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SoFloBulls.com |

USF Head Coach Willie Taggart in rain gear at FSU 2015 DL (2400x1711)

Photo Credit: USF Athletics

Willie Taggart has a different look this year, but the public will not see it because it hasnโ€™t changed him.

The South Florida head football coach has become the hunted instead of the hunter.

Taggart is not complaining. He talks like he is ready to fly on the wings of an offense that was prolific during the final four games of last season when it averaged 542.3 yards and 47 points per game.

In his previous offseason tours, Taggart was answering questions about when or whether he could turn the football program.

At Pier 22 on Wednesday night before a capacity crowd, the former Manatee High quarterback was seeing excitement and enthusiasm and telling folks there is no limit to what the 2016 Bulls can achieve after last season when he took USF to its first bowl game in 2010.

USF was 8-5 last year after two losing seasons in Taggartโ€™s first two years, and there is a lot of reason for optimism.

The Bulls return 14 starters, including single-season program-record setters quarterback Quinton Flowers, running back Marlon Mack and receiver Rodney Adams.

โ€œWe are a target. People are going to circle us on their schedule, and we will get everyoneโ€™s best shot. But thatโ€™s what we want,โ€ Taggart said. โ€œIt feels good to have those guys back. They are better and more experienced and the guys behind them are better. We are starting to have depth and that gets my excited.โ€

Lindyโ€™s magazine ranks USFโ€™s offensive backfield the ninth best in the country, noting it averaged 33.8 points per game with Flowers accounting for 3,287 yards and 34 touchdowns and Mack rushing for 1,381 yards.

But Taggart disagrees.

โ€œI think we have the best backfield in the country,โ€ he says. โ€œWe are progressing and expectations are higher, but for me theyโ€™ve never changed. We are trying to win a conference (American Athletic Conference) championship.โ€

Last season, the Bulls set school records for total offense (5,741 yards) and touchdowns (54) and rushed for more yards per game (247) than in the previous two years combined.

The best part is that those numbers could go higher. Taggart knows it though he has told his players theyโ€™ve accomplished nothing because USF has never won a conference football title.

Taggart said he welcomes high expectations.

โ€œThere is no pressure at all. We donโ€™t get caught up in that. Last year they had us picked to finish at the bottom, and we didnโ€™t get caught up in that,โ€ he said.

The Bulls defeated every AAC East opponent last year and several publications pick USF to win that division this season after finishing second in 2015.

The Bulls have a new defensive coordinator in Ray Woodie, the former Palmetto and Bayshore head football coach and Palmetto graduate. He has been with Taggart since their time together at Western Kentucky, and he was USFโ€™s special teams coordinator last year.

Woodie, who replaces Tom Allen, has seven of his nine top tacklers returning from a defense that ranked 24th in turnovers gained with 25.

This will be Woodieโ€™s first time as an offensive coordinator. He was special teams coordinator last season.

โ€œI picked him because he understands our defense and recruited half of those guys on defense,โ€ Taggart said. โ€œWe want some continuity on defense and just want to get better. I wanted to promote from within and he deserves it. A lot of people donโ€™t know that last year was Tom Allenโ€™s first time as a defensive coordinator.โ€

USF Athletic Director Mark Allen said he wasnโ€™t surprised Taggart was able to turn things around last year even after starting the season 1-3.

โ€œI saw a lot of good things coming off the 2014 season and how engaged everyone,โ€ Harlan says. โ€œThrough it all Taggart just stayed to his plan and was relentless in terms of his approach. He has a strong will, shows an ability to lead young men and passion for USF. He is a true leader in every sense of the word.โ€ Continue Reading by Clicking Here

by Alan Dell | Bradenton.com

SoFloBulls Blog by Matthew Manuri

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