TAMPA — It was the most amusing, if not the bluntest, question Skip Holtz fielded in more than an hour of talking with fans in the Sun Dome:
"Coach, when are we going to win the conference, and when are we going to be national champs? No pressure, take your time."
USF's new football coach, his sense of humor already in midseason form: "Take my time in answering the questions or in achieving the goals?"
Holtz, active in TV and radio interviews during his first two months on the job, continues to keep an open door for fans, leading a town hall meeting on campus Wednesday night. He'll do another one tonight in Clearwater, answering questions as best he can while still getting to know his new players and their strengths and weaknesses.
The news of the day was Mo Plancher, the team's top running back with 591 yards last season, was granted a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA for medical hardship. Holtz said he and the team are excited about Plancher's return as an experienced leader of a deep group of running backs.
But at a program that has had only one other coach in its 13-year history, fans want to know everything: What will the offensive and defensive schemes be? Who will the backup quarterback be? What color will the uniforms be? How often will we see his father, former Notre Dame coach and current ESPN analyst Lou Holtz? When the answers weren't enlightening, they were at least entertaining.
On USF's early success in recent years then struggles in conference play: "When you look at our record against the top-five teams in the Big East, we were 1-4 (in 2009)."
On being pleasantly surprised by his defensive line so far: "When you look at the history of who we've struggled with, we've struggled with the teams that line up with two tight ends and kind of bloody our nose, so to speak, running right at us."
On changes to uniforms: "I do believe there will be a couple of changes. The players have talked to me about white helmets. They want to go with white shoes. One thing I've been told (by administration) is, 'Don't bring up black uniforms.' That's where we are. I'm not into coming up with fancy uniforms with crazy stripes everywhere."
On how much you'll see quarterback B.J. Daniels rushing in the fall: "He won't have many called runs. He carried the ball 227 times last year. I don't want to see him do that. We have running backs, and they're on scholarship, too. I'd like to see them earn it."
On his defensive coaches being hands-on: "I put (assistant Vernon Hargreaves) in the press box at East Carolina because I couldn't keep him off the field. 'Vernon, get back!' He's on the hash, out there yelling and screaming. I had to put him in the box. I may have the only staff in the country with four defensive coaches in the press box because I can't keep them under control on the sidelines."
Times staff writer Greg Auman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf and follow him at Twitter.com/gregauman.