Coach: Willie Taggart
2012 record: (16-20 career)
Key losses: QB B.J. Daniels, RB Demetri Murray, LB Sam Barrington
Newcomer to watch: TE Sean Price
Biggest games in 2013: at Michigan State (Sept. 7), Miami (Sept. 28)
Biggest question mark heading into 2013: South Florida is the only American Athletic team that doesn’t return its quarterback from last season. Under Taggart’s new reign, the Bulls will look to Bobby Eveld, Matt Floyd, incoming freshman Mike White or Steven Bench -- a Penn State transfer. Taggart has been mum on who’s leading the quarterback race thus far, telling the quarterbacks he won’t make his decision until later in training camp. Having lost the three top rushers from last season, the Bulls are looking for an identity on offense under Taggart and the quarterback that will lead the young unit.
Forecast: While many teams in the American Athletic boast a powerful offense with a rebuilding defense, South Florida has the opposite. In Taggart’s first year, the Bulls have two senior defensive ends with Ryne Giddins and Aaron Lynch. Lattimore was third on the team last year with 76 tackles and is on the preseason watch list for the Butkus Award, and USF returns both of its starting safeties. In contrast, the Bulls have just three returning offensive players who started at least half of USF’s games last year. Taggart will set the tone offensively, having four quarterbacks to choose from for the starting role. The most established player will be Davis, who tallied six touchdowns on 534 receiving yards.
With some of USF’s players on their third coach with Taggart, he said one of the challenges has been getting players to buy into his training regimen and his system. With a schedule that has the Bulls traveling to Michigan State in the second week of the season, then hosting the Hurricanes in the same month of September, USF needs to find its chemistry sooner rather than later if it wants to capitalize on its challenging schedule.
“If we're going to be big time like I say we are, we got to play big-time people,” Taggart said. “And we have great opportunities this year to do it.”
In the preseason media poll, the Bulls were picked to finish fifth in the conference, just behind in-state rival UCF. Taggart took Western Kentucky from a 20-game losing streak to the school’s first bowl appearance, and he wants to build the program at USF in similar fashion.
“We're a program that really hadn't lived up to our potential,” Taggart said. “But it's on us. And a big reason why I'm the head coach there now is to try to get our guys to live up to the potential.”