TAMPA — The ongoing battle for USF's quarterback nod Saturday at Miami could be simple coaching gamesmanship as much as anything. The uncertainty keeps pressure and attention off the eventual starter and forces the Hurricanes to prepare for both possibilities this week.
It's likely that coach Skip Holtz will announce his starter Saturday — maybe minutes before kickoff. That's what Holtz did before USF's bowl win against Clemson in 2010, and against Louisville last season, going so far as to have both quarterbacks in the huddle on the sideline before sending out the starter.
Whether it's 6-foot-1 redshirt freshman Matt Floyd stepping in for injured senior B.J. Daniels, or 6-5 junior Bobby Eveld, the Bulls will be taking their first steps toward finding a starter for next season. Floyd won the backup job in preseason but has played sparingly; Eveld has two career starts and has played against Miami in each of the past two seasons but is on course to redshirt, so playing him gives up a future year of eligibility. That's something he and Holtz are willing to do if it's in the team's best interests.
"Right now, we have two young players that each have strengths," Holtz said Tuesday with an elusiveness normally reserved for Daniels. "We're going to let it roll … until a clear-cut starter is defined. Right now, that really hasn't been the case. They're both doing an excellent job. They're both completing about 63 percent of their passes. You're waiting for, statistically, one of them to just take it, but right now, it's a great, competitive battle."
Holtz has portrayed the competition as Eveld's "leadership and command of the huddle" vs. Floyd's "feet and the elusiveness that he brings to the quarterback position," two assets prevalent in Daniels, whose season ended in the win against Connecticut when he broke a bone at the base of his left leg.
"That, probably, ultimately, is the decision we're going to have to make," said Holtz, whose official depth chart lists the QBs as Eveld "or" Floyd, the edge there perhaps as simple as an alphabetical one.
Neither has had many positive statistics over the past two seasons; Eveld had one touchdown against four interceptions last season, while Floyd has passed for 22 yards on 10 attempts this season. Coming in for one play against Florida State in late September when Daniels needed a quick breather after a hard hit, Floyd was sacked and his fumble was recovered and returned for a crucial touchdown; in his first play stepping in for Daniels against UConn, Floyd fumbled the snap, though tight end Jeff Hawkins recovered for USF. The QB-center exchange was precarious enough that USF ran out its "victory" formation with Floyd in shotgun.
"That's something you have to put into the equation," Holtz said Sunday. "(Eveld) definitely has more game experience in his hip pocket than Matt does, and it's something you're a little bit concerned about, when you watch Matt go in last week and the very first play he's under center, we fumble the ball. … That will definitely be something you have to lean towards Bobby on, with game experience."
Asked for what edges Floyd would bring to the position, offensive coordinator Todd Fitch pointed to the repetitions he has gotten as the top backup and some of his mechanics as a passer.
"(Floyd) has gotten a little more reps this fall … he's a little bit more mobile, gets the ball out a little quicker," Fitch said. "He's a little more athletic, has a very good knack of getting the ball out on time, bang-bang-bang. I think the mobility and the ability to get the ball out a hair quicker is where I see his edge. He can probably improvise, make some plays on his own more so than Bobby can, athletically."
There's a history of USF redshirt freshman quarterbacks inheriting the starting job from an injured senior. Daniels stepped in when Matt Grothe injured his knee in 2009, just as Grothe took over for Pat Julmiste in 2006 and never gave the job up.
Coaches and players have generally addressed the position as up for grabs in interviews this week, though there was one glaring exception. Asked about USF football without Daniels, senior linebacker Sam Barrington had this to say: "It's very different. I try to get in Matt Floyd's ear, just tell him he's ready, he's going to do a great job. It's his time now."