By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA – USF fans shouldn’t worry about the Bulls getting caught up in the history and mystique that’s involved with Notre Dame football.
Head coach Skip Holtz made it very clear at Tuesday’s media luncheon that the Bulls are more focused on what happens in between the lines than what famous statues surround the stadium.
“We’re not going to get off the bus with a camera around our neck,” Holtz said. “This is a business trip. This is not a tourist attraction that we’re going to this weekend.”
That doesn’t mean Holtz is going to prevent his players from appreciating a big part of college football history. He plans to teach his players a little bit about the storied program. More importantly, he wants his players zeroed-in on the numbers they have to block as opposed to numbers of past greatness.
Holtz heads to South Bend with a bit of assurance, considering some members of the current USF team were on the squads that beat Auburn, FSU and Miami on the road. The Bulls also got valuable experience last season by playing in a tough environment like The Swamp.
“I don’t think they will be intimidated in the awe of just going to Notre Dame with some of the arenas that we’ve played in,” Holtz said. “I think they’re really excited about it.”
Holtz said a win over Notre Dame “would speak volumes” about the perception of his team, but USF still has a lot to prove when looking at the big picture.
“I think this program is a program right now that kind of has a chip on its shoulder because we feel we’ve done some positive things in order to turn and be viewed maybe in a little bit higher regard,” he said. “But at the same time, until you do it on a consistent basis and build it on the field you’re not going to get that type of respect. That’s what we’re trying to earn.”
A loss wouldn’t mean the end of the world either.
“The big goal that we have, that our eyes are on right now, is the Big East,” Holtz explained. “That’s the one that we really want. We’ve had big wins in our program’s history but we have not won the Big East yet.”
Playing a highly touted team like Notre Dame in the first game certainly helps the Bulls’ season as a whole. The special incentive goes a long way when players are preparing months before the first kickoff.
“I know when we were at Notre Dame and we opened with Michigan every year I always thought our spring was better, our summer was better, our fall camp was better because everything was geared towards making sure that you had to play at that elite level right out of the shoots,” Holtz explained. “You didn’t have an opportunity to warm up to it and go through three or four warm-up games. You knew you had to have that level of urgency.”
McFarland Good to Go
Redshirt freshman tight end Mike McFarland has been granted his waiver after transferring from Florida and will be able to play this year.
“I don’t think that will play a huge role early in the season but as he starts to get more comfortable, especially with the loss of Jeff Hawkins during the summer, that could prove to be a very significant addition for us as the year goes on,” Holtz said.
The Tampa native was rated by Scout.com as the No. 12 tight end in the country coming out of Blake High School.