USF head coach Willie Taggart’s first Tuesday press conference included less food and a lot more empty seats than his introductory press conference seven months ago.
The sparsely attended event led to Taggart to exclaim, “We better win some ballgames.”
While I expect a decent crowd to watch Taggart’s debut Saturday against McNeese State, the first-year head coach understands that his program needs to convince a fickle fan base that he can build a consistent winner.
It took Jim Leavitt several winning seasons and a top-10 ranking before USF football crowds consistently reached the 300-level seats at Raymond James Stadium. And as quickly (relatively speaking) as the program rose to No. 2 in the nation and experienced back-to-back sellouts against West Virginia and UCF, things quickly fell to rock bottom with the unfortunate departure of Leavitt and even more unfortunate hiring of Skip Holtz.
And this is what Taggart stepped into Tuesday afternoon as he explained his decision to name Matt Floyd the starting quarterback. While the decision may have surprised some fans it really was a no-brainer and it was the best way to start the new clean slate that the Bulls will have under Taggart.
The small-sample size of Floyd hasn’t necessarily been promising. In his only play against Florida State he was sacked, fumbled the ball and it was returned for a touchdown that blew open what had been a fairly close game with the Seminoles. Frankly, turnovers have been the most consistent part of Floyd’s game thus far.
But he also has a little talent. He can make a few plays with his feet and he does have the arm strength to throw the ball down the field. Taggart isn’t going to ask too much of Floyd this season but he is going to occasionally need a quarterback that can keep the defense honest by the threat of downfield passing – something senior Bobby Eveld couldn’t do.
Taggart hasn’t only given Floyd the ball for opening day, he’s handing him the keys to the car and promises there is no more quarterback controversy.
“We’re going to get behind Matt and support him,” Taggart said. “We’re not going to go game-by-game worrying about his position being taken.”
Had Floyd not won the starting job there was a good chance he would be on his way out looking for a new place to play. But instead the redshirt sophomore could prove to be the biggest beneficiary in the first year of the Taggart era. If Floyd can provide excitement and win some ball games it will only be a matter of time before the fans start rallying around him and fill some of the empty seats around Raymond James.
A QUICK LOOK AT THE DEPTH CHART
A couple of quick notes on USF’s two-deep for McNeese State, which was released Monday:
— The biggest surprise from the fan base stems from senior defensive end Ryne Giddins failing to lock down a starting spot. He should get plenty of time but the former Armwood standout has to be disappointed.
— Expect at least one true freshman to get some carries behind Marcus Shaw and Michael Pierre. It will most likely be Darius Tice.
— Some fans were a little surprised that Deonte Welch is above highly-touted transfer Chris Dunkley at ‘Z’ wide receiver but Dunkley will get plenty of snaps.
— Four true freshmen – fullback Auggie Sanchez, linebacker Nigel Harris and defensive backs Lamar Robbins and Nate Godwin all made the two deep and all four received praise from Taggart at various points during training camp.
BIVINS WILL SIT OUT 2013
Former top defensive back recruit Chris Bivins will redshirt this season as he continues to recover from a torn ACL suffered in November. He had tore ligaments in the same knee in a high school playoff game but appeared to be healthy enough for Holtz to burn his redshirt four games into last season. Although Bivins played in four games he clearly favored his knee and didn’t have the same speed.
Bivins was expected to be USF’s nickel or dime cornerback but he made the decision to redshirt and give his injuries extended time to recover.