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CFN Preview 2013 - USF Bulls
South Florida WR Andre Davis
South Florida WR Andre Davis
Posted Jul 18, 2013 2013 Preview - South Florida Bulls

USF Bulls

Preview 2013

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By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: Willie Taggart
First year: 0-0
Returning Lettermen
Off. 22, Def. 18, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 20  
Ten Best USF Players
1. DE Aaron Lynch, Soph.
2. WR Andre Davis, Jr.
3. LB DeDe Lattimore, Sr.
4. C Austin Reiter, Jr.
5. S Mark Joyce, Sr.
6. DE Ryne Giddins, Sr.
7. OT Quinterrius Eatmon, Jr.
8. DT Luke Sager, Sr.
9. RB Marcus Shaw, Sr.
10. TE Sean Price, Soph.
2013 Schedule
8/31 McNeese State
9/7 at Michigan State
9/14 Florida Atlantic
9/28 Miami
10/5 Cincinnati
10/12 at Connecticut
10/26 Louisville
10/31 at Houston
11/16 Memphis
11/23 SMU
11/29 at UCF
12/7 at Rutgers
One of the biggest teases in college football in recent years is starting over for the second time in the last three seasons.

South Florida, rich in many of the resources of a potential darkhorse program, came up lame over the last two seasons, costing head coach Skip Holtz his job. Despite residing in a fertile recruiting territory, enjoying quality facilities and playing in a watered-down Big East, the Bulls were just 6-16 against FBS opponents and 2-12 in league games since 2011. A change at the top was inevitable.

Enter Willie Taggart, one of the hottest young coaches in America. Make that very young. Taggart is only 36 years old, yet he’s hardly green. In fact, he earned this promotion on the heels of an improbable three-year stint at his alma mater, Western Kentucky, leading the Hilltoppers to FBS competitiveness with back-to-back 7-5 seasons. Two games over .500 at WKU, by the way, is akin to going 10-2 at most other schools.

Taggart’s boundless energy and fervor has been warmly received so far in Tampa, by locals, prospective recruits and administrators. He’s been a welcome departure from Holtz, possibly a more measured and controlled version of Jim Leavitt, USF’s only other head coach. Taggart is also a Harbaugh disciple, not a bad thing to be these days, having played for Jack and coached with Jim. And he’s every bit as competitive as Jim or John.

Taggart’s first year as a Bull will be all about learning his personnel and spreading his brand, inside and outside the confines of Raymond James Stadium. Impatient by nature, the coach might have to tap the brakes a bit in his debut. South Florida, a perennial sleeper choice in the preseason, isn’t likely to sneak up on anyone in 2013. While the cupboard isn’t bare, it won’t take a search party to find a can of soup either. From the team that went 3-9, not a single All-Big East performer returns. The backfield is starting over. Both cornerbacks have graduated. And a new punter and kicker must be mined. In other words, USF is rebuilding.

Gone for the time being are the days when South Florida begins a season with heightened expectations and visions of a BCS bowl game. The last two years of the Holtz era took care of those lofty pursuits. However, there is a silver lining in Taggart, a coach who looks in the early going to be a perfect fit for a program pining for a fresh infusion of positivity and enthusiasm.

What to watch for on offense: And the successor B.J. Daniels is … yet to be determined. Daniels was a fixture in Tampa for the past four years, but now he’s trying to make the San Francisco 49ers. The Bulls haven’t developed a sure-fire heir apparent, so the staff will take as much time as time as possible to name a starter. It didn’t help that neither senior Bobby Eveld nor or sophomore Matt Floyd seized control in the spring. The upside of the uncertainty is that it’s made South Florida enticing to transfers, such as Steven Bench. The former Penn State hurler left Happy Valley at the end of May, and will be immediately available for South Florida.

What to watch for on defense: Pass-rushing Lynch-pin. One of the highlights of Skip Holtz’s time in Tampa, signing Notre Dame transfer DE Aaron Lynch, will pay dividends to the new staff at South Florida for at least the next year. Lynch spent just one year in South Bend, yet he’s already considered a possible first-round draft choice in 2014 if he decides to leave school early. Yeah, he’s had maturity and control issues, but he’ll infuse a level of mayhem off the edge that the Bulls haven’t seen since George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul were wearing the green and gold.

The team will be far better if… it improves—dramatically—in turnover margin. Very few teams in college football have enough raw talent to withstand the degree of sloppiness that South Florida showed in 2012. The Bulls certainly weren’t one of them. They tied for dead last in the country in turnover margin, creating a Big East-low nine takeaways, while coughing the ball up a Big East-high 28 times. If USF is going to overcome having only modest talent, it’ll have to start by doing a complete reversal in this critical area.

The Schedule: Only four times all season will the Bulls have to leave the Sunshine State, and their only cold-weather game occurs in the Dec. 7 finale at Rutgers. The four-game non-conference slate will feature a mix of challenges, from rugged meetings with Michigan State and Miami, to manageable September games with McNeese State and Florida Atlantic. The American Athletic Conference is much softer than the Big East in its heyday, and two of the league’s toughest members, Louisville and Cincinnati, must visit Raymond James Stadium in 2013.

Best offensive player: Junior WR Andre Davis. South Florida is installing a pro-style offense that’ll aim to run the ball with more authority. Getting the ball in the hands of Davis, though, must remain a priority. He’s easily the best all-around athlete on this side of the ball, a 6-1, 207-pound acrobatic, with the speed and the leaping ability to school opposing defensive backs. Don’t be fooled by last year’s middling production, 46 catches for 534 yards and six touchdowns, which tailed off late in the year. Put Davis in a better offense with a more efficient battery mate and his anonymity would disappear faster than a Floridian rain shower.

Best defensive player: Senior LB DeDe Lattimore. No respect. No problem. Lattimore has been overlooked and underrated since the moment he left Athens, Ga. for Tampa, yet all he does is perennially produce. The veteran of 36 starts for the Bulls is never too far from the ball, racking up 239 tackles as a Bull. His output dropped to 76 stops, 7.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks last season, a case of a good player being caught up in a bad situation. Lattimore ought to rebound under the new staff, finally earning the all-league honors that have eluded him throughout his career.

Key player to a successful season: Senior RB Marcus Shaw. Head coach Willie Taggart and offensive coordinator Walt Wells will employ a pro-style attack that accentuates the ground game. But someone needs to step up and lead a ground game that’s without last season’s top three rushers. Shaw is the logical choice to get first dibs on the gig, provided he can hold off the challenge of Golden West (Calif.) College transfer Michael Pierre. Shaw has started three games and rushed for 391 yards over the last three years, never serving as more than a complement to the regulars.

The season will be a success if ... the Bulls return to the postseason in Willie Taggart’s first year on the job. It’s possible because the team should be pretty good on both lines, and because the newly-configured American Athletic Conference is like a rich-man’s Conference USA. There are eight winnable games on the schedule, ranging from hosting McNeese State and Florida Atlantic to visiting Connecticut, Houston and UCF. If USF can capture six of those contests, it’ll earn a 13th game and a tailwind heading into 2014.

Key game: Oct. 5 vs. Cincinnati. This is one of those games that could define the 2013 campaign for the Bulls. Sure, they could be the underdog, even at Raymond James Stadium. But do the Bearcats have that much more talent for the other rookie head coach in this one, Tommy Tuberville? Not really. And if South Florida can hold serve in Tampa, this is the kind of mild upset that’s capable of changing the tenor of the second half of the season.

2012 Fun Stats:
- Yards per rush: South Florida 4.3 – Opponents 3.6
- Interceptions thrown: South Florida 15 – Opponents 2
- Third-quarter scoring: South Florida 57 - Opponents 131
- 2013 USF Preview | 2013 USF Offense
- 2013 USF Defense | 2013 USF Depth Chart