If Willie Taggart can coach as well as he can speak, we'll have a few Big East/America 12/Metro Conference/Sun Belt/Something titles in Tampa within a couple seasons. With spring practice set to start this morning, Taggart delivered his second press conference of his USF career, dropping a lot of coachspeak and "Do Somethings" along with a couple interesting tidbits. Here are the highlights:
- I just want to reiterate, to start off, how genuinely refreshing Taggart's press conferences are. He's kind of like the total middle ground between Jim Leavitt's over-the-top grouchiness and Skip Holtz's over-the-top jolliness. After the debacle that was last season, it was going to take a really attractive hire to get USF fans back on the bandwagon. We've still yet to get on the field, but Coach T is saying all the right things and taking all the right first steps.
- The two big things Taggart stressed were accountability, both on and off the field, and toughness. After seeing the likes of USF's defense last season (and, might I add, Rick Smith trying to pass off the accountability to everyone but himself), that's a solid set of standards upon which to build a team.
- On the accountability note, Taggart mentioned three players that have been suspended indefinitely to start the spring. The first two aren't big surprises -- Chris Dunkley, who was arrested last season on a really awful domestic violence charge, and Bradley Battles, who's been suspended a couple times as well and had yet to make any sort of impact on the depth chart at running back. The third is a bit of a shocker -- Terrence Mitchell, who had no past history of trouble, also won't be on the roster to begin practice. Greg Auman reported Tuesday that Mitchell is facing a misdemeanor charge of possession of marijuana, so that probably explains that. (We don't know if he also, uh, "violated team rules" and would then have to sit out two games.) Taggart left the door open for all three to return, but I would figure that Mitchell is the only one who figures to make any sort of dent on the roster if he comes back. Coach T mentioned that Mitchell had been moved to cornerback before the suspension, so that raises all sorts of interesting possibilities. Although T-Rex was recruited as a defensive back, it's not often you see a team's second-leading receiver switch over to defense.
- A couple other players we won't be seeing immediately in spring practice because of injury: Sterling Griffin is still recovering from his knee surgery, which is awfully troubling seeing as Griffin can't seem to string together even half a season without ending up on the IR. Taggart also mentioned offensive lineman Thor Jozwiak, who saw some playing time late last season, and defensive tackle Demi Thompson as players who are still recovering from injuries.
- As far as the depth chart goes, it seems like almost every position is up for grabs entering the spring. The quarterback battle was specifically mentioned a few times, and Taggart mentioned he was content to let it go all the way to a week before the season before naming a starter if necessary. Grab some popcorn.
- The other position specifically mentioned was running back, where Coach T named Marcus "Squirrel" Shaw as the player who's impressed him most so far, both on and off the field. He also was quick to namedrop junior college transfer Mike Pierre and rising sophomore Willie Davis before mentioning that every player was starting from the same point, so it's best to take that with a grain of salt.
We'll have much more information to dig through once the Bulls take the field for the first spring practice of the Taggart era. Practice will only be open to the public once -- this Saturday -- before the spring game at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday, April 13.