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2013: New Man at the Helm

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2013: New Man at the Helm

August 03, 2016

On Sept. 3, the Bulls will start their 20th season of football.  This summer we’ll take a look back at 20 moments, one for each season, including the “practice but no games” year of 1996.  These may not be the biggest moments in USF history; they may not even be moments where things went right for the Bulls.  But they help define the program, remind us where the time has gone, and show how our Bulls have progressed as season 20 gets closer and closer.

20 Seasons, 20 Memories: 18th Edition (2013)

Story Archive

First Edition (1996)
Second Edition (1997)
Third Edition (1998)
Fourth Edition (1999)
Fifth Edition (2000)
Sixth Edition (2001)
Seventh Edition (2002)
Eighth Edition (2003)
Ninth Edition (2004)
10th Edition (2005)
11th Edition (2006)
12th Edition (2007)
13th Edition (2008)
14th Edition (2009)
15th Edition (2010)
16th Edition (2011)
17th Edition (2012)



Voice of the Bulls

TAMPA, AUG. 3, 2016 – Every head coach hiring is a little different.  At the very beginning in 1995, USF brought in candidates in a fairly public manner. Can you remember the five that were interviewed? 

Jim Leavitt, Joe Kinnan (currently on Willie Taggart’s staff), Tony Samuel (then a Nebraska assistant), the late Dan Allen (then head coach of Holy Cross) and Jack Burns, a longtime NFL assistant comprised the group of five.

By 2010, the process was a little more behind the scenes. We certainly heard Skip Holtz’s name mentioned, but for most it wasn’t clear until right before the announcement that he was the guy.

By comparison, the courting of Willie Taggart happened in a much shorter time frame. The hiring became public late on Dec. 7, 2012 just five days after the job came open.


We knew him, of course.  He was a Bay Area high school standout, had gone on to play against the Bulls in the early days of the program and in 2010 he returned to Tampa with Western Kentucky, this time as their head coach.  He’d been a winner everywhere he had been.

The hiring came less than three calendar years after Skip Holtz’s first day.  That’s a lot of change in a short amount of time for a football program.  There were players on the team who were about to play for their third head coach.

Practices were different. The coaching staff was different. The offensive philosophy was very different. As the 2013 season approached, it was a fair question to ask how the team would respond to three years of almost constant change.

There was a lot of positive energy around the program, and being close to it, you couldn’t help but think things were going to get better. But, there was also no denying that it was a going to be a pretty complete re-build, and whether we liked it or not, those things take time.

To this point, the Bulls had enjoyed remarkable stability at quarterback. Just three men (Blackwell, Grothe and Daniels) had been the primary starters in 12 of the first 16 years of USF Football.  But this year, there was no clear answer at quarterback and up and down the roster there wasn’t much depth.

Reality struck on Aug. 31, 2013 when the Bulls lost to McNeese State, marking USF’s first-ever defeat at the hands of a non 1-A opponent. By October, the Bulls were 0-4.

Things got better the following two weeks, when USF beat Cincinnati at home and UCONN on the road to start 2-0 in their first American Athletic Conference season. Although much of the offense was supplied by special teams and the defense, it was a great way to start play in a new conference.

Those would be the last victories of 2013, however, as the team finished 2-10. It was now three years without a bowl game, and the postseason seemed a long way away.

There was progress in 2013, although it was easy to miss at the time.  Rules were made and adhered to. Policy was set. Routine was established. The foundation of a tightly knit team was being put in place. The trick now, as Willie Taggart would say frequently in the upcoming months, was to stay the course of what the coach believed in and had employed with much success before.

Probably the most visible sign of progress to the fan base around this time was the quality of recruiting classes that were coming to USF. But, there was still a steep climb ahead, and everyone who cared about the program would put their patience to the test in the months to come as those recruits came to campus and grew into stars.

As some wise man somewhere said, "The problem with the future is that it’s not here yet." 

The Bulls were moving toward an exciting future, but it wasn’t going to hurry up for us.

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