Three days after USF’s first scrimmage of the spring and coach Willie Taggart’s first, the new coach said he was able to see what exactly he was working with on his new team.
With a new offense, defense and coaching style, some adversity is to be expected and Taggart wasn’t hesitant to point it out.
“I thought offensively, we just didn’t play consistently,” Taggart said. “We’ll do some good things, we’ll drive the ball down and have a false start or a fumbled snap.”
What Taggart spoke of was apparent from the start.
Though only the first 10 minutes of the scrimmage were open to the media, the entirety open to commits and recruits, turnovers appeared to be an issue.
After junior wide receiver Andre Davis returned the kickoff, the opening drive was set to take place with the starting offense taking the field with junior quarterback Bobby Eveld at the helm.
In the backfield was senior runningback Marcus Shaw, who had his work ethic in the off-season praised by both Taggart and offensive coordinator Walt Wells. On the opening drive, Shaw was marked as the first of the Bulls to fumble the ball.
For a USF team that ranked second to last in the Big East in scoring offense last season, along with the most interceptions with 15 and tied for most fumbles with 13 in the conference, a fumble on opening drive was not what the Bulls were looking for this Spring.
Shaw ran a lap around the practice fields.
With the highly-praised back being one of multiple players to lose the ball, Taggart said he hopes to jump on the issue quickly.
“The good thing about it is we have a while before our first game,” Taggart said. “These are all things we can work on.”
Though turnovers, along with inconsistencies such as being called for offsides were evident, the defense’s performance that caused the fumbles and disrupted the offense also got credit from Taggart.
“Leaving the scrimmage on Saturday, I thought our defense played with a lot of enthusiasm and made a lot of plays,” Taggart said. “That was impressive to see.”
With a defense that forced the second fewest turnovers and the least interceptions in the Big East, while ranking second to last in total defense, the scrimmage may have given Taggart a glimpse of what the Bulls are capable of on that side of the ball.
The lead for the defense on the line was no surprise to the coaches.
Senior defensive tackle Luke Sager stormed the field with the starting defense.
“Luke has been ‘Mr. Consistent,’” Taggart said.
Sager with his new title has impressed both Taggart and defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan with his leadership leading up to the scrimmage.
Also on the defense was senior defensive back Joshua Brown, one of the defenders to pounce on the fumbles that the offense coughed up.
“I thought Josh Brown played one heck of a scrimmage,” Taggart said. “He was really impressive, seeing him out here making plays.”
Lined up against the backs on defense was Davis, who started things off for the scrimmage at kickoff.
Taggart said he continued to be impressed with his skills.
“I think that kid (Davis) is a special talent out there,” he said.
While the offense struggled and the battle between Eveld and junior Matt Floyd ensued, even the special teams played a major role in the scrimmage.
Junior kicker Marvin Closs led the battle for kicker, while possibly being given the chance to take some punts as well.
From about 35 yards out, Closs lined up his kick.
Staring back at him were the goal posts, thinner than normal to add difficulty. The field goal would decide the conditioning for the Bulls. Closs making it would certainly make both his coaches, but more importantly his team, happy.
“We had a field goal to win the game on a small goal post and he nailed it right down the middle,” Taggart said. “I told him the other day that if he continues to kick like that, then he’s going to do big things for this football team.”
Though the team had ups and downs during Saturday’s scrimmage, there is still plenty of football to go with six practices left before the Green and Gold game April 13 at the Raymond James Stadium.