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Bulls seek first signature win of Taggart era

Coach Willie Taggart has a 4-13 record as USF’s coach and has not beaten a ranked opponent yet. ORACLE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

Big wins against top teams in the country are key in building up a program. Coach Willie Taggart has been close — with near wins against Michigan State and Wisconsin in his first two years — but has yet to seal a win that can spark the football program.

“It’s big for any team to win a win like that,” Taggart Said. “For us, a win against a ranked opponent would be big. You look what Ole Miss did against Alabama and same with Mississippi State and Texas A&M (last week); those were big for those programs.”

Coming off a bye week, Taggart will have a chance to pull a major upset this weekend as the Bulls take on No. 19 East Carolina, a team that is new to the spotlight, but has top-tier talent that will pose problems for USF in the homecoming game.

“We’ve done well running to the football and gang tackling,” Taggart said. “With all of their athletes, they try and spread you out and get you in space. We have to do a good job of getting off blocks and running to the football.”

Pirates’ high-powered offense

East Carolina boasts one of the most dynamic offenses in the country. This is due in part to its Heisman-hopeful quarterback senior Shane Carden who ranks first in the AAC in passing yards per game as well as total offense.

The Pirates’ offense is ranked fourth in the nation in passing (395.6 yds. /gm.) as well as ninth in points (43.6). 

To put that in perspective, USF averages 148 yards per game (117th in the nation) through the air, scoring 19.4 points per game (113th).

No quarterback is complete without a complementary receiver. Carden’s go-to guy, senior Justin Hardy, has built a rapport with his quarterback, racking up 479 yards and five touchdowns. 

Along with posing problems for opposing secondaries outside the hashes, he has also shown off his strong arm, completing a 41-yard touchdown.

Three years ago, East Carolina was 5-7. Since then, the Pirates have posted 8- and 10-win seasons under coach Ruffin McNeill.

USF Recruiting

While the team was resting, Taggart was out recruiting the next cluster of USF players. Without going into any specifics, Taggart said he went to six or seven schools and a few games.

After announcing the transfer of freshman offensive tackle Reilly Gibbons from Stanford on Friday, USF received more good news with the commitment of 6-foot-6, 255-pound offensive tackle Marcus Norman, according to Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers. Out of Sebastian River High School, Norman was graded a three-star recruit by 247Sports.com.