With Willie Taggart leaving the Bulls for the Oregon Ducks, USF is in unfamiliar territory. The program has never had a football coach get hired by a top tier program before, and while it may seem like Taggart has left the Bulls in a painful position, in reality, they find themselves with an opportunity to add to the success that Taggart had built.
Up first are Taylor’s choices:
Charlie Strong (The Strong and relatively silent choice)
As the search for USF’s new coach begins, Charlie Strong remains a fan-favorite. Strong last coached at Texas where he lost seven games in each of his three seasons there. Prior to Texas, however, Strong coached a good Louisville team that won 37 games in his four seasons as head coach. Louisville made a bowl game in each of Strong’s seasons there, and won three of them, his most impressive bowl coming over the ninth ranked Florida Gators in the 2012 Sugar Bowl.
Strong’s resume isn’t long, but with coaching positions at the University of Florida, the University of Louisville and the University of Texas under his belt, he’s surely qualified.
T.J. Weist (The incumbent party choice)
My dark-horse candidate coming out of all the rumors surrounding the newly-open coaching position remains the Bulls’ own offensive coordinator, T.J. Weist. Weist has been coaching college football, in one way or another, since 1988. In that time, he’s worked on the staffs of historically powerful programs like Alabama, Indiana and Michigan. He also spent eight years at Western Kentucky, six of which with Taggart, and served as the interim head coach at the University of Connecticut in 2013.
Greg Schiano (The guy who was run out of town)
If you’re like me, and the Bulls aren’t the only team in Tampa that you cheer for, the name “Greg Schiano” might not come with the best football memories, but his coaching record in college speaks for itself. In 2001, Schiano’s first season with Rutgers, they won just two games. The following season, they won one. By 2005, though, Schiano had turned the team around and would take them to their first Bowl game since 1978. After 2005, with the exception of a four win season in 2010, Schiano’s Scarlett Knights didn’t win less than 8 games again.
And here are my choices:
Lawrence Dawsey (The familiar face choice)
Dawsey is actually my favorite pick for the head coaching position at USF. From Alabama, but is an adopted son of the state of Florida, Dawsey played for Florida State coaching great, Bobby Bowden and was an All-American in his time at FSU. Dawsey is familiar with the Tampa Bay area, being drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1991. Dawsey also started his coaching career in Tampa as the wide receivers coach for Jim Levitt at USF from 2004 to 2006.
Since 2007, Dawsey has coached at FSU under both Bowden and Jimbo Fisher, and has helped lead the Seminoles to three ACC Championship titles and one National Championship. For the past two years, Dawsey has also been the co-offensive coordinator for FSU; something to keep in mind when you look at the success that Dalvin Cook has had in that time.
This could be a coach to look at that could be with the program for a while, building on top of the foundation of success that Willie Taggart had laid.
Larry Scott (The Prodigal Son choice)
An original Bull and a Florida native, Larry Scott could be the next program builder for USF. Scott was a part of Jim Levitt’s first recruiting class and was there from the very first snap in USF football history. Scott currently coaches at the University of Tennessee as the tight ends coach, but has a relatively long history of coaching.
From 2007 to 2012, Scott was a member of the USF coaching staff, even coaching under Taggart in his final year with the program. Scott spent 2013-2015 with the Miami Hurricanes as their tight ends coach, but was thrust into the head coach position after Al Golden was fired from the position. In his single head coaching opportunity Scott went 4-2, bringing the Hurricanes back a week after the 58-0 loss (that resulted in Golden’s firing) to a 30-27 win over a 22nd ranked Duke team.
Scott is a young coach, younger than Taggart, and could help build the program up and recruit the hell out of the Tampa Bay area. He may be from Sebring, but he’s as close to being #BayMade as you can get.
Mario Cristobal (The “Everybody has a cousin in Miami and this guy probably knows him” choice)
Speaking of recruiting, Mario Cristobal is a guru at it. That must be why Alabama head coach Nick Saban brought him on board his coaching staff. Cristobal knows what it takes to win, winning two national championships as a player with the Miami Hurricanes and now as the assistant head coach and offensive line coach at Alabama. If there is one guy that you would want from the Alabama staff, it’s this guy; not Lane Kiffin.
Cristobal was also the head coach of the FIU Panthers football team from 2007 to 2012, going 27-47 in his tenure at the school. While the overall record may look abysmal, he was actually able to turnaround the football program, leading the Panthers to their first conference win and back-to-back bowl games.
Cristobal was able to recruit NFL talent like T.Y. Hilton and Jonathan Cyprien to the relatively a program that was treading water, by scouring all of South Florida. His ability to recruit at a program like Alabama speaks for itself, so it would be interesting to see who he could bring to a USF program that is on the rise.