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Willie Taggart's Thoughts Going Into Week Two

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Coach Taggart speaks about his quarterMack, tailMack, and offensive Mackfield. Also, I make some really good excuses for Mike White and embed some tweets.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In his weekly teleconference on Monday, Coach Taggart updated us on the lingering effects of Saturday night's game: Andre Davis is sore and day-to-day. Thor Jozwiak got an MRI Tuesday to look at his left shoulder. Today it was confirmed that Thor will not play Saturday. Andre probably will.

Update: After Thursday teleconference, Davis is still day-to-day, Jozwiak is out, and Marlon Mack will start on Saturday thanks to Jeff Odom. Really? Well, kinda.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p>Here is the official transcript from me naming Marlon Mack <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/USF?src=hash">#USF</a>&#39;s starting running back vs. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Terps?src=hash">#Terps</a>. <a href="https://twitter.com/CoachTaggart">@CoachTaggart</a> <a href="http://t.co/J8YWFOFu1c">pic.twitter.com/J8YWFOFu1c</a></p>&mdash; Jeff Odom (@ByJeffOdom) <a href="https://twitter.com/ByJeffOdom/status/507565321713352704">September 4, 2014</a></blockquote>

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The other lingering effect of Saturday's game seems to be positivity and unity among the team. Taggart said in Tuesday's press conference that he knew the Bulls would win the game even in the first half, "because our attitudes were so much better." To the fans, the beginning of the Western Carolina game felt just like last year. But "it didn't feel that way on the sidelines," Taggart said.

Coach Taggart spoke Monday about how Mike White's performance improved as the game went on but everyone knows that he can't have liked seeing his quarterback throw 9 of 26 with an interception.

"I thought Mike rushed a lot of things. I thought he wasn't calm; I thought everything was in a hurry rather than just settling down and throwing the ball on time . . . and it shows in some of the throws that he made." Coach Taggart also directed some of the blame toward the offense as a whole. "Not only Mike, but some of our receivers there early in the game. Once all of those guys settled down we started completing some passes."

White did pass for 20+ yards five times in Saturday's game, by the way. And you can look at White's throwing and at USF's lack of first downs (13 total), lack of trips to the red zone (3) and time of possession (22:34) and conclude that there is a big offensive problem. However, the main reason the Bulls did not need to (nor get many chances to) put together long drives in this game was that Marlon Mack started scoring touchdowns from USF's own territory. With just 13 first downs, the Bulls got 485 yards of offense. With just three red zone trips, they scored seven times. So, we don't really know how much White would have improved over the course of a normal USF football game because a normal USF football game does not include touchdown runs of 62, 60 and 56 yards.

Speaking of Marlon Mack, Taggart gets annoyed when asked about why the media cannot talk to the freshman phenom. When asked Monday: "I told you guys about that last year, I don't know why we're talking about it now and it's an issue again. We've already been through this. Our freshmen are not ready for that, that's something-- we're going to train them on how to talk to the media, and they have enough worries as it is." On WDAE Tuesday, Taggart was asked about this again and was not exactly thrilled. "It was the policy here last year too and all of a sudden it has become an issue again . . . Our guys are great, the only ones that have an issue are the ones that are talking about it . . . some of these guys don't even like talking to the media, you know, some of them are bashful." He also seemed sick of the question in Tuesday's press conference. We get it coach, we get it. No one will ask again until next time there is a microphone in front of you.

Taggart attributes Mack's success to his hard work in fall camp. "He got here, he got a little stronger and faster this offseason, but more importantly, the kid learned the offense . . . It was great to see him go in and set up blocks and then hit the hole when he saw it," he said Monday. And that's exactly what Mack did against Western Carolina. On those long runs, the linemen were like a slingshot for him. He would follow the play until there was space to run, then he would cut through the line and run for his life.

Speaking of Mack's high school days on 98.7 The Fan Tuesday, Taggart praised Marlon's athleticism. "The kid was a heck of a safety as well. I thought he could have been an All-American safety. A very talented kid, a very humble kid." When it comes to making plays under pressure, Taggart likes Mack's enthusiasm and effort and is hoping that a Mackterial infection (is that overkill?) spreads among the team. "It gets contagious. Other guys see that and say, 'I want to do the same thing,' and hopefully it becomes contagious with our entire football team and everyone will start to show up."

Taggart likes to play things close to the chest when it comes to public statements (hence the no media contact for freshmen policy). Tuesday, he said that the running back by committee plan is still in place, despite Mack's superstar performance. When asked if Marlon would start, Taggart would not even confirm that. But it doesn't take a genius to know that Marlon Mack is the man getting the ball. The running back committee has convened, appointed Mr. Mack, and adjourned.

Defensively speaking, "we've got to stop the pass game," Taggart said. "We've got to get up and not let them throw quick gains on us, we've got to adjust to that better, and I thought we did after a while and we slacked off a little bit there in the fourth quarter." Yes, Western Carolina was 46 of 67 in passing, but from what I remember, about 50 of those were screen passes that you can't expect to be broken up. So, it's a stat that the coaches can bark at the defense about this week, but really with the style of passes the Catamounts were throwing, what you really want to see is your linebackers and cornerbacks sniffing out the play and stopping the receiver for just a yard or two.

Coach Taggart consistently praises the great showing of students and other fans that came to Saturday night's game. He hopes to see a packed house against Maryland this Saturday, by which time I'm certain all of those offensive and defensive kinks will have been worked out. Just be there, people, Marlon Mack will be on the field.

You can listen to Monday's teleconference here:

If you want to hear more of the we-were-down-but-we-pulled-out-a-win-against-adversity stuff, you can listen to the USF Football Show tonight from 7:00 - 8:00 on 98.7 The Fan. Also, there is a new TV show this week called USF Football: A New Era On the Bay (seriously, it has the phrase NEW ERA in it). The show should have some pretty cool behind the scenes stuff. It comes on Sun Sports Thursdays at 4:00, Bright House Sports Network Thursdays at 10:30 PM, Fridays at 11:30 PM, and Sundays at noon.

Notable tweets from this week: