Willie Taggart’s first year at South Florida couldn’t have gone much worse. In 2013, USF started 0-4, won two games and then lost six straight to finish 2-10.
Taggart knew the first year would be tough, but was the program in even worse shape than he thought?
“Absolutely,” the South Florida head coach said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “There were so many different changes. Everyone looks at the win loss column, but there was a lot of things going on at USF when I took the job. We were in the Big East and two months after that, we were in the AAC. There were a lot of unknowns from that. And that by itself, caused a change of plans on certain things and made things a little difficult. And then just recruiting and getting the players in here and changing the culture that we had here, I felt like we were on a downward spiral and then we stopped that downward spiral and started working our way back up.”
mean it can function the way you need it to function. I think it’s at least four weeks he’s out.”
USF went 4-8 in 2014 before going 8-4 this season. A six-win improvement in two seasons, to be sure, is nothing short of remarkable. What changed in that short amount of time?
“To be honest, it was everything away from football,” Taggart said. “I thought the football part would come around, but we had to be better academically, we had to be better socially, and before we could be great football players, we really concentrated on getting those guys and recruiting the right guys that fit what we wanted to be here and then held them accountable to live up to that standard.”
When Taggart recruited those first couple of years, he couldn’t sell recruits on wins or bowl games – at least not yet. But he could sell them on other things.
“It was our vision of what we wanted to build at USF,” he said. “A lot of the kids knew about USF. A lot of the kids were Florida kids who wanted to stay home. We were more selling our vision and our plan of what we wanted to do and how we wanted to build it and finding guys that wanted to be a part of that and wanting to be a part of building something. Our coaches have done a great job of doing the research and finding those kind of guys – not just football players, but guys that have a chip on their shoulder, guys that want to be a part of something special.”
USF started 1-3 but won seven of eight to close the season. The Bulls will face Taggart’s former team, Western Kentucky (11-2), in the Miami Beach Bowl on Dec. 21 at 2:30 p.m. ET.