The wacky 2015-16 college football season has met it's conclusion with Alabama raising their fourth national championship trophy in seven seasons. Naturally as college football fans, we avoid staring blankly into the cold, eight month-long abyss of the off-season by filling our time with way-to-early polls, previews, and everyone's favorite period of obsessing over the collegiate decisions of high school kids, recruiting.
With National Signing Day roughly three weeks away, coaching staffs and recruits will be able to engage in full contact on Thursday as the final push for the Class of 2016 begins. For South Florida head coach Willie Taggart, the labors of selling prospects on a mid-major program left in the dumpster by Skip Holtz are finally starting to pay dividends as the Bulls seemingly turned the corner in 2015 and are poised for greater heights in 2016.
The sustainability of this newly found success will begin with once again locking down one of the top classes in the AAC, finding valuable local area talent, and riding the wave of momentum permeating from a program who will be conference contenders. We must take a look at the philosophies in constructing the DNA of a program on the verge of great success and it starts with the man in charge.
Willie Taggart's claim to fame in all of his coaching endeavors has been his skill in recruiting. Whether coming up with catchphrases like #DoSomething or #GetOnTheBus, regularly dropping "100" emojis in his tweets, or appearing on ESPN's coaches film room for the national title game megacast, the thirty-nine year old coach is a young, charismatic individual who knows how to sell himself and his vision to high school prospects.
He has developed a special ability to directly relate with his mostly-Florida based athletes and without intentionally trying to sound cliche, has served as a pseudo-father figure to several players. These reasons are why he found success in bringing talent to Palo Alto as an assistant coach under Jim Harbaugh at Stanford and laying the current foundation of success at Western Kentucky.
Also, he's BFF's with Plies:
Being from right down I-75 in Bradenton, Florida where he won a state championship, Taggart himself is a Tampa product and a local high school football legend, which plays a critical role in the allure of pulling prized Florida talent to USF.
With assistant coaches and coordinators on his staff who have previous connections to local area high schools (both co-OC Danny Hope and DC Tom Allen have had coaching stints at powerhouses Manatee and Armwood respectively) the philosophy has been simple:
- Target natural athletes and speedsters that will serve as excellent additions to both sides of the football. The three-headed monster of Quinton Flowers, Marlon Mack, and Rodney Adams have served as the prototype of what Taggart looks to establish with his newly dubbed "Gulf Coast Offense." Meanwhile, defensive players who have a natural ability to fly to the football and wreak havoc has proven to be a great asset for Tom Allen's 4-2-5 "Bull Shark" defense.
- As Taggart has put it, locate hometown #BayMade players who want to "put on for their city" and stay within the confines of the Tampa area where they can play directly in front of family and friends. All-time leading Bulls receiver Andre Davis is the recent blueprint of this mold, while highly sought after class of 2016 quarterbacks Chris Oladokun and Xavier Gaines could continue this trend.
- Keep relationships with potential transfers in the back pocket. Going all the way back to Jason Pierre-Paul (when he had all of his fingers), USF has carried an excellent track record of keeping tabs on former prospects and re-presenting themselves as a prime destination where they can play close to home. Original TCU signee Jamie Byrd is the most recent example of players coming home to shine while incoming eligible transfers such as offensive linemen Glen Bethel and Reilly Gibbons, wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and former Elite 11 winner Asiantii Woulard will all bolster an already young and talented roster heading into 2016.
- Find diamonds in the rough who emerge as stars. In the natural hierarchy of the state of Florida, the "Big Three" and other power programs from surrounding states will more often than not beat South Florida to the punch when it comes to top four and five-star prospects. However, this leaves the door open for several often overlooked recruits to play with the proverbial chip on their shoulders and step in to make an impact. Taggart and staff have seen their best example of this in the form of linebacker Auggie Sanchez, a two star class of '13 prospect from nearby St. Pete who led the team with 117 tackles this past season.