Make us your home page

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

  1. College World Series: Gators, LSU face off in all-SEC finals


    OMAHA, Neb. — The matchup for the College World Series finals bolsters the case for those who say the best baseball in the land is played in the SEC.

    Florida’s Brady Singer, delivering during a CWS win over Louisville last week, is scheduled to start tonight against LSU.
  2. Jones: Fox Sports Sun shows depth in Rays coverage

    TV and Radio

    tom jones' two cents

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best coverage

    Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) makes a run home for a score in the in the final game of a three-game series between the Tampa Bay Rays and AL East rival the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, June 25, 2017.
  3. Brian Boyle says returning to Lightning a 'huge option'


    As former Lightning forward Brian Boyle approaches free agency this week, he said he's trying to stay busy.

  4. Rays journal: Blake Snell to rejoin rotation, Erasmo Ramirez heads to bullpen

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — LHP Blake Snell is rejoining the Rays' rotation, but the move has as much to do with helping the bullpen as it does with Snell's improvement during his time at Triple-A Durham.

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Erasmo Ramirez (30) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, June 21, 2017 in St. Petersburg.
  5. Rays' bullpen stars lit up in loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday it was the soft underbelly of the bullpen that let one get away from the Rays, incurring the wrath of the team's faithful followers, who wondered why the high-leverage guys weren't pitching.

    Rays closer Alex Colome, coming in with the score tied in the ninth, allows three runs in his second straight poor outing.