a product of what the defense is doing, how we're playing people. I have no idea how many catches the position had a year ago to be perfectly honest with you. I don't want this to be evasive, but the key thing is 'Let's catch everything that's thrown to us.' Whether those opportunities are presented, we're not a product of that. The number is insignificant." …

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USF target Hargreaves commits to play for Gators

Wharton cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, the son of a Bulls assistant coach and high on the wish list of USF recruits for 2013, announced Thursday that he's committed to sign with Florida.

Hargreaves, rated by as the nation's top cornerback, hadn't included USF when he announced his top five last week, but kept some hope alive in Bulls fans when he tweeted that he was still considering staying in Tampa. His father, Vernon Hargreaves Jr., has coached under Skip Holtz at Connecticut and East Carolina, but that connection wasn't enough to land a commitment from the 2013 talent.

Here's the full story from the Times' Joey Knight.

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Notes: Sophomore Davis emerging as star at WR

USF's best depth for 2012 could be at the receiver position, and in talking with first-year position coach Jerome Pathon and offensive coordinator Todd Fitch, that group starts with sophomore Andre Davis, who has emerged as a potential star this spring.

"I don't like to necessarily pinpoint one particular guy, but it's obvious I think to everybody, and a testament to his work ethic and him buying in to what we're doing here, and that's Andre Davis," Pathon said. "He made a really big push during spring ball to put himself in position to be a starter coming into the fall. Working with him, he still has a long way to go, technically speaking, but I'm sure you noticed during our spring scrimmages his uncanny ability to go up and catch the deep ball. ... If he continues on this path, we should expect some pretty exciting things from him this upcoming year."

Davis played last fall as a true freshman from Jefferson, finishing with 22 catches for 273 yards and two touchdowns, but USF's coaches have seen progress in his consistency as he's had more time to learn the Bulls' offense and his role in it. …

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USF extends lucrative Under Armour deal to 2018

USF's athletic department has agreed to a lucrative extension to keep Under Armour as the official outfitter of Bulls sports teams through 2018, with the Maryland apparel company providing $4.22-million in cash, $7.17-million in product and another $1.08-million in advertising during USF broadcasts.

It's a significant increase from USF's original contract in 2008 -- nearly triple that five-year deal, which covered $1-million in cash and $1.8-million in product. The agreement, signed in May by USF athletic director Doug Woolard and Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, was obtained by the Times on Thursday afternoon.

Under the contract, USF will receive $625,000 in cash for the 2012-13 school year, along with $1-million in "product allowance" and another $150,000 in "marketing support" through advertising during USF broadcasts. Those annual totals increase through the 2017-18 season, which has Under Armour paying $725,000 in cash, $1.15-million in product and $160,000 in advertising. …

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Juco corner Willis is Bulls' 12th commitment for 2013

We reported last night that there was a good chance, and junior college cornerback Nate Willis confirmed Thursday that he committed to play for the Bulls during a campus visit with Skip Holtz.

Willis, a Pahokee graduate who is now at Arizona Western, is USF's 12th commitment for 2013, and the third cornerback in the class, joining Jacksonville's Darius Whitty and Moultrie (Ga.) standout Johnny Ward. It's the second time in as many years that USF has gotten a corner from Arizona Western, with former teammate Josh Brown joining the Bulls in January.

Willis said Wednesday night that he expects to be able to join the Bulls in January, giving him a full spring to learn USF's defense for 2013.

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