Expectations were high for Skip Holtz in his second year at USF. Phil Steele projected them to share the Big East Title, we tabbed them for third place and Ken from Voodoo Five was talking Big East Championship in our pre-season preview for USF. Unfortunately for the Bulls, we were all wrong as they finished just 5-7 overall and only won one conference game. Things started out pretty well for the Bulls as they went on the road and beat Notre Dame and then cleaned up in their out of conference schedule to start 4-0. Then they lost their next four conference games (3 of them by one score or less). USF won a game on the road at Syracuse to move to 5-4 and they looked like they were bowl bound but then lost their last three games (again two by six or less points) to finish 5-7 and missed out on a bowl game for the first time since 2004. We caught up with Ken DeCelles of the SB Nation blog Voodoo Five once again to get his thoughts on the 2011 season and catch a brief glimpse into 2012.
CFBZ: We projected USF to finish 3rd in the Big East (Phil Steele had them tied for 1st). What were the major reasons the Bulls didn’t live up to those expectations?
Voodoo Five: It all came down to end of game mistakes. It didn’t help that we were down to walk-ons and career backups in the secondary towards the end of the season, but when you either have the lead or are tied in the second half for 6 or your 7 losses you have to pull off one of those wins.
When it came down to the end, we just didn’t have the mental edge to find a way to win the game. Between blown defensive assignments, special teams miscues, coaching mistakes, or horrible turnovers, we found a way to lose the game. Towards the end of the season, it wasn’t are we going to win, it was how we were going to blow the game.
CFBZ: How are you feeling about Skip Holtz after two years?
Voodoo Five: I think he’s doing a fine job. There’s nothing that Skip can do about some of the depth issues this year, but the play calling in endgame scenarios have to improve. Holtz has done a good job recruiting with quality kids in Sean Price, Chris Bivins, and James Hamilton coming in this year, but he had some high caliber recruits flip for Miami (CB RayShawn Jenkins), Georgia Tech (CB D.J. White), and Wake Forest (QB Tyler Cameron).
I’m perfectly fine with giving Skip a couple more seasons, but there needs to be dramatic growth next season. The fanbase is already starting to become disinterested with the conference meltdowns, and another disappointing year will put Skip on the Hot Seat.
CFBZ: What is the lasting memory you will have of this season?
Voodoo Five: Even with the losing record, I will always remember the season opening win against Notre Dame. Between Kayvon Webster’s 96 yard fumble recovery, the two lightning delays, the defense coming up big time and
time again, and Brian Kelly having an aneurysm, it was a memorable game. Its right up there with the Auburn game in 2007 and FSU in 2009 in terms of non-conference wins.
CFBZ: QB B.J. Daniels will be a senior next year. What kind of growth did he show this year and what does he need to improve on to take the next step in 2012?
Voodoo Five: I think he did a great job in his development this year. It helped that he had a competent group of wide receivers led by Sterling Griffin, but Daniels was on his way to breaking most USF single season passing records before his hamstring injury against Miami.
B.J. still has a tendency of overthrowing an open receiver and not protecting the ball when running in the open field. But if Daniels can work on those two things, he can compete with Geno Smith for best QB in the conference.
CFBZ: What do you see as the biggest opportunities for this team next year?
Voodoo Five: Well we have a couple of quality non-conference games next season with a trip to Miami and Florida State coming down to Tampa. I am willing to say that just might be the loudest RayJay will ever be.
The Big East will be wide open again, and if Skip can find some depth in the secondary, running back (WTF Darrell Scott), and defensive tackle, we can compete for the conference title. But I’ll have to see a couple of wins in October jumping on the bandwagon.
Previous 2011 Exit Surveys
Big Ten- Minnesota Golden Gophers
Pac-12- Oregon State Beavers