There isn't much for South Florida players to do in Vero Beach besides focus on football and get to know each other. And that's exactly the way coach Skip Holtz wants it.
Holtz brought the Bulls to Dodgertown -- the former spring training home of baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers -- last Sunday for an intense two-week training camp. The move was necessitated by ongoing construction at USF's practice facilities, but it also gives the team a chance to bond. Holtz said at Big East media day that there were still "wedges" within the team, some of which was left over from the Jim Leavitt controversy this winter.
Players bunk with one roommate in the complex's hotel-style residential complex. Room assignments were chosen to avoid the usual comfort zones.
"I'm a receiver and I'm rooming with a DB (Quenton Washington)," receiver Dontavia Bogan said. "They're splitting up all the cliques and getting everybody together."
Holtz is also employing team-building exercises, such as having each player stand up and tell everybody else something about his new roommate.
"Coach is full of surprises," receiver Lindsey Lamar said. "I feel like we're all getting a good continuity together. I'm learning things about my teammates that I never knew before. There couldn't be a more perfect setting."
The team will be at Vero Beach until Aug. 19, and players aren't allowed to leave the complex. They can use their phones and computers, but video games are verboten. Bogan said a typical day of late has consisted of waking up at 6 a.m., going to practice and meetings all day before finishing up at 10:30 p.m.
School officials estimate this training camp excursion will cost about $185,000.
Off-site training camps are rare in college football. The only other Big East team that does so is Cincinnati, which heads to Camp Higher Ground in eastern Indiana each August. Louisville coach Charlie Strong is sequestering his team in a hotel during training camp, and took away his players' cars during their stay.
Time will tell if this is a trend that catches on, costly as it might be for some schools. For South Florida, the move might pay off for a team trying to build chemistry under a first-year head coach.