VERO BEACH — In truth, USF football's home for 11 days of training camp is about 2 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean, but for the players and coaches bunkered down in what used to be known as Dodgertown, this is an island.
"It's all ball, all day," says coach Skip Holtz, who loves the isolation of camp in Vero, taking away all the distractions and allowing his players to focus on each other and improving as a team. "Pretty much from 7 a.m. to 10 o'clock at night, it is practice, meetings, walkthroughs, lifting. It's all ball. They do a phenomenal job here. … We couldn't ask for a better practice setup."
Buses dropped the Bulls off Wednesday morning, then headed back to Tampa empty. They'll be back Aug. 18, but until then, USF's players and coaches won't leave the Vero Beach Sports Village — not for the beach, not for a meal, not for a moment. Instead of Sandals, the all-inclusive resort, call this Cleats.
"It's a nice experience to get away from everything. No worries, just football," sophomore WR Andre Davis said. "It's football, all day. Just working hard. You're dialed in at all times of the day."
It's the third time in Holtz's three seasons at USF he has brought his team here, and after two Augusts of practicing in outfields with infield dirt on one side and a warning track serving as a makeshift sideline at times, the Bulls have a beautiful regulation football field now at their disposal.
They timed their stay in Vero to coincide with upgrades being made back on campus to the locker rooms in the Selmon Athletic Center — the team had only one full practice in shorts before traveling across the state.
Holtz originally took the Bulls to Vero in 2010 to bring the team together after the dismissal of coach Jim Leavitt, but it has become an annual tradition he finds great value in. Training in Vero is not without its expenses. The contract with VBSV pays $152 a night for a travel party of 156, which for a 10-night stay works out to about $237,000, including all meals.
But school administrators have said just the cost of feeding the team alone over such a span would be about $100,000 on campus, not counting lodging.
THIS AND THAT: DE Julius Forte (Boca Ciega) remains out with a sprained ankle, though Holtz doesn't expect the injury to be anything long term. Junior college transfer Tevin Mims worked in Forte's spot with the No. 1 defense in Wednesday's drills. … Both sides of the ball made plays in drills late in practice, with CBs Kayvon Webster, Kenneth Durden and Josh Brown getting interceptions and the offense clicking on a deep touchdown to sophomore WR Chris Dunkley and a long catch by freshman WR Alex Mut. … The team will have two scrimmages in Vero, both open to the public, on Monday night and the afternoon of Aug. 18.