With senior Bobby Eveld and redshirt sophomore Matt Floyd already on the roster, Taggart thought highly enough of sophomore Steven Bench to give him a scholarship after Bench was granted release from his Penn State scholarship April 24.
Bench received interest from Mississippi State, North Carolina State and USF following his departure from Penn State, but said he chose USF because he was told the quarterback position was an open competition.
If Taggart didn’t envision Bench as a potential starting quarterback this season, he wouldn’t have further complicated his decision on a starter by throwing Bench into the mix so soon.
Taggart said on multiple occasions Bench was behind Eveld and Floyd in knowledge of the offensive system, which is completely understandable — both quarterbacks have studied the system since January, while Bench didn’t hit campus until May.
But if Taggart wasn’t confident in Bench yet, he could have redshirted him this season to give the transfer a full year to learn the offense.
The fact Taggart inserted Bench for a series against Michigan State on Sept. 7 and offensive coordinator Walt Wells said Sept. 10 that Bench will continue to see action, shows an inclination within the coaching staff to give Bench an opportunity to play.
“We like his ability to move and create in space,” Wells said. “He’s got good speed and can move around in the pocket, which gives you some (offensive) opportunities. He doesn’t lack confidence and kind of breathes that into our guys.”
Even though he’s behind Floyd and Eveld by five or six months in knowledge of the offense, this plan of action shows a clear desire to build toward a full-fledged Bench era.
Sure enough, after Eveld collided with senior running back Marcus Shaw against FAU early in Saturday’s game, Taggart gave Bench his second opportunity and that progressive plan of action may have been thrown away.
Bench led the Bulls to a field goal on his first drive, then after the Bulls intercepted the Owls, Bench hit senior fullback Ryan Eppes for his first touchdown pass.
On his third drive running the offense, Bench was at the helm of the Bulls’ march down the field on an 11-play, 69-yard drive, until it stalled at the goal line on consecutive rushing attempts.
Following Bench’s strong start, the Owl defense adjusted and the Bulls didn’t near the end zone again, but as the coaching staff learns Bench’s abilities better and Bench learns his teammates’ strengths and the offense better, Bench will give USF the best chance for continued
Bobby Eveld/Matt Floyd
By Adam Fenster, SPORTS EDITOR
There’s a theme here on Taggart’s team, at least at quarterback, and it’s if a guy is having an off night, his spot at the top of the depth chart is as good as gone.
Throughout the offseason, it was senior Bobby Eveld and redshirt sophomore Matt Floyd as the frontrunners to take snaps, leaving freshman Mike White and redshirt freshman Tommy Eveld as the backups.
Then there was sophomore transfer Steven Bench, who debuted in a series against Michigan State, and played over three quarters against FAU.
Three games in and the quarterback position seems like a game of musical chairs — or musical snaps in this case — and USF coach Willie Taggart is in a tough situation in deciding who the quarterback should be.
While it looks like Bench could be the starter going against Miami on Sept. 28, pulling the plug on Floyd and Eveld may be too hasty of a decision.
What Eveld holds over Bench and Floyd is something that neither can match — his experience.
As a walk-on in 2010, Eveld came in to play behind B.J. Daniels. As the backup, Eveld showed some spark at times leading the Bulls on big drives, but never proved his dominance. His total of five touchdowns with eight interceptions over the past three years speaks to that. 12