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Willie Taggart vows USF’s offense is close to hitting its stride

Through four games, coach Willie Taggart’s new up-tempo offense has yielded few results. 

Coming into this season, coach Willie Taggart hoped revamping USF’s offense into an up-tempo, spread formation would produce better results on game days. 

But through the season’s first four games, little progress has been made.

The Bulls (1-3) rank 125th out of 128 Division I-A teams in third-down efficiency, 116th in team passing and 112th in total offense (337 yards per game). In one bright spot, USF is 28th in rushing with sophomore Marlon Mack leading the team with 392 yards.

In their 24-17 loss to Memphis on Saturday at Raymond James Stadium, the Bulls scored on their first two possessions to take an early 10-point lead before punting seven consecutive times and allowing the Tigers to score 24 unanswered points. 

Still, Taggart said he isn’t discouraged.

“Obviously, we haven’t provided that (excitement), if you watch what we’re doing,” Taggart said Monday. “But I don’t think we’re far from doing it. I think those opportunities are there, we’re just not capitalizing on them yet. 

“When we start capitalizing, we’ll start to see the things I envision this offense doing.”

In Taggart’s case, those results might need to come sooner rather than later.

During the second half of Saturday’s defeat, Taggart opted to take a more conservative approach to the play calling on offense, electing to primarily run the ball instead of having quarterback Quinton Flowers drop back for passes. That decision stirred several instances of discontent from the 14,305 in attendance. 

Taggart’s use of wide receivers has been called into question, too.

On the stat sheet, backup running back D’Ernest Johnson has been the team’s leading receiver since USF’s opening win over Florida A&M with 14 receptions for 223 yards. 

“We’re not this team that just drops back and throws it to receivers 80 times a game — that’s not what we do,” Taggart said. “We’ve got some talented running backs that are pretty much the strength of our team and we’re going to utilize those guys to try to move the ball off the run.

“That’s who we are and who we’re going to be. As this offense continues to grow and as (Flowers) continues to grow, I think you’ll start to see those things happen.”