Q&A: USF coach Willie Taggart, Part II

Here is the second part of my interview with new USF coach Willie Taggart, who goes over what it will take for the Bulls to get another 1,000-yard rusher, his defensive philosophy and when this program will win its first championship.

His answers might surprise you.

Your teams have a trademark of being physical and tough, and running the ball. USF hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2005. What’s it going to take to change that, and do you think you have the players on your roster who are capable of becoming 1,000-yard rushers.

WT: Well, you give me a tough guy who loves to play football and wants to be the best, and I’ll make him a good running back. He’s got to have some vision, and he’s got to have some instincts. If he doesn’t have any instincts, he’s going to have to go play defense or something, because he can’t play for me. I haven’t had a chance to evaluate our roster to see what we have. I plan on doing that while I’m out recruiting. But it all starts up front. We’ve got to find some big, strong people movers. That’s what I call our O-linemen, guys that can go in and really like to be physical in the trenches. And then, you’ve got to find a guy at quarterback. Again, our quarterback has to be smart because he has to get us in the right play. but it’s all a mentality. You’ve got to practice it that way. We practice it that way and it makes our defense so much tougher.

Is quarterback your No. 1 priority on the recruiting trail?

WT: Yes, No. 1 priority. It don’t work without one of those guys. We have two here. They’re going to get the first crack at it in spring ball. The thing about it is they’ve played a little. They’ve had experience. Now they have to learn our offense and go out and execute it.

What about defensively? Are you a guy who has an aggressive defense that likes to blitz or what’s your philosophy?

WT: We’re going to blitz, we’re going to hit the quarterback, we’re going to confuse the quarterback. You have to. These days, these kids do 7-on-7 year around. You can’t let them sit back or they’ll pick you apart. We’ve got to hit that guy and confuse him. Putting our best players on defense, with some restrictions, but we’re going to try to put our best players over there and then create that pack mentality.

In terms of recruiting, you mentioned owning the 813, 941 and the area codes around you. It seems UCF has made inroads into the Tampa area. How do you stem that tide and make sure you absolutely own Tampa Bay and get all the guys you want from that area?

WT: Well, that’s going to be our in-state area. Everyone looks at the entire state, but for us, that’s our in-state, this whole I-4 corridor (Eds note: from Tampa Bay through Orlando and east to Daytona Beach). We’ve got to get into every single high school in that area and build those relationships and show those kids why they should come to USF.

I know you’ve recruited the area extensively. Do you already have ties with all the coaches in the I-4 corridor?

WT: Oh yeah, a lot of them, and planning on getting more with some of them. That’s what helped us at Western is having those connections. We have a lot of kids among that I-4 corridor that went to school for us.

It must be an easier sell to convince them to go to USF as opposed to leaving home.

WT: Without a doubt. One, it was hard to get kids up there. And I think just by relationships with some of the coaches and some of the kids’ parents that we knew got them up there, and all it took was to get a couple of them and then for some of the kids to see the success they were having, they came up and saw and believed in what we were selling, and our vision and what we wanted out of our program. The same thing here. The good thing about it is they don’t have to go far. Come here, in a great town, with a lot to do and again having a chance to do what they want and that’s go and win a championship.

Speaking of championships, I know USF fans are going to want to know -- do you have a timetable for when you get win one?

WT: I’m planning on doing it next year. I don’t know about anyone else. We’re not lining up just to go out and play. We’re trying to win championships and it starts now. There’s no waiting. Will it be next year? Not sure. But we’re sure enough going to work our tails off to see to it that we can get closer to that goal.