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More changes to come for Taggart’s team


If a completely new football staff for the Bulls last season didn’t bring enough new faces to the team, next season should bring a couple more. USF will have two voids to fill after coach Willie Taggart announced offensive coordinator Walt Wells and quarterbacks coach Nick Sheridan will not be returning in 2014.

Taggart made the announcement Jan. 3, saying a search for coaches will begin immediately after he thanked Wells and Sheridan for their “professionalism.”

Both coaches worked on Taggart’s staff previously at Western Kentucky, but their success wasn’t duplicated at USF.

After USF’s season ended 2-10, there is plenty Taggart will look to fix going into next season, but no problem was more apparent than the offense — more specifically, the passing game.

Finishing third to last in total offense of all Football Bowl Subdivision teams, 108th out of 123 teams in passing offense and last in passing efficiency, the lack of a presence through the air is what likely did the Bulls in last season.

Whether or not Wells and Sheridan left for a better opportunity elsewhere, left out of frustration or were fired is still unclear, and Associate Athletic Director for Communications said Taggart would not have any scheduled availablity for further comment until National Signing Day.

Rocky wins

Week in and week out, through a less than impressive football season, USF mascot Rocky the Bull embodied consistency as he kept a perfect record throughout the Capital One Mascot Challenge and won the competition.

Each week, Rocky faced another school mascot in an online voting contest through social media and each week Rocky received the larger percentage of votes averaging 67 percent this season.

He was the only mascot to ever maintain a perfect record throughout the challenge’s 11-year history, beating previous champion Texas Tech’s Raider Red.

“I think it helps not only from an athletic standpoint with recruiting, but anything you can do from a branding standpoint with your school logo and name out there on the national scale,” Marcy Lanoue, associate director of development for USF Bulls Club and Rocky’s spokeswoman, said.

For his efforts, and the efforts of voters, Rocky posed with his winnings on New Year’s Day — a $20,000 check, which will go toward USF’s mascot program to help with traveling, costumes and scholarships. Lanoue said the money, ideally, could be used beyond just this year.

USF Athletics played a role in Rocky’s win as well.

Lanoue said all staff were encouraged to vote and encouraged athletes to vote and tweet too. For example, she said, the women’s volleyball team would have “voting sessions” as they traveled to away games.

Lynch to enter NFL Draft

Redshirt sophomore and Notre Dame transfer, Aaron Lynch announced he will enter the 2014 NFL Draft last month.

The 6-foot-4, 244-pound defensive end from Cape Coral earned Freshman All-America Honors in 2011 when he played at Notre Dame. After coming to USF the following season he was forced to sit out due to NCAA regulations.

This past season, Lynch led the team in tackles for a loss with 12 after finishing his Notre Dame season with seven. He also led the Bulls in sacks with six, .5 more than his freshman year. Another stat that jumped up from his freshman season was his fumble returned for a touchdown. Both the fumble recovery and score were firsts for Lynch.

Though Lynch got to the end zone in 2013, he didn’t get to the quarterback nearly as much as he once did. Arguably the main goal of any defensive end, quarterback hurries is something Lynch couldn’t seem to improve on.

With 14 hurries in 2011, Lynch finished with four in this season.

Once predicted to be a first round pick on most draft boards before the 2013 season,
whether or not Lynch did enough to improve his draft stock will remain to be seen until the draft.

Sweat to combine then SuperDraft

The 2014 MLS SuperDraft will be taking place at noon Jan. 16 in Philadelphia and as of Dec. 25 has USF senior defender Ben Sweat going seventh in the draft after a
successful season with the men’s soccer team.

Before the big day, Sweat will join the nation’s top talent as one of 50 Division I seniors selected to the combine Jan. 10-14 in Fort Lauderdale where 19 MLS coaches will be watching.

Sweat was the leader of a Bulls defense that has posted 31
shutouts over his four years at USF.

Tampa to host 2017 title game

It was announced Dec. 16 that Raymond James Stadium is the venue that college football’s
champion will be crowned in the College Football Playoff system.

The stadium was chosen over finalists such as Jacksonville and South Florida’s Sun Life Stadium and now plans expanding to an approximate capacity 72,000 for the game.

Ray Jay joins the Forum in Tampa venues hosting big games. The Forum is hosting the 2015 NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four and the 2016 NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Frozen Four.