Willie Taggart and his trademark enthusiasm begin their first fall camp at USF beginning this week. TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO
BY MICHAEL MANGANELLO Tribune correspondent
Published: August 4, 2013
Updated: August 5, 2013 at 06:34 AM
TAMPA - With a simple "Happy New Year" from University of South Florida football coach Willie Taggart, the 2013 football season began. The Bulls open training camp on campus today, less than four weeks before their Aug. 31 season opener against McNeese State, ending a long offseason of transition. "The football team is about to get started and we're very excited," Taggart said. "We get out there and it's time to do something. . It's the season. We get to play games now, it's not spring ball where we have to play against each other. You get to go and work on your craft every single day and then go out and perform in front of your fan base and let them know how hard you've been working." With the turning of the football calendar, all references to the 2012 season under former head coach Skip Holtz have ended. Taggart started to stay "3 and 9" but caught himself before finishing last year's record, saying only that it was "history."
After a team meeting Sunday night to discuss rules and expectations, the Bulls turned their attention to the first day of practice, which Taggart said is one of the easiest to coach all season. "We can see the excitement our guys have when they're walking around and they want (to play)," he said. "Those are the best days because the first two days, you don't have to motivate them to do anything. They're going to go and fly around like bullets out there." The Bulls will practice daily on campus until they depart Saturday morning for a week of practices in Vero Beach. "You either get better or you get worse," Taggart said. "No one stays the same. Every day we're trying to get better." No rush on QBs One of the most important challenges Taggart will face in the next few weeks will be naming a starting quarterback. Two returning players, sophomore Matt Floyd and senior Bobby Eveld, will compete with two newcomers, Penn State transfer Steven Bench and freshman Mike White. "I want to see someone separate themselves (from the competition)," Taggart said. "To me, that's what big-time college football is all about. I'm excited. I think all those guys are capable and they understand they have the chance to do something special and lead this football team." Taggart said there is no timeline for naming a starter, that the process will happen at its own pace. "If it's the end of next week and they've started to separate, we'll (name a starter)," Taggart said. "If it's after Vero, then we'll do it then. I think we've got to give these guys a chance to compete." Pleasantly surprised As Taggart continued to get to know the players he inherited, he said he was surprised by how talented they were. "I had my own perception of what these guys were when I came," Taggart said. "Going through spring ball, a lot of these guys were a lot better than what I thought they were. I'm excited to see them in training camp because I expect them to be a lot better now." Taggart highlighted defensive end Aaron Lynch as a player he has seen grow off the field. Lynch arrived at USF as a high-profile transfer after earning freshman All-American status at Notre Dame in 2010. Taggart said he talked with Lynch about being a better teammate and confirmed that those talks have had an effect on the way Lynch interacts with his teammates. Bulls bits Taggart said everyone he expected to report did, and there were no late additions. . Apart from DB Josh Brown (Achilles), Taggart said the squad is healthy.