Is USF a sleeper team in 2013?

USF has underachieved the last two seasons. That much is not up for debate.

But a new year always brings a new sense of optimism. And when we're talking about USF, there is always unbridled optimism, along with folks eager to label this team as a "darkhorse" or "sleeper" in the conference. I have done so myself!

So I am sure it surprises none of you that ESPN Insider Travis Haney has chosen USF as his "sleeper" team in the soon-to-be renamed Big East. Why are the Bulls his pick? His main argument surrounds new coach Willie Taggart, who comes from the Harbaugh family coaching tree.

Haney writes:

Taggart went from two wins in 2010 to seven in each of the next two seasons, leaving the job for USF and being replaced by ... Bobby Petrino. That's raising the bar.

So believing he could get USF going with Florida kids is not very far-fetched, regardless of what happens to the crumbling football league.

I have been on the record as saying Taggart is an A-plus hire for USF. I think he will turn this program around quickly. But I am not sure USF is a sleeper this year for a host of reasons. The biggest is offense. I just don't think the Bulls have the players in place to run the aggressive smash-mouth style Taggart likes to run. That was proven in the spring game, when they had no real consistent rushing game on either team. To me, the Bulls have one skill player with NFL caliber talent on offense right right now -- receiver Andre Davis. That's about it.

Where the Bulls could surprise some folks is on defense. I think the front has a chance to be much better than it has been over the last several seasons. There are some depth issues at linebacker, and the secondary has to be rebuilt from scratch. But if USF can keep games close because of its strength up front, then this team could have a respectable season.