Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Coach Skip Holtz, South Florida Bulls football team come together in Vero Beach

VERO BEACH — Skip Holtz does not mind that traditionally, this is a baseball facility.

USF's second-year football coach chose to have his team run routes and make tackles in an outfield 135 miles away from campus.

For decades, this was Dod­gertown, the training ground of Koufax and Drysdale, the starting points for O'Malley and Lasorda. So if the Bulls and Vero Beach Sports Village seem an odd match, well, Holtz loves odd matches.

Take the rooming, in which 105 players stay in the villas where Jackie Robinson and Duke Snider stayed. Holtz pairs one offensive and one defensive player whenever possible. The traditional social circles of position and class are gone in Vero, where the primary goal is bringing players closer together.

"A lot of thought goes into it," Holtz said. "We look at it from a leadership standpoint, from a camaraderie standpoint. We put some sophomores with some seniors. We try to cross as many lines on this team as we can."

So the line of scrimmage is an invisible one, and Holtz will routinely quiz players about their roommates during meetings: Does he have any brothers or sisters? What high school did he play at?

There are football benefits to sharing a room with someone who approaches the game from the opposite perspective as well.

"It's nice to have someone on the other side of the ball you can talk to about football, but also to get to know personally," said senior cornerback Quenton Washington, who is paired with redshirt freshman receiver Deonte Welch. "You see them on a daily basis, but you don't always get a chance to talk to them. This is really my first time really hanging out with (Welch)."

Last year, when Holtz brought the Bulls to Vero, it was a more fractured team after the offseason firing of longtime coach Jim Leavitt. So the two weeks were as much about healing as anything. A year later, that's not an issue, but Holtz wants to quickly forge a bond between his returning leaders and young talents who will have to step up if USF wants to win its first conference championship.

USF pays $150 per person per night for lodging, food and use of the facilities, a total of about $250,000 over 12 days. Athletic director Doug Woolard said he was convinced of the difference it could make this fall.

"We want to try to put our football team in the best position possible to be as successful as we can," Woolard said. "It felt like that experience last year was so valuable to them that we wanted to provide that same opportunity for them again this year."

And while 11 practices are the obvious means toward building a better team for the Sept. 3 opener at Notre Dame, Holtz mixes in nonfootball activities. Last year featured an informal Olympics with a home run derby in historic Holman Stadium, free-throw shooting, golf chipping and even Hula Hoops.

The goal is by the time the Bulls return to campus Aug. 18 — with just more than two weeks of preparation still remaining for Notre Dame — players have friends all over the locker room and Holtz has a chemistry that would have been tough to create during an on-campus camp.

"It's a great idea. It forces you to basically bond with a person you're not used to seeing on the defensive side of the ball — the so-called enemy," said junior receiver Evan Landi, who is paired with junior linebacker Sam Barrington. "It's good to learn about them, and you get out of your comfort zone a little bit.

"We're going to need everyone on offense and defense, so it's good to come together as a team like that."

Coach Skip Holtz, South Florida Bulls football team come together in Vero Beach 08/07/11 [Last modified: Sunday, August 7, 2011 10:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Lightning's Steve Yzerman enjoying Nikita Kucherov's scoring run

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — If anyone knows what it is like to be as hot as Nikita Kucherov is right now, it's Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.

    Lightning wing Nikita Kucherov celebrates his second-period goal against the Devils, his eighth overall, giving him goals in each of the first seven games.
  2. Bucs journal: Offense needs to get off to a faster start

    Bucs

    TAMPA — The past two games have seen the Bucs offense muster furious rallies in the fourth quarter of losses, with 229 yards against the Patriots and a franchise-record 27 points against the Cardinals.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field before an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017.
  3. NFL players, owners hold 'constructive' talks on issues

    Bucs

    NEW YORK — NFL players and owners met Tuesday to discuss social issues, a session Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross called "constructive" and Colts defensive back Darius Butler termed "positive."

    A coalition of advocacy groups 'take a knee' outside of a hotel where members the quarterly NFL league meetings are being held on Tuesday in New York City.  Owners, players and commissioner Roger Goodell are all expected to attend. The activists spoke of having solidarity with athletes and coaches around the country who have also kneeled in protest of racial injustice, especially in policing.
 [Getty Images]
  4. Lightning's Steve Yzerman: Nikita Kucherov 'wants to be great'

    Blogs

    If anyone knows what it is like to be as hot as Nikita Kucherov is right now, it's Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.

    Nikita Kucherov joined Steve Yzerman, Mario Lemieux and Keith Tkachuk as the only players in the last 30 years to score a goal in each of his team's first six games.
  5. Fennelly: Longtime Bucs fans, we want to hear from you

    Blogs

    Calling all Bucs fans! Calling all Bucs fans!

    Jameis Winston is pressured by Chandler Jones during the Bucs' loss to the Cardinals Sunday in Glendale, Ariz.