B.J. Daniels laughed when asked to recall his first spring practice at South Florida last year.
"It was tough," he said. "Really tough. I think we stuck to maybe four plays and tried to master that. Everyone was trying to forget the old system and bring in the new one."
Sure, Daniels struggled with consistency during the 2010 season at quarterback for the Bulls. But he also had to learn a new system under new coaches. That's why the junior was excited about the start of this year's spring drills on Thursday in Tampa, as he and the rest of his teammates got back to work for the same staff under the same offense.
Daniels said the team was already "miles ahead" of where it was last year at this time.
"It makes a big, big difference," he said. "It lets you play faster and go off your instincts. It's like second nature now, where you can just go up to the line knowing who to read and where you're at, versus thinking so much. It just elevates your game."
Daniels did that himself in South Florida's bowl game. After injuring his quad at Miami and sitting out the second half and overtime, he missed the season finale against Connecticut. Freshman Bobby Eveld led the win over the Hurricanes and played well at times against UConn. Some Bulls fans wondered if Eveld, not Daniels, should be the team's quarterback of the future, and coach Skip Holtz opened up the competition leading into the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
But Daniels responded and played a great game in the win over Clemson, earning MVP honors while completing 20 of 27 passes and accounting for three touchdowns. He called that performance a big confidence boost.
"I didn't have the year that I wanted, so it was a blessing to come out there after my injury and play well enough for us to win," he said. "It was rough being on the sidelines and just watching because I'm a competitor, but I was behind my team 100 percent. Bobby stepped up and did his thing, which was a testament to the type of coaching we have. The [bowl] was basically the first game I was 100 percent healthy all season."
Expectations are soaring for South Florida after the way the team finished last season. Perhaps the top reason for optimism is a healthy, comfortable Daniels at quarterback.
"We definitely have a lot to look forward to this season," he said. "I feel like we'll be able to do some things to get better, win more game and be in a position to win the Big East."