The Rant Sports 100 in 100 series makes a stop in Tampa, Fla., to preview the No. 64 team, the South Florida Bulls. South Florida is coming off a disappointing season in which they went 3-9 (1-6), leading to the firing of then-head coach Skip Holtz.
But there’s a new sheriff in town bringing much optimism to the Bulls’ fan base. Former Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart will look to accomplish similar success in South Florida to that of his tenure with the Hilltoppers.
Taggart looks to once again take a lackluster program and mold them into a proverbial winner. With a new coach and a weaker Big East conference, the Bulls may be headed in the right direction.
Junior wide receiver Andre Davis will be the top target in the Bulls offense. Last season, Davis recorded 46 receptions for 534 yards and will look to become the first USF receiver to break the 750-yard mark in school history in 2013. The big question is, who will throw him the ball?
South Florida has yet to officially name a starting quarterback amongst senior Bobby Eveld and sophomore Matt Floyd. Eveld holds the advantage in experience but more-so in age. The dual-threat Floyd saw the majority of snaps after former starter B.J. Daniels suffered a season-ending injury.
Floyd threw for 466 yards and completed 57 of 110 attempts last season. However, he struggled to capitalize, throwing for zero touchdowns and five interceptions.
Many believe Floyd’s passing skills are far superior to his explosive running ability, which hurt his chances somewhat. Taggart will have an opportunity to further evaluate the two and decide which quarterback is better suited for his offensive scheme.
The running back position is also quite a mystery in Tampa. Senior Marcus Shaw is the most experienced rusher, despite only recording 248 yards last season. However, due to his bruiser back style of play, he will likely share carries with others.
The window of opportunity is open for sophomore Willie Davis and junior Michael Pierre, as well as incoming freshmen Darius Tice and Sta’faon McCray.
The Bulls tout one of the most impressive defensive lines in the country. The defensive end pairing of senior Ryne Giddins (25 tackles, 3.5 sacks) and redshirt-sophomore Aaron Lynch will give opposing quarterbacks nightmares.
Lynch is a former Notre Dame transfer who recorded 33 tackles, seven tackles for loss and a team best 5.5 sacks during his only season in South Bend. The former Freshman All-American was forced to sit out last season after he decided to transfer closer to his Cape Coral home and join the South Florida program.
Seniors Julius Forte and Tevin Mims will also see some playing time behind the talented pass rushers. The defensive line also includes returning seniors Luke Sager and Anthony Hill, juniors Elkino Watson and Todd Chandler and sophomore James Hamilton.
The Bulls will be tested early with a Week 2 matchup against Michigan State. The bulk of their Big East schedule comes in October when they face Cincinnati, Louisville and UConn consecutively following an out-of-conference matchup with in-state foe Miami on Sept. 28.
Depending on whether the addition of Taggart can bring out the full potential of the many talented players on the Bulls roster, the South Florida football team may be capable of winning six games and making a bowl game appearance. However, the team does have plenty of competition this season and will need to solve their many unanswered position battles early.