According to 247 Sports, USF has been one of the best teams in the conference in recruiting in 2014. As a matter of fact, they finished ahead of some good Power Five teams like TCU and Louisville. So, why are the Bulls 6-18 in the last two years? Somewhere along the way the recruiting numbers are failing to translate into on field results. Much like Linus Caldwell, this South Florida program is getting lost in translation.
Marlon Mack is one of the few recruits in Tampa who has lived up to the hype. Mack ran for over 1,000 yards as a true freshman. The only thing left for him to work on is taking care of the football. He lost two fumbles as a freshman, but fumbled five times in all.
Running back is about the only source of confidence though as there is turnover everywhere else on the offense. Steven Bench or Quinton Flowers will start at quarterback, but neither guy completed even half of his passes last year, and the pair threw four interceptions to only three touchdowns. Flowers seems to be the favorite to win the job, but no formal announcement has been made as far as I can tell.
A thin receiving corps will almost certainly not make life easy for whoever does end up winning the job. Sean Price is a solid option at tight end though and is on some preseason Mackey Award watch lists. Kentucky transfer A.J. Legree is a guy to keep an eye on though. He sat out last season, but he’s eligible to play now and showed some flashes at Kentucky averaging nearly 14 yards per catch in his last year there, even if it was on only seven receptions.
Both tackles and the center may be gone from last year’s offensive line, but the guards should be good. Brynjar Gudmundsson is entering his third year as the starter at right guard and Thor “The Hammer” Jozwiack has 14 career starts at left guard.
Mattias Ciabatti is the best punter in the conference, and he should get plenty of opportunities to prove it in 2015. That is obviously not what the Bulls want, but it’s comforting to know that they should at least not lose the field position battle when they aren’t scoring.
Running the ball on this Bull defense should prove difficult with Derrick Calloway plugging the middle, but the pass rush could be a source of concern. Eric Lee and Josh Black are expected to start at the defensive end positions and they combined for exactly one sack last year. They need to multiply that considerably if they want to be of any help to their secondary.
Speaking of which, with four starters back in the secondary, the Bulls ought to be at least reasonable in the pass. This group didn’t make a ton of big plays last year (only four total interceptions between those four guys), but they didn’t give up many either. As they switch to a 4-2-5, it should be a logical move as they play to their strengths.
The switch to the 4-2-5 won’t add depth at linebacker, but with fewer linebackers on the field it should keep them fresh for longer. It isn’t a thin group either. The top three linebackers from a year ago return, led by Nigel Harris who had nine tackles for loss and five forced fumbles a year ago. Five linebackers who saw action in 10 or more games last year return, and there are four freshman backers who were a three-star or higher recruit.
Things haven’t gone well for Willie Taggart in Tampa, and I fear this may be his last if that trend continues. Taggart has proven he can recruit and he showed he could coach at Western Kentucky, but it may be time for a change in scenery. I don’t want to advocate for a guy to lose his job, nor am I, but if USF has its fifth consecutive losing season that will likely be the end result. USF should open with a win against Florida A&M, but then back-to-back trips to Florida State and Maryland will likely put the Bulls under .500 and it also seems likely that they stay there.
Credit Cover Photo to Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports