TAMPA — University of South Florida junior TE Mike McFarland was beaming Wednesday when asked about training camp.
“It has been going pretty amazing,’’ he said.
Sure enough, it’s a great time to be a tight end at USF.
First-year USF coach Willie Taggart has a history of emphasizing the tight end. At Western Kentucky, tight end Jack Doyle, now a rookie with the Tennessee Titans, was the Hilltoppers’ leading receiver the past two seasons with 52 and 53 catches, respectively.
Taggart learned that tight-end emphasis under Jim Harbaugh at Stanford University and the philosophy is now prevalent with the San Francisco 49ers, where TE Vernon Davis is flourishing.
“Our offense kind of revolves around the tight end,’’ said McFarland, who had just four receptions last season, even after making several head-turning catches during the 2012 spring game. “Just to be associated with this type of offense … it just gives me chills to think about the things we can accomplish.”
Taggart places much responsibility on his tight ends.
“They’ve got to block, read coverage, run routes, work in pass protection and they’ve got to be able to line up because we do a lot of shifting and motioning,’’ Taggart said. “It’s very important that we have some athletic, tough, highly competitive guys at that position.”
ROCKIN ROBBINS: Freshman CB Lamar Robbins of Miami, who has consistently been mentioned as a standout by Taggart, made a big impression in Tuesday’s workout.
“He had a good day,’’ Bulls SS Mark Joyce said. “He was talking a lot of smack. He was talking about shutting down Andre Davis (USF’s leading receiver) and he did. He got a pick off Andre and shut him down the whole day.’’
TURNOVER EMPHASIS: USF’s defense had just nine takeaways last season (seven fumble recoveries, two interceptions), so it’s not surprising first-year defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan is emphasizing turnovers. The lofty goal might seem shocking.
“We’re trying to get to 58,’’ Bulls LB Reshard Cliett said.
The Football Bowl Subdivision record for takeaways is 57 by Tennessee in 1970.
Regardless of numbers, USF defenders know they must create more havoc this season.
“Takeaways (are created) with a lot effort, guys running to the football — and not just one or two guys, but the entire football team,’’ Taggart said. “Chuck is doing a really good job of stressing that to our players. When you see guys like (defensive tackles) Luke Sager and Elkino Watson running to the ball, big guys, that’s scary.
“Turnovers come when guys are playing with fanatical effort.’’