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USF Bulls

Bulls' Floyd has the knack to handle position

Published:   |   Updated: March 14, 2013 at 01:49 AM

He comes from a military family. He relishes the wide-open spaces of his Panhandle hometown. He has talked about joining the Special Forces. He's into politics. He's quiet, sincere, likeable.

Coaches and teammates provided those snapshots of redshirt freshman Matt Floyd, the University of South Florida's new starting quarterback who leads the Bulls (3-7, 1-4) into Friday night's Big East Conference game at Cincinnati (7-3, 3-2). Details might be sketchy, but Floyd already has made a good first impression.

"He's a smart guy who makes quick decisions and is able to process a lot of information very fast,'' USF offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said. "That's the whole key to the quarterback, whether you're playing the Wing-T, the veer or whatever you're running.

"The quarterback has to make a decision on average about every two seconds. The guys who can process it and make the decision correctly – I don't care how big, tall, fast and strong you are – those are the guys who have been pretty successful. I think Matt has the knack of doing that.''

It's Floyd's time now.

USF four-year starter B.J. Daniels suffered a broken ankle on Nov. 3 in the fourth quarter against Connecticut. After open competition, USF coach Skip Holtz selected junior Bobby Eveld (over Floyd) to start Saturday's game at Miami. But on USF's 15th play from scrimmage, Eveld's season ended on a jarring hit that produced a separated left shoulder.

Floyd entered during the second quarter and weathered a difficult start – two interceptions in his first six pass attempts – to finish 20 of 35 for 175 yards.

"That first interception, he hit a linebacker right in the sternum,'' Holtz said. "I said, 'You've got a couple of options. You can put your head in a shell and be shellshocked. Or you can say that was a valuable learning lesson. I'm not going to throw any more (interceptions). I'm going to lead this thing back.'

"Matt said, 'That last one is the option I choose. I don't want to go the other route. That's not even an option for me.' I like the headiness, the poise, the way he handled himself, especially with a little adversity. He's a gutsy performer.''

Floyd waited patiently behind Daniels, knowing opportunities might be sparse. Now he has a big chance. He can establish himself for 2013.

"He has great pocket presence,'' USF senior running back Demetris Murray said. "He took some shots and still stood in there. He steps up and makes the throws when he has to. It was very promising from what I saw.''

Floyd, a 6-foot-1, 206-pounder from Milton High, first caught the attention of USF assistant Rick Smith, who recruits the Panhandle. Smith got word to Peter Vaas, then the USF quarterbacks coach, who watched Floyd practice, then play a game.

"He had a quick release, was quick afoot and he gave you the impression, 'Hey, this kid has something special about him that gives him a chance to grow and become a quality player,' '' said Vaas, who now coaches tight ends. "He's not a very assertive personality. He's just a laid-back, easy-come, easy-go kind of kid.''

"With his demeanor, he's going to be the same, no matter what,'' Smith said. "I don't think he would get real excited if we won the national championship.''

Floyd said he is excited about playing at Cincinnati. There weren't many positives in the 40-9 loss against the Hurricanes, but Floyd at least showed some savvy and impressed his linemen by continually checking into the correct play.

"We moved the ball great,'' Floyd said. "We'd go up the field, then we'd stutter and stop and didn't come out with any points. Now we have to avoid mistakes and come up with big plays. We want to go in the right direction.''

Floyd has that opportunity now. He's steering the ship.

jjohnston@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7353 Twitter: JJohnstonTBO