For all the struggles of the USF football team so far, the leading topic of discussion at Raymond James Stadium, bars and on social media is the ever-changing quarterback position.
Arguably just as important as the quality of a coaching staff is the quality of talent on the roster.
Before a coach’s ability can really be judged, he has to recruit. And he has to recruit premier talent at premier positions.
There’s no more premier position than being the quarterback of any team, and in college football, it takes time to find that guy.
It’s obvious USF doesn’t have a premier quarterback yet — but they could have had him.
Sometimes in the midst of a coaching overhaul, committed high school players become attached to coaches, and some become attached to the university.
Those who become attached to a fired coach often need some convincing to stay committed to a university, but often times, they open up their recruitment again, looking for a coaching style that fits their skill set and gives them the best chance to succeed.
When USF fired Skip Holtz, Bulls fans lost out on a potentially premier quarterback in Asiantii Woulard of Winter Park High School, who committed to USF in June 2012 and announced it on 98.7, The Fan.
Woulard, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound former wide receiver, began playing quarterback his junior year of high school and became ESPN.com’s No. 1 rated dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2013. He was on the Holtz bandwagon, openly cheering for USF on Twitter.
For all the talk of Holtz not recruiting top-Tampa area talent, he finally had the commitment of an elite player at quarterback, albeit out of the Orlando area.
Within hours of Holtz’s firing, Woulard opened his recruitment up and after considering the Kentucky Wildcats, Woulard headed out to Pasadena, Calif. and committed to the UCLA Bruins, where he now awaits his chance to play under former NFL head coach Jim Mora.
But it was clear among fans, and it became clear to USF administration when they fired Holtz last December, that the coaching didn’t meet expectations, and now it’s become clear the talent recruited under the Holtz regime isn’t up to par.
Some of the best players on the roster, including linebacker DeDe Lattimore and defensive linemen Luke Sager and Ryne Giddins, are redshirt seniors who were recruited by former USF coach Jim Leavitt.
Even Kayvon Webster, Sam Barrington and B.J. Daniels, the first three USF players from last year’s roster to suit up for an NFL squad this season were recruited by Leavitt.
Make no mistake about it — USF is in complete rebuilding mode after the remnants of Leavitt’s recruiting exit the program.
USF doesn’t have the prestige of teams such as the Florida Gators, Ohio State Buckeyes, Southern California Trojans and so on, who have a storied history of trophies lining the hallways of their facilities and stadiums.
The easiest way for a program to rebuild is to show recruits what it’s done in the past.
Looking at what USF has done in the past, scoring a Top 10 ranking in 2007 and a brief Top 25 appearance in 2009, it pales in comparison to the college football powerhouses who seemingly camp out in the national eye every year.
And while building a football program in 1997 out of an open lot of grass with trailers used as office space for the coaching staff, to reaching FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) status just four years later in 2001 is an amazing accomplishment, it doesn’t compare to such storied programs.
When Taggart reached out to quarterback Steven Bench after his release from Penn State, Bench said he was given the opportunity to compete for a starting job, and heading into Game 4, it looks as if Bench is the starter for USF.
It remains to be seen if he’s Taggart’s guy, but Bench was the first offensive recruit of the Taggart era to see the field, and Taggart didn’t have the opportunity to build familiarity with him in high school.12