Willie Taggart’s mission for his first two recruiting classes was clear and concise: Fence off Tampa Bay.
Taggart managed to reel in 12 of 24 recruits for the class of 2013 from the Tampa Bay area, 19 hailing from Florida, just 60-days prior to National Signing Day. Notably, down the stretch the staff flipped Derrick Calloway from Louisville, Hassan Childs from 2014 foe N.C. State and Nate Godwin from the frozen tundra also known as Minnesota.
While impressed by Taggart’s initial recruiting haul, I remained a skeptic given the painful plight experienced by USF fans in recent years. Games seemingly doomed to an ending marked by another late-game USF collapse.
Taggart then succumbed to overall depth issues, namely at QB, en route to the Bulls lackluster 2-10 (2-6) 2013 season in the first year after being demoted to Conference USA… I mean the American Athletic Conference.
The class of 2014 brought even more hype after the second year coach managed a consensus top-40 recruiting class and the top class in the AAC. The Bulls managed to hold onto a few top prospects, like Niceville athlete Tyre McCants, despite the late night lure tactics by some of the biggest names in college football. USF also showed some muscle on the trail, inking an elite pair of in-state running backs in D’Ernest Johnson from Immokalee and Marlon Mack out of Sarasota-Booker to top off the 2014 class. USF also picked up one-time Florida commit Benji Knox.
So what is Taggart’s amended focus for the class of 2015? Own the I-4 corridor.
While Taggart’s Gulf Coast recruiting focus remains steadfast, the Bulls’ have expanded the target area to rope in the I-4 corridor.
Offers have gone out to several premier players from the Orlando area over the last several months. The Bulls have offered nearly 20 players on the Orlando Sentinel’s 2015 Super60. The Orlando offer log, now approaching 30, includes topnotch talent like Orlando-Oak Ridge wide receiver Nyqwan ‘Noonie’ Murray, Kissimmee-Osceola linebacker Riley Nicholson, Lake Mary wide receiver Nick Westbrook, Daytona Beach-Mainland safety A.J. Westbrook and St. Cloud wide receiver Trevill Holcy amongst others. Meanwhile, UCF has only offered 10 Super60 players from their own backyard.
The goal is clear for 2015, and now it is up to the USF staff to lure a group of Orlando’s finest to Tampa to continue stockpiling depth vital to the Bulls’ future success. While recruiting is always a ‘wait and see’ game, USF is putting its best foot forward to assemble an exceptional 2015 class. Click Here to Join the Discussion on the Rivals Bullpen Message Board
by Matthew Manuri
USF Rivals Columnist | RunningTheBulls.com
@USFBulls_Rivals | @Mcknurkle