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USF players eager as work begins for new coaching staff

USF coach Skip Holtz says he is encouraged by the players’ attitudes. Here he talks with the special teams at his first practice, which he called a “breath of fresh air.”

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

USF coach Skip Holtz says he is encouraged by the players’ attitudes. Here he talks with the special teams at his first practice, which he called a “breath of fresh air.”

TAMPA — The new look for B.J. Daniels stands out from his Bulls teammates, a bright red No. 7 jersey with white letters, sending a clear message to defensive players trying to impress new coaches this spring: Do not hit me.

As the Bulls opened spring practice Tuesday afternoon, Skip Holtz is working to implement a new offense, and Daniels should be able to do just about everything but take a hit as he recovers from surgery on his nonthrowing shoulder. It'll be a spring of mental preparation, but an important one as Daniels gets ready for his second season as USF's starting quarterback.

"It's (tough), especially in my position because I have to know what everyone's doing, but it seems like we're picking it up pretty well," Daniels said. "I'm the no-contact guy, but it's just a jersey."

Daniels and his teammates are putting in extra time in the film room, learning Todd Fitch's new offense and the terminology that comes with it.

"It's like learning a second language but I'm very pleased with their intensity, with what their base knowledge was, across the board," Fitch said. "There are a million things to clean up, a million things we've got to get better at, but I was pleased with the retention of the first day's installation. Right now the attitude's great, but it's Day One. We want to challenge them and see where they're at."

The Bulls had just two quarterbacks in uniform Tuesday — Daniels and freshman walk-on Ryan Eppes of Largo — but two other walk-ons, including Eric Johnson of Florida Christian Institute in Fort Myers, are hoping to join the team this week. The team is committed to keeping sophomore Evan Landi at receiver. He likes his future catching passes instead of throwing them.

"I'm a receiver now. I've made a full-time switch," Landi said. "If need be this spring, I'll help the team out (at QB) if they need me, but I took a real liking to receiver last year."

Holtz has been waiting for his first practice for two months, the first real step toward leading his team into games in September.

"Just to get on the grass, to be on the field with these guys, it's been a long time coming," said Holtz, a pencil poking out of one side of his USF cap. "This was a breath of fresh air, to get out here and see where we are a little bit as a football team. I'm encouraged with their attitudes, the way they're working, but we still have a long way to go, too."

THIS AND THAT: Two players were missing from practice — running back Jamar Taylor, who had an academic commitment, and defensive end David Bedford, expected to be back with the team soon, according to assistant Kevin Patrick. … Starting outside linebacker Sabbath Joseph had what looked like a cast on his left hand, but said it was only a bruise. … Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, projected as a first-round pick in next month's NFL draft, was working out during USF's practice Tuesday, preparing for Pro Day for scouts in two weeks.

Greg Auman can be reached at auman@sptimes.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf and follow him at Twitter.com/gregauman.

USF players eager as work begins for new coaching staff 03/16/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 16, 2010 11:11pm]
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