Taggart era begins with first spring practice



That was the one word used by USF coach Willie Taggart to describe the start of spring practice Wednesday morning.

Excited for the day, he wasn’t afraid to admit he slept in the same practice gear he wore Wednesday — whistle and all.

“I rolled right out bed, got my shoes on and was ready to go,” he said.

He was finally ready for the players to do what he has been preaching since his arrival at USF, he said. “Do something.”

The motto has rubbed off on some players, such as junior quarterback Bobby Eveld.

“Obviously we want to do something,” he said. “We want to make some noise in the country this year. Not just the Big East or whatever conference we’re gonna be in, but we want to make some national noise. So we’re gonna try to do something.”

Wednesday’s practice was that chance.

In contrast to the country music that kicked off spring practices last year, Crime Mob’s “Knuck If You Buck” and T.I.’s “Bring ‘em Out” were the songs that reeled in the Taggart era of USF football, as players began their warm-up.

Lined up in the end zone, offense in white jerseys and defense in green, players danced and bobbed their heads, ready for the practice to officially start as the music echoed throughout the field.

Apart from some slightly wet grass from morning dew and early rain, the weather was near-perfect and nothing could dampen the spirits of Taggart or the players.

Last season was one that USF and all its fans would like to forget, Eveld said, and that is the new coach’s philosophy.

“He’s made it very, very clear that the past is the past and we’re not going to worry about that anymore, we’re heading forward,” Eveld said. “We want to move on from that and have a positive experience from here on out.”

Eveld is part of the battle among battles in USF’s depth chart that Taggart refers to as a “blank slate.”

“I think competition is very good,” Eveld said. “I have a good relationship with all the quarterbacks. The competition is going to make us all better.”

With everyone competing for a starting spot, Eveld and junior quarterback Matt Floyd took to the field. After starting with basic throwing drills it was time step under the center and take snaps.

About 15 yards outside of the end zone, Floyd and Eveld got a chance to move the ball a bit with some of the linemen, receivers and running backs. Taggart sprung into action every now and then, giving his input and correcting mistakes.

Meanwhile, starting wide receivers such as junior Andre Davis were busy with their position drills.

Davis, who led the team in receiving last year with 46 receptions, 534 yards and six touchdowns, was more than ready to strap on his gloves for this first time since fall.

“I’ve been looking forward to it all offseason, everybody has been working and grinding,” Davis said. “I just want to be the one that leads by example, I’m going to come out here every day and grind my behind off to set an example for the younger guys.”

After Davis and the receivers finished their drills, they connected on multiple passes on different routes from Eveld and Floyd and looked comfortable doing so as Taggart watched, again correcting anything he saw out of place.

While the offense prepared for the upcoming season, to the field left of them was the defense.

The defense epitomized Taggart’s philosophy of “tough” football, sprinting around the field for various drills and even getting some contact in for the defensive line.

Part of the lineup this season is junior defensive tackle Todd Chandler, who was on the field all 12 games last year.

Chandler, who said he shares Taggart’s excitement for hard-nosed football, noticed the passion in his new coach early on.

“He’s always fired up. Everything that he does he does it 100 percent and he expects that of his players,” Chandler said. “That’s what we’re gonna give him.”

The 312-pound defensive tackle didn’t want to discredit former coach Skip Holtz, but feels as if Taggart brings a whole new feel to the program.

“Coach Holtz is a good guy,” Chandler said. “He instilled a lot of good qualities in us, but coach Taggart, oh my, he’s tough from a whole different aspect. And not knocking Coach Holtz, he’s a great person, but Coach Taggart comes to you from a whole different aspect. He comes to you with respect, humility and he’s so relatable and down to earth. Being around coaches and the whole recruitment process, he’s the first coach I came across that’s like that.”

With the conclusion of the first spring practice, Taggart’s “do something” era was underway — finally.