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Football coach candidates emerge

Published: Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 06:12

With two schools on Tuesday announcing replacements following coach firings — Arkansas announced former Wisconsin coach Bret Beliema as its new coach, and Auburn announced former offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn would be making his return as head coach — the alterations around the college football landscape have begun.

Two coaching vacancies have been filled, and no names with potential links to the open job at USF have been hired, a good sign as the football program continues its search in earnest.

Early Tuesday morning, foxsports.com’s Alex Marvez reported that former Arkansas and Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt was set to interview for the opening at USF. This report came two days after ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reported that Nutt was “highly interested” in the job.

The report was disputed by Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, who reported Tuesday afternoon that Nutt had only been in preliminary conversation with the school, and no interview had been scheduled.

While Nutt continues to express interest in the coach position at USF, the other most prominent and consistent name has been that of Western Kentucky coach and former Manatee High School quarterback Willie Taggart.

On Tuesday, ESPN college basketball expert and Tampa area resident Dick Vitale expressed support for Taggart as coach for USF, saying on his Twitter account, “He played HS football in my area at MANATEE HS # 1 in USA — Would be a great hire 4 USF — WILLIE TAGGART is a natural. Willie is a WINNER!”

Multiple sources have also reported that Manatee football coach Joe Kinnan, who coached Taggart in high school, has endorsed Taggart for the job.

While multiple other names are rumored to be linked to USF’s open coaching spot, Taggart and Nutt are the apparent frontrunners early on in the search. The Oracle breaks down the resumes for both coaches.


Houston Nutt
Nutt, a 55-year-old with big conference experience, began his coaching career as an assistant at Oklahoma State and Arkansas before head coaching stops at Murray State and Boise State. He returned to Arkansas in 1997 as head coach.

Nutt went 75-48 in his 10 seasons as head at Arkansas — including two appearances in the Southeastern Championship game — but resigned following the 2007 season after issues surrounding the football program and hopes for the state to unite.

He then took a job at Missisippi, a four-year stay that began with two nine-win seasons but ended with consecutive losing seasons. Since being fired in 2011, Nutt has been a college football analyst for CBS.

The Arkansas native would be an unconventional hire for USF, as the school hired two up-and-coming coaches in Jim Leavitt and Holtz. At 55, Nutt could be looking at USF as a final destination for a coaching career, potentially for a short-term contract that USF — a program looking for a consistent leader who can guide the team into the long term — probably would not want.


Willie Taggart
Taggart has ties to the Tampa area in the form of his four-year playing career at Manatee High School, after which he committed to play at Western Kentucky.

The 35-year-old is the youngest coach in Division 1-A football, and was an assistant coach at Western Kentucky from 1999-2006 and at Stanford from 2007-09 before taking the head coaching job at Western Kentucky in 2010. Since taking over, Taggart has taken the team from 2-10 in his first season to consecutive 7-5 seasons.

While Nutt brings a level of experience that comes with age, Taggart brings the youth and freshness that could be exactly what USF football is searching for, with his strong recruiting presence in Florida and the potential to become the face of the program for an extended period.

 

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