By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
VERO BEACH - The Bulls put together quite a practice under the lights Thursday night and the reward was a gift that could be seen for miles.
Skip Holtz blew the final whistle and talked to the entire team like he usually does. Junior safety JaQuez Jenkins followed with an inspirational message moments before all the lights went out at Vero Beach Sports Village. That set the stage for a fireworks show that resembled one you'd see on the Fourth of July with the Bulls shouting the USF fight song in the darkness after the finale.
"It was a beautiful thing and it was unexpected. We didn't know it was coming," junior wide receiver Sterling Griffin said. "It was kind of inspirational just to see something like that and have the team be together."
One thing that looked really together before USF's big surprise was a passing attack that showed off the team's depth. Name a receiver on the roster and he caught a pass that will look great on tape, especially a long B.J. Daniels-to-Griffin connection. Daniels rolled to his right under pressure, set his feet and hit Griffin in a small window between a cornerback and safety for what would have been a 30-yard gain well past midfield.
"He's always had an extremely strong arm, but it's not just about dropping back and throwing it through a wall," Holtz said. "It's about being able to throw it accurately and it's about being able to have an understanding of who you're throwing the ball to."
Daniels' statistical progression from 2010 to 2011 is well documented and many more good things could be in store for the senior largely because of the position he's put himself in.
"I've seen B.J. work all summer, pulling guys aside and working on his timing," Griffin said. "You can see that it has worked because we've been connecting on a lot of deep routes. He put in the work in the summer and you can tell because it's showing here in camp."
The nation will certainly be paying attention with Daniels already landing on watch lists for the Davey O'Brien and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm awards. Ask Holtz about the preseason publicity and he'll tell you it is well deserved for his third-year starting quarterback.
"He's always around the office," Holtz said. "He's kind of like a gym rat right now as a quarterback and it's really what it takes for him to make the type of progress that he's made."
A lot of times a quarterback is only as good as his receivers and the number of pass catchers that have Daniels' back has been growing quite a bit in the past two years.
"There have been great additions. I think D'vario Montgomery is going to be a great addition to this group," Holtz said. "It's a far cry from when we first got here and we were moving everybody to receiver to try and gain some receivers. Now you look out there and you have some true receivers with a healthy Sterling Griffin, Ruben Gonzalez. I look at Terrence Mitchell, Derrick Hopkins, I look at Deonte Welch. All of a sudden there is a pretty good group of receivers."
USF's receivers have been in great hands throughout the series of additions, too. Holtz credited Phil McGheoghan, now coaching the Miami Dolphins' receivers, for "building the core" and said first-year Bull Jerome Pathon, an eight-year NFL receiver, has already done a great job sharpening the group up.
"He just brings so much knowledge to the game as a receiver," Holtz said. "He's got an instant amount of respect from these players because he's done what so many of them dream to do - have the ability to play in the NFL after they've helped build this program."
Quote of the Day
"Every day we come out competing because we know we're going to push one another. It's not selfish competition. We know we want to work hard because we know that the man that's behind is going to push the man that's in front." - Sterling Griffin
AP -- @amandaparkerrr
time for my annual trip to campus to buy out the bookstore and get geared up for football season! @USFaluniAssn @USFFootball #BULLSnation
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