It looks like our exuberance for a new, more exciting (and possibly more effective) spread offense may have been irrational. Instead, the new offense looks a lot like the status quo. Willie Taggart brought in former Purdue head coach Danny Hope as an offensive line coach, and made Hope co-offensive coordinator with David Reaves, who had previously been USF's wide receivers coach. On top of that, Taggart announced that he would resume calling the plays.
Maybe we all got sucked in by the preliminary reports and our expectations were too high. But there are still some problems that need to be reviewed. We have a pretty good body of evidence that Taggart's preferred offense isn't working. We don't exactly know whether it's because the players he has aren't good enough, or if it's structurally deficient, or if it's not suited to the talent available to recruit in Florida. Still, that really doesn't matter. The results have not been there. Taggart "resuming" the play-calling duties (we actually aren't sure if he ever stopped calling them) begs a few questions.
How does this make the offense faster?
One of the biggest complaints about the offense under Taggart has been how long it takes to get plays into the huddle. The quarterbacks often don't have enough time to completely read the defense and get people motioned into the right position before snapping the ball. And rarely does the offense make it an entire game without having to burn a timeout because the play clock is about to run out. With everything else Taggart has to pay attention to as the head coach, how often can he be ready with the next play as soon as the last one is over? With how much he micromanages his quarterbacks, would he ever let any of them call their own plays in a no-huddle situation?
How does this make the offense better?
Danny Hope's Purdue teams ran a more open offense than Taggart has, but it wasn't really that effective according to the numbers. From 2010-2012, Hope's last three years there, Purdue ranked 108th, 86th, and 92nd in Offensive F/+ according to Football Outsiders. (The FEI rankings are even worse if you dare to look those up on the same site.) Ordinarily you could argue that Purdue has the opposite problem as USF, and it's hard to get skill players to come up to West Lafayette, and that's why a spread doesn't work there. But Joe Tiller made his coaching name at Purdue with a wide-open offense long before Hope took over, which helps disprove that theory.
How much of Taggart's imprint will be on this offense?
Let's assume that USF actually installs a new offensive system in 2015 (we are skeptical). If Taggart is calling the plays, then presumably he has veto power over whatever Hope and Reaves might want to call. It's going to be asking a lot for someone as dyed in the wool on power football as Taggart to not default to safer, more conservative plays if he doesn't like what he's hearing in his headset. Also, if Taggart is calling the plays, he still has to be deeply involved in the offensive meetings. Who knows how much different the game plans will even be from the past two years?
Several high-profile, last-ditch attempts by embattled coaches to gin up offenses at other schools recently have failed and taken the head coach down with them -- for instance, Brent Pease at Florida last year, or Doug Nussmeier at Michigan. This isn't even the same as those examples, because Taggart is still going to be heavily involved in the offensive scheme at USF. You'd like to give Taggart the benefit of the doubt, and we'd certainly like to be wrong. Don't think we didn't notice how Jim Harbaugh's Stanford program hit critical mass in year three and took a huge step forward. Look for the table about halfway through.
Still, nothing we've seen out of Taggart in the last two years leads us to believe that there will be major changes or major improvement in the offense in 2015 with the new plan that's been put in place. And if there isn't, by this time next year Mark Harlan may have already hired Willie Taggart's replacement.