Admittedly, writing a post-spring analysis of South Florida more than a month after the Bulls completed spring practice might seem a little odd, but, with all of the Big East now finished with spring practice, Big East Coast Bias will be recapping what we learned about each of the Big East's eight teams and what storylines fans should be paying attention to over the summer and as fall camps approach in August.
Team Strength: While it might not have shown throughout spring practice, the Bulls have quietly amassed a nice set of running backs that, if healthy, will help make quarterback B.J. Daniels' job a whole lot easier. The Bulls returned part time starter Demetris Murray from last season. Adding depth, however, are a pair of talented transfers that will be eligible in 2011. Darrell Scott, a transfer from Colorado, was the nation's #1 rated running back out of high school. Dontae Aycock was a highly sought after running back out of Tampa, FL that originally signed with Auburn before being dismissed from the team. Head coach Skip Holtz went out of his way to ease Scott into the lineup without putting too much pressure on him to be the primary ball carrier. It also helps that Murray performed well enough to hold on to the starting position on the team's post-spring depth chart. With questions elsewhere on the offense, the group of Murray, Aycock, Scott, and Marcus Shaw, who missed much of spring practice with a thumb injury, gives the Bulls a solid running back corps to rely on in 2011.
More after the jump...
Team Weakness: For a team that lost just one receiver from 2010's squad, the Bulls receivers did not impress Holtz and offensive coordinator Ted Fitch. After the Bulls' spring game and their final scrimmage, Holtz made it clear that he did not like what he saw from the receiving corps and that means there will be plenty of opportunities for some of the recruiting class of 2011 to compete for playing time right away. The post-spring depth chart listed Evan Landi, Terrence Mitchell, and Joel Miller as the starters, but that is certain to change between now and the September. B.J. Daniels is a great athlete and an adequate passer, but the Bulls simply cannot be effective if they do not have receivers that dependably catch the ball and hold onto the ball after catching it. Drops and fumbles plagued them throughout the spring and that must improve come fall.
Emerging: Though the depth chart lists him at second string, coach Holtz praised the play of junior linebacker Mike Jeune every opportunity he had. Jeune has developed a reputation as one of the team's most vicious hitters and will fight for more playing time come fall camp.
Injuries: The Bulls lost running back Marcus Shaw to a thumb injury that ultimately required surgery, but he is due to return to the team in August and should not miss any playing time due to it. Quarterback Bobby Eveld was knocked from the spring game after taking a hit directly on his jaw, but had no serious damage done and will compete for the backup quarterback position in the fall. Overall, the Bulls avoided serious injuries.
Opportunities for Impact Freshmen: Losing several starters from the defense means there's always a chance for talented freshmen to step in a play. One freshman to watch is defensive tackle Elkino Watson out of Miami, FL. Watson was highly sought after by in-state powers Florida and Miami as well as by fellow Big East foe Louisville. Much like Todd Chandler in 2010, Watson surprised everyone on signing day by signing with South Florida and has a chance to step in and compete for playing time at defensive tackle right away. He and Chandler make for a very talented young defensive tackle tandem in Tampa.
Post-Spring Expectations: I'm a big fan of Skip Holtz as a coach and felt like his team improved as the 2010 season wore on. The Bulls ended their losing streak at Louisville, won at Miami, and beat a more talented Clemson team in a bowl. With spring practice complete, the Bulls seem to be both deep and talented at most positions and are one of several teams we believe can compete for the Big East championship in 2011.