By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
VERO BEACH - The buses rolled through the Vero Beach Sports Village gates way before noon on Wednesday and the Bulls rocked through a productive first day of fall camp away from home.
Practice No. 1 at Dodgertown is officially in the books after the Bulls had a healthy helping of team meetings and head coach Skip Holtz liked what he saw out of a group that's motoring along in a higher gear than this time in past years.
"This is good right now because we get to see where so many of the returners are right now. Those guys are out there communicating, making the calls at the line and they're doing all the little things," Holtz said.
Holtz admitted some of the new players are still going through the motions of USF's rapid pace at practice and has been impressed with the veterans taking ownership of the situation and showing support.
"Leadership on this team goes a long way. That's who you rely on to get your energy. I've really been proud of the senior class and the leadership role that they've taken," he said.
A lot of USF's second practice of the fall was dedicated to individual position drills. There were plenty of highlights as wave after wave of USF players turned heads on both sides of the ball.
"We have a lot of depth this year and a lot of good players," sophomore wide receiver Andre Davis said. "We have depth at every position and there is no reason we shouldn't be one of the top receiving groups in the country... They amaze me every day when I come out here and go through drills. It's just awesome to see how far we've come from year one until now."
Bulls Get a Warm Welcome
A crowd of USF fans were at Vero Beach Sports Village bright and early Wednesday morning to welcome the Bulls and the first person to greet the team off the buses was Vero Beach Mayor Pilar Turner.
"For them to be returning for their third year is just such a thrill. We're delighted to have them here and welcome them to our community. I hope they have another great experience," Turner said.
Turner said she's watched some of the Bulls' Vero workouts in the past and plans to be back out at the fields to support Holtz's squad again in the next two weeks.
"They certainly put them through the paces. I hope it makes them strong for a very successful season," she said.
Turner noted that many improvements have been made to Vero Beach Sports Village since USF's training camp stay last year and the team now has another pair of fields to practice on near the entrance of the facility.
"They do a phenomenal job here at the Vero Beach Sports Village," Holtz said. "What they've put in this year with the new practice fields, it's an excellent field. We couldn't ask for a better practice setup. The people here have just been phenomenal to work with and incredibly accommodating to give us what we need to get this done."
Lejiste Happy to Be Back on Field With Bulls
Safety Jon Lejiste was forced to watch USF from the sideline for most of the spring while recovering from a wrist injury and the senior is happy to be back buzzing around the field making plays.
"You don't know how much you miss it until you're not out there on the field," he said. "I'm definitely happy to be back with my teammates."
Lejiste, now fully healthy, is facing the task of competing for a starting job at a position that's become deep. The Delray Beach native has started in 26 of his 38 games at USF and doesn't mind having to prove his worth in his final fall camp as a Bull.
"Competition brings out the best in everybody. Since you're competing, you have to play your best or you're not going to be on that field," he said.
Lejiste came into camp in top shape after shedding 10 pounds to get down to 192 and said he feels comfortable with the transformation.
"I've definitely lighter, faster and feel better," he said. "We've only been out here a few days, but running against the offense you definitely could tell I was moving faster. It definitely helps my game."
Lejiste used the time off the field in the spring sharpening up his mental game while new defensive coordinator Chris Cosh was getting the Bulls used to his approach.
"With a new defensive coordinator, I got a chance to sit back and actually get the mental side of the new defense down," he said. "Every play I was making sure I was paying attention and getting that down, so when I came out here there was no setback. I wasn't behind anybody and I already knew the defense. It was just coming out here and playing."
Quote of the Day
"Everybody has a great attitude the first day of camp. It's when you're getting tired and hurting a little bit, that's when you really find out what your football team is made of. But right now I really like what I see with the enthusiasm on the field." - Skip Holtz
Maikon Bonani -- @Bonani28
What a beautiful first day, and a great practice for the team. Building a family/team one day at a time #bullpride #USFFBCamp12
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