TAMPA — Nearing the end of a game that had long since slipped away, University of South Florida coach Willie Taggart played his wildest card of the season — scrapping a plan to redshirt freshman quarterback Mike White and inserting him for his collegiate debut late in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s 34-3 loss to No. 18 Louisville.
Starting quarterback Bobby Eveld was injured late in the second quarter, and Steven Bench was just 4-for-12 for 68 yards when Taggart decided it was time for another change.
USF had just 25 yards of total offense at halftime and by the middle of the fourth quarter, Taggart had seen enough.
Instead of turning to sophomore Matt Floyd, who was named the preseason starter but didn’t make it out of the first half of the season-opening loss to McNeese State, Taggart turned to White, a 6-foot-4 freshman from Fort Lauderdale University School.
“We’re trying to win some ballgames and find some playmakers,” Taggart said. “When it comes to redshirting, we say it comes down to what’s best for the player and what’s best for the program. I think that’s what we’re doing with Mike’s situation.”
Per USF policy, White is not allowed to speak to the media as a freshman.
He was 1-for-2 for 5 yards in his debut. He also avoided a sack and threw the ball away to avoid losing yardage.
White was the first player to commit to USF after Taggart was hired, announcing his intention the same day Taggart was introduced.
“He’s a smart kid. He has a little swagger, which you like at the quarterback position,” Taggart said. “He’s got great decisions of where he’s going to throw the ball. He’s got great touch on the ball, he can throw a deep ball good. But he’s still green, he hasn’t played at this level yet. He’s a pure drop-back quarterback and he can make all the throws.”
Taggart said he expects White will be the starter for Thursday night’s game at Houston.
“Right now, we’ll go with Mike White and see if he can give us some juice,” Taggart said. “I’m going to be looking for (his work ethic.) You can’t be a great college quarterback if you don’t put in the work.”