The University of South Florida football team officially closes the door on last season today and gets under way preparing for the upcoming year when it opens spring practice at the Morsani practice facility.
Coach Skip Holtz has the largest group of seniors since he arrived at USF, a group that includes key players in quarterback B.J. Daniels, tight end Evan Landi, linebackers Sam Barrington and Michael Lanaris, as well as cornerback Kayvon Webster.
"When you look at the guys that all have playing experience and are coming back, this is the most experienced team I've had going into the same offense and defense here for the third year in a row," Holtz said.
One of the biggest challenges of the spring session will be on the coaching staff, where two new coaches will make their USF debuts and three returning coaches have swapped responsibilities.
Chris Cosh, formerly of Kansas State, took the defensive coordinator position, replacing Mark Snyder, who left for Texas A&M.
Also new is Jerome Pathon, an NFL veteran who took the position of wide receivers coach that was vacated after Phil McGeoghan left for the Miami Dolphins.
"Chris Cosh is really doing a nice job and jelling well defensively with the chemistry and everybody getting along in the room and getting the defense down and getting everybody on the same page," Holtz said. "The same thing is true of Jerome Pathon, who came in a little bit later, learning the offense and getting to know the players. It's really been a smooth transition."
Offensive coordinator Todd Fitch, who also coached the running backs last season, is now the quarterbacks coach, while retaining his duties as coordinator. Peter Vaas moved from quarterbacks to tight ends coach, replacing Larry Scott, who will now work with the running backs.
Holtz feels the moves were necessary to keep the program moving forward and will not disrupt the development of players.
"I think it's been very difficult for coach Fitch to coordinate from the running back position, so he felt really strongly about wanting to be with the quarterbacks," Holtz said. "Having guys like coach Vaas and Larry Scott who are really good football coaches and can coach a variety of different positions gave us some flexibility to put everybody in the right situation."
The Bulls open practice today without pads and will do the same Friday before their first fully dressed practice Saturday. As it did last season, USF will scrimmage three times in the spring session, with an on-campus scrimmage April 14 before the spring game at Raymond James Stadium on April 21.
The Bulls open camp mostly healthy, though defensive backs Chris Bivins Jr. and Ricardo Dixon will miss spring practice as they recover from ACL injuries. Offensive linemen James Hamilton (ankle) and Thor Jozwiak (back) will be limited, as well as safety Jon Lejiste (undisclosed) and wide receiver Chris Dunkley (wrist). … Holtz already has decided two position switches, but didn't rule out making more as spring progresses. Former quarterback Ryan Eppes will move to linebacker, and defensive end Clavion Nelson is moving to defensive tackle. … At Monday's Pro Day, RB Darrell Scott ran a 4.59 40-yard dash, an improvement over the 4.73 her ran at the NFL Combine. … Guard Jeremiah Warren completed 28 reps of 225 pounds at the bench press.