I feel like we've been writing a small-town newspaper the last few weeks, because after Willie Taggart was hired and the initial excitement died down, very little has happened. But we do have some stories to share.
Meet Howard Wilder, a junior-college cornerback from Woodland Hills, California, who verbally committed to USF yesterday. The Bulls are going hard on the secondary in this recruiting class -- Wilder's commit makes a total of five defensive backs so far in this year's class. Which obviously makes sense, since the Bulls were horrible in the secondary last year, and then their two starting cornerbacks graduated. It's also the second JUCO cornerback in the group, which tells you USF can't really afford to wait for their high school prospects to develop.
Auman's story plays up the angle of Ron Cooper helping to bring in Wilder, and mentions that USF will give him the #6 that Kayvon Webster wore the last four years, but I enjoyed one of the things Wilder told Bulls 247 ($) when they got hold of him yesterday:
"I'm only playing one year and I'm on my way to the NFL. The coaches think I can do it if I have a good season and I know I will."
Andrea Adelson talked to Taggart about his recruiting strategy, and it's your typical new coach boilerplate. We want to recruit our home turf, we want to sell kids on staying home, there's a lot of talent around our area, and so forth. Everyone says that, so it wasn't too revealing. (Although I did like the dig at schools who won championships "15 years ago." What's up, Miami.)
The one notable quote was near the end of the story:
Ultimately, Taggart wants his program to be known not for signing flashy classes, or beating a "bigger" school for a recruit, but for player development.
"You get a three-star by the time he's a junior or senior, he should be a four- or five-star guy," Taggart said.
Player development was a hallmark of Jim Leavitt's teams, especially on defense. They turned several unknown prospects into big contributors, and even into NFL players. (To name one example, the last USF player left in the NFL playoffs, Stephen Nicholas, was a two-star prospect.) As long as the Bulls are stuck in a backwoods conference, they will have to put an emphasis on developing their own talent. It's something that didn't happen nearly enough with Skip Holtz and his staff.
The women's basketball opened Big East play with a tough loss to #2 Notre Dame and another defeat at DePaul, but they rebounded last night by throttling Cincinnati 77-44. The Smith twins combined for 33 points, while the USF defense forced 25 turnovers and held the Bearcats to 33% shooting.
USF's next game is Saturday at Villanova, where Andrea Smith can take a run at winning another Big East player of the week award.
We are irrationally excited for softball, just so we can write about a USF team that beats the crap out of everyone. We'll preview the team ourselves as the season approaches, but the official site has already started their preview. Believe it or not, this year's pitching staff may be even deeper than last year's. There's also a preview of the Bulls' outfield available.