The offseason has brought several changes for South Florida football over the past few months. Since their season ending shutout loss to UCF on Black Friday, the coaching staff has been overhauled, schemes have been altered, and record setting key players such as Andre Davis and Marvin Kloss have graduated and moved on. Now hope springs eternal for Willie Taggart’s bunch as USF opens spring practice on Monday at the Frank Morsani Football Practice Complex.
After weeks of winter conditioning and preparations, Taggart is ready to finally take a first look at a 2015 roster that returns 14 starters. “I’m excited! I can’t wait to get our players and our coaching staff on the field,” Taggart said. “It’s a new year. I really like the energy and the attitude of our team heading into the spring. They have worked really hard in off season conditioning and I’m expecting a very competitive and productive spring.” With this optimism comes the pressure of delivering a winner to Fowler Avenue. Posting a 6-18 record in his first two seasons in at USF, Taggart fully understands that he must make a jump in year three and bring bowl eligibility to the program for the first time since 2010. Otherwise, his job could be in potential jeopardy by the time the regular season ends.
With Taggart announcing a switch to a more spread based attack, all indicators point to the Bulls looking different offensively. Danny Hope and David Reaves have been called in to replace the dismissed Paul Wulff as co-offensive coordinators while Taggart will call plays. AAC leading rusher Marlon Mack looks to pick up where he left off this spring while the trio of Mike White, Quinton Flowers, and Steven Bench return to battle it out for the job of starting QB. However, the departures of veteran starters Austin Reiter, Quinterrius Eatmon, and Darrell Williams creates question marks about the offensive line, while losing all-time leading receiver Andre Davis will be a major blow to the USF offense moving forward. Spring practice will give a glimpse on whether the Bulls can elevate themselves above 118th in total offense.
Defensively, USF replaces Chuck Bresnahan as defensive coordinator with former Ole Miss Linebackers coach Tom Allen. Allen helped architect the Rebels’ disruptive “Land Shark” defense and will look to bring the same 4-2-5 set to Tampa. Coaches are hoping the new defense is effective in stopping opposing offenses on 3rd down, an aspect the Bulls struggled mightily in 2014, giving up 78% of 3rd down conversions. Also new to the coaching staff is Alonzo Hampton, replacing Ron Cooper as head of defensive backs. The Bulls return seven starters on defense, including team leading tackler Jamie Byrd, Auggie Sanchez, and Reshard Cliett, who led the entire nation in forced fumbles.
All practices will be open to the public. The Bulls will practice Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings starting at 9 a.m. and Saturdays starting at 2:30 p.m. through the first three weeks. A special practice will be held on Saturday, March 21st at Bryant Stadium in Lakeland. Week four will see the Bulls practice on Tuesday and Thursday at 9 a.m. leading up to the annual spring game, which will be held on Saturday, March 28th at 4 p.m. at Corbett Stadium for a second year in a row.