Running With the Bulls

September 24, 2009 12:27 PM

South Florida Pins Its Hopes On Daniels

Meet Bruce Edward Daniels, known in University of South Florida football circles as B.J.

He is fast, blazing fast, elusive, shifty, powerful and has a heck of an arm for throwing the football.

He is perhaps a reincarnation of an incredible college football player who once graced the field of the old Tampa Stadium. His style of plays bears remarkable resemblance to a former University of Tampa and NFL great.

Travel back 35 years in Tampa football history, if you will. The year was 1974 and it was the senior season for the remarkable Freddie Solomon, dynamic quarterback for the UT Spartans.

We simply referred to him as "The Fabulous One." He was Fabulous Freddie Solomon, speedster extraordinaire.

He filled that old Tampa Stadium, the old Sombrero. The Spartans would draw more than 45,000. Just about everyone wanted to see Fabulous Freddie.

Freddie had UNREAL speed. He was probably a 4.3-second 40 guy IN PADS. His moves were beyond description. His performances would have perhaps made him a Heisman contender at a higher profile school.

Still, Freddie had great success, chosen in the second round of the 1975 draft by the Miami Dolphins where he became a solid wide receiver. He moved to the 49ers where he won Super Bowl rings.

Fast forward to the USF practice fields.

Daniels reminds one of Freddie. He is super-elusive, has killer speed and confidence. He will need every bit of that and more as he has the mountainous task of leading the Bulls' offense against Florida State Saturday in Doak Campbell Stadium.

It's a homecoming for Daniels, a product of Leon High in Tally-town.

Daniels has a quiet manner about him. He is respectful, not brash and has a look in his eye of a confident young man, a soft-speaking assassin, perhaps.

His mettle will be tested by FSU's defense. Daniels will need all his talents and a lot of help from his teammates.

USF offensive coordinator Mike Canales won't hold back with his play calling. "B.J. Daniels is special," he said often during spring practice. Watch Canales looking at Daniels and he can see a gleam in the coach's eye.

Daniels is the real deal but must now replace the most prolific offensive player in the history of the Big East Conference, Matt Grothe, who saw his career end last Saturday night when he was tackled awkwardly and torn an ACL.

This South Florida offense now belongs to Daniels, who has been encouraged and coached hard by the staff and Grothe this week. "They can call me Coach Grothe," Matt said.

Put simply, this is USF's biggest opportunity ever as far as status in the state is concerned. FSU has two national championships and years of success under Bobby Bowden.

But these Seminoles showed their vulnerability when they lost their opener to Miami then again against Jacksonville State, a game they perhaps should have lost.

But now all eyes are on USF, a program that longs for recognition.

And the Bulls go into this battle with Daniels, who perhaps few outside the program will recognize.

But those of us who saw Fabulous Freddie Solomon can look back and remember what he did to opponents and perhaps, just perhaps, B.J. will have a little bit of Freddie in him on Saturday.

He'll need it.

USF needs it.

This is big-time for the Bulls. Very big time.

And they know it.

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