We’ve been rather preoccupied with basketball lately, and since we only have hints of what Skip Holtz, Mark Snyder, and Todd Fitch have in mind for this year’s team, it’s really hard for us to properly preview spring practice. On top of that, B.J. Daniels will sit out the contact drills while he recovers from surgery to fix a partially torn rotator cuff on his left shoulder. At least he can still throw the ball, which is better than nothing, but Evan Landi will have to shuttle over from receiver to play some QB, and Ryan Eppes, a walk-on, will get some reps as well. It will be tough to get a read on the true offense until fall practices. And with several holes to fill on defense, including five potential NFL draft picks, their spring is going to be just as much about figuring out the depth chart as it will be what kind of scheme they’re going to run.

I will say that the thought of Jon Lejiste cracking the starting lineup gets me incredibly excited. I probably watched him blow up Tavares Pressley in that FSU game about 50 times in a row on my DVR. If you put it on an endless loop I think I could have watched it for an hour straight. Yeah, those were good times.

Oh, right, spring practice, sorry. Our motto going into spring practice is basically this Skip Holtz quote:

“Ever since I got here people have been asking me, ‘How are you guys going to be?,'” Holtz said. “I always tell them, ‘I’ll let you know after Tuesday. I haven’t seen B.J. Daniels throw a pass or anybody catch one.’ So we’ll see.”

In the spirit of not knowing anything about the 2010 Bulls, here are some links that might help you out as much as us:

  • Tampa Tribune – Scott Carter hits all the main talking points and adds an important new one – the need for Holtz to keep USF’s off-the-field problems from becoming on-the-field problems. Martin Fennelly also spent some time with Holtz on the golf course and turned in a column surprisingly free of one-sentence paragraphs and pithy insight.
  • St. Petersburg Times – I’m a little disappointed that Greg Auman didn’t crank out his usual 25,000 words on a given topic, but he did put together a nice story about Todd Fitch’s game-planning abilities, plus a preview capsule that includes some bits about Mark Snyder’s 4-3 under defense.
  • RivalsAs part of his preview, David Fox points out two defensive linemen to watch – Claude Davis, who has a chance to impress, and David Bedford, who may need to fight for his spot in the rotation.
  • ESPN.com – Brian Bennett’s spring superlatives feature on USF highlights the strength of the offensive line and the perilous lack of quarterback depth. Then again, we all thought we were screwed when Matt Grothe went down last year and things turned out OK. He also found some things to watch around the Big East, if you want to keep up with the rest of the conference.

And It Starts

March 15, 2010

I was going to write about USF’s matchup with NC State tomorrow night, but Scott Carter of the Tampa Tribune has reported that Jim Leavitt has filed suit against USF, and is seeking the 7 million dollars owed to Leavitt under the terms of his contract.

You knew that this was only a matter of time after mediation attempts failed last month and learning last week that accuser Joel Miller was not going to sue Leavitt.

I’m sure that this will end well.

Football News and Notes

March 8, 2010

It’s all basketball all the time at the moment, but there have been a few football developments over the last week or so that we wanted to touch on.

  • Mo Plancher was given his sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA. He used a redshirt season in 2005 after arriving on campus with a shoulder injury, and then was given a medical hardship redshirt for his 2006 season, when he tore his ACL after only four carries. It’s obviously helpful to have another experienced back in the rotation, and since he had the most yards rushing last season (other than B.J. Daniels), odds are he will get the first chance at being the coveted feature back that hasn’t existed in the USF offense since the days of Andre Hall.

    Plancher sounded confident leading up to the NCAA’s decision that he would be back, going so far as to tell The Oracle (USF’s student newspaper) that team officials gave him a 95% chance of returning in 2010. That confidence may have also led to Mike Ford’s departure, assuming that Ford did something that offered the coaches discretion on whether or not he could stay on the team.

  • Joel Miller announced he is not filing a lawsuit stemming from his involvement in the Jim Leavitt saga. On the other side, Leavitt and lawyers on both sides have met at least once to try and reach a settlement on the $7.1 million, three-quarters of the money left on Leavitt’s contract when he was fired, that he claims he is owed. (USF is saying that since they fired him with cause, he’s only due $66,667, or two months’ salary, not including bonuses, incentives, and other non-salary income.)

    I bring this up because it seems less and less likely that this will ever end up getting sorted out in a courtroom. While it might be tempting to get to the bottom of this one, I don’t think anyone has any motivation to let it go to trial. Everyone has too much to lose. Leavitt and USF have a lot of money at stake. Miller has his own reputation at stake, seeing as he’s wobbled back and forth on his story a couple of times since the whole thing started back in December. The USF athletic department and even the administration would be in trouble if it was discovered that they pushed Leavitt out, took advantage of an opportunity, or (and this is a big-time conspiracy theory, which I don’t subscribe to) helped the process along. Even McMurphy, the blind squirrel who finally found a nut, has something to lose. Whatever credibility he has left would be gone if a judge decided that the locker room incident didn’t actually happen, or even if he ended up on the stand and things went badly. It would be the absolute end of his career.

    Not to mention it would hurt Skip Holtz and the 2010 team, who would be stuck in the crossfire all year long, answering questions they don’t have the answers to. We all may just need to move forward, even if it doesn’t satisfy us.

  • Marvin Kloss, who was going to walk on at USF as a kicker this fall, was arrested on grand theft charges and is accused on stealing more than $8,000 worth of stuff from someone’s house during a party. I spent a good 10 minutes trying to think who would have less leeway on a football team than a third-string walk-on kicker if they were arrested, and I couldn’t come up with one. Not a wise move. At least they didn’t burn a scholarship on the guy.

In advance of our huge game against Connecticut this Saturday, Mike Grant over at UCHuskies.com as nice enough to do a Q&A before our NCAA Elimination game. You can check out my answers for a couple of his questions here.

1. What the hell happened vs. Notre Dame?

Total no show.  Stanley Robinson, who had scored in double figures in 30+ consecutive games, played 35 minutes and took 4 shots.  4.  Jerome Dyson has been struggling lately, and Wednesday night his struggles were front and center.  2-14 and 5 turnovers.  Notre Dame played terrible, they scored 17 points in the first half…and won.  Just a no show by the Huskies.

2. Give me some hope on Saturday. What can USF do to bring home a win this weekend.

I don’t think it’s a longshot by any means that USF wins this game.   The way the Huskies played Wednesday was as if they’re in the tank.  I don’t think anyone knows what to expect out of this squad, not even Calhoun.  The only thing consistent about the Huskies is that they are inconsistent.  If they couldn’t get up for Notre Dame, when most people felt all they had to do to get into the tourney was win the last two games, why should we expect a nice showing Saturday?  With all of that said, the Huskies, when playing well, are capable of beating anyone.  So you want hope?  Hope the same team that scored 48 points in a home loss to Cincy, and 50 points in a loss to Notre Dame shows up.

3. Gavin Edwards is having a pretty good senior year after being glued to the bench the past 3 years. What has he done to improve himself this season?

Gotten minutes.  It’s a little bit of a misnomer in my opinion that Edwards is much improved from last season…he was just playing behind Jeff Adrien and Hasheem Thabeet.   Check the numbers : This year he’s averaging 10.8 points and 6.7 boards in 30.8 minutes.  Last season he averaged 3.8 points and 3 boards in 11.7 minutes…if you plug his junior season numbers into 30.8 minutes, you’d get 10 points and 7.9 boards.   He’s just finally getting an opportunity, he’s always been talented.

4. I’m sure this is being asked a ton, but do you think Coach Calhoun’s health will force him to retire after this season?

No, I don’t believe it will.  Calhoun is way too much of a fighter to go out like this.  I do however believe that if he were to miss extended time next season as well, it would be best for all parties if coach hung it up.

5. Any predictions for the game? Who would win in a fight between Gavin and his USF OL brother Damien? Over/Under on Stanley Robinson dunks?

My prediction, 71-65 Huskies…because I have to believe that Jim Calhoun finds some way to motivate these kids.  The last time they played as poorly as they did vs Notre Dame was vs Cincy, and they came out and won the next three.  So I’ll hang my hat on that, because I’ve got to hang my hat on something.  I’ll set the Stanley Robinson dunk o/u at 2.5.  Fight between Gavin and Damien?  Tough one…Gavin’s got the reach, Damien’s got the weight advantage…I’ll go with Brittney Griner.

Bonus 6th Question! Since this play happened during a UConn/USF game, do you know what Voodoo 5 stands for?

I don’t, and I’ve been wondering…my best guess:  2007 at the Rent, USF ball, 3rd and goal from the one, Huskies up 22-15 about a minute to play…Grothe rolls left and is sacked by UConn LB Greg Robinson.  Was the play call VooDoo 5?  I have one of the pylons from that game…back corner of the end zone
Mike was really close on the play. Same scenario, wrong year. One of these days we will talk about the name of the blog. So go check him out if you haven’t already, he does a great job running the site. Hopefully we will have another Q&A up today, along with an Ode to our Seniors.

Voodoo 5 isn’t a SB Nation blog (yet), but we’ve noticed many of the college SBN blogs helping out their sister NFL blogs by putting together draft profiles of their former players who could potentially be taken in the first two rounds. So we’re following suit. The Bulls have three such players; today we’re profiling Jason Pierre-Paul.

Measurables: 6’5″, 270 lbs.

40 Time: 4.67 seconds.

Career Stats: 45 tackles, including 16.5 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks in 2009. He also blocked a kick, forced two fumbles, and ran an interception back for a touchdown. And as you might have heard, he performed 14 consecutive backflips at the International Bowl to beat Kion Wilson in a post-practice contest.

Quick Bio: To Bulls fans, Jason Pierre-Paul was a comet streaking across the sky. He wasn’t around for long, but he burned hot and bright, and everyone could see his greatness. Pierre-Paul went to junior college out of Deerfield Beach High School, playing one year at the College of the Canyons and another at Fort Scott Community College. He collected 119 tacks and 24.5 sacks in those two years, becoming a five-star junior college prospect at defensive end. Ultimately Pierre-Paul chose USF over a slew of big-time programs, becoming one of the program’s few five-star recruits to date.

After a slow start to 2009, Pierre-Paul broke out in a big way against Florida State with three TFLs, a sack, a forced fumble, and two hurries. He followed up the next week with two TFLs and another sack, and he also blew up a screen pass and ran it back for a touchdown. The next week against Cincinnati, he had two more TFLs. Then 2.5 TFLs and two sacks against Rutgers, where he was one of the few players to come out of that debacle with any honor. Seven tackles, two for loss, another sack, and another forced fumble against Miami. Pierre-Paul got it done in just about every game, whether it was against a weak sister or a top-flight opponent. With scouts and draftniks already projecting him as a possible first-round pick, Pierre-Paul declared for the NFL draft in early January, skipping his senior year.

Pros: Maybe the most intriguing physical specimen in the 2010 draft class – tall, well-built, fast, incredibly long arms (he reportedly has an 81″ wingspan). Uses those arms well to engage and then get away from blockers. Gets out of the blocks quickly, sometimes anticipating the snap count, and can beat slower offensive linemen around the corner before they can even set up. Doesn’t take plays off. Extremely athletic and can make plays very few players at his position can make.

Cons: Might be too lanky to play in a 4-3 defense right now, and would need some work to become a good run defender as a lineman. Because of his height, he can be leveraged out of plays. Sometimes overpursues ballcarriers or quarterbacks in the pocket. Only played one season of major college football and may need a little while to develop and bulk up, though he has the frame to do it if need be. And, uh… how should I put this… when you listen to him give interviews, he doesn’t come across as the sharpest knife in the drawer. Looks could be deceiving – maybe he just isn’t a good public speaker (I should know). At the same time, I hope we never find out his Wonderlic score.

NFL Comparison: Depends on whether you want to compare him to a defensive lineman or a linebacker. I’m not sure there’s a current defensive lineman to compare him to. Julius Peppers is bigger, stronger, and better against the run, so that doesn’t work. But you don’t have to go back too far to find one that might work. Remember Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila? Similar in size and speed to Pierre-Paul, and a lot of people thought he was a one-trick pony, like some people think Pierre-Paul is. But KGB had one hell of a trick. He needed a couple of years to settle in with the Packers, but in 2001 he had 13.5 sacks without even starting a game. He was an incredible pass rusher. Between 2001 and 2005 he had 59 sacks and 13 forced fumbles while only missing one game. While he never became a good run stopper, Gbaja-Biamila still managed to make an impact even when he was reduced to a situational pass-rusher in 2007, with 9.5 sacks. It’s too bad 3-4 defenses weren’t in vogue a few years back because that guy could have been a holy terror as an outside linebacker.

And they both have hyphenated last names! They’re practically twins!!

If you want to compare Pierre-Paul to a linebacker, I’ll let Michael Lombardi at the fantastic National Football Post handle that one.

Jason Pierre-Paul of South Florida has only started seven games and one year of major college football, yet he looked as impressive as any defensive lineman I’ve watched work out. He’s raw and athletic, and he played hard all season. The lack of experience will hurt him in his rookie season — but in two years, if he keeps working hard, he might be the next DeMarcus Ware.


Projection: I already wrote about how much Pierre-Paul has been subjected to the irrational exuberance that goes on during the buildup to the draft. But I think where he ends up drafted will be dictated by two things. One, what defensive system does the team use? Two, is it worth overlooking his nomadic past and his present shortcomings to get their hands on such impressive physical talent? A team with a 3-4 defense might be willing to take him sooner if they need an edge linebacker, because Pierre-Paul could definitely fill the bill. And of course some teams put higher stock in potential and skill than experience and production.

The bottom line is someone will take Pierre-Paul in the first round, probably in the top 15 picks. The earlier they pick him, the more of a roll of the dice it will be. I don’t think teams have to worry about his work ethic as an NFL player. But what he achieves in the pros will involve a lot of things beyond his control, like where he’s placed on the field, how soon they need him to make a major impact, and how well he’s coached up. Based on that, I think he will either boom or bust. Hopefully the first one, for everyone involved.

Jason Pierre-Paul features from BullsVision

Introducing USF’s head football coach, Skip Holtz!

Oh… wait a second, we’ll get that straightened out.

Just moving the webcam…

That might work… but we have to see the questions on the computer, too… uhhh…

Skip interrupts to ask, “Am I talking too fast for you?”

Don’t worry, we’ll get this right… here we go!

Total elapsed time – only five minutes and 38 seconds. Someone from this site might be donating a USB webcam to Athletics in the future.

(Here’s the entire Inside Skip session at the Corral.)

Busy Day on Fowler Ave

March 3, 2010

I hope that the Athletics Department has the Red Bull on ice today, because they are going to be everywhere.

The first step of the new Athletics District will start today, as the groundbreaking for the long overdue Pam and Les Muma Basketball Center will happen this afternoon. The Muma Center will give both Stan Heath and Jose Fernandez with weight rooms, practice gyms, a video room for studying game tape, and their own locker rooms.

The Muma Center will also be a huge help in recruiting. USF was always harped on for not having Big East quality facilities, and finally Heath will have the resources needed to compete with other high-major programs. Unfortunately, when you have to share The Corral between Volleyball and the Basketball programs, you are going to have scheduling difficulties, and sometimes it led to some teams practicing in the Campus Recreation Center. Thankfully, the days of me interfering with their practices are coming to an end.

You can see some of the other rendering of the Muma Center at the Bulls Club here, and hopefully they will have some more renderings at the groundbreaking today.

The other major thing today is Coach Holtz’s first Town Hall meeting today at the Corral, which Athletics is calling The Inside Skip. Coach Holtz will be talking with the fans from 6:30pm to 8:00pm, and will be answering any and all questions. Hopefully I will be able to make it to the Q&A today, so check back with us tomorrow, and we will have a report of the meeting.

Also to our Pinellas County readers, Coach Holtz will be at The Venue tomorrow for another Town Hall meeting at 6:30pm.