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USF coach Willie Taggart ‘baffled’ by shooting incident involving player

USF football player Benjamin Knox has been charged with two felonies after firing gunshots at a campus residence hall early Sunday morning. Bulls coach Willie Taggart said he was "baffled" by the incident in his first extensive public comment on the matter. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

When USF football coach Willie Taggart woke up early Sunday morning, he expected to come to work excited and ready to build off arguably his biggest victory in 2 1/2 years with the program.

“I thought I was going to come in with a smile,” Taggart told a roomful of reporters Tuesday inside the Lee Roy Selmon Athletic Center.

What he received instead was the stunning news that offensive lineman Benjamin Knox had been arrested and faced felony charges for firing multiple gunshots into the exterior of the Holly D residence hall hours after the Bulls’ 45-24 victory over Syracuse.

A USF police report from the incident says surveillance footage shows Knox, 21, pointing a handgun toward the dormitory and firing at least two shots, which damaged the building’s exterior. USF assistant police chief Chris Daniel told The Oracle on Monday drugs or alcohol were not believed to have been a factor.

Knox was released Monday from Hillsborough County Jail on $32,500 bond, but remains indefinitely suspended from all team activities, Taggart said. He appeared in all five games this season and is still listed on USF’s roster.

“To hear what happened, you’re like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” Taggart said. “That just baffled me. You don’t understand it.”

Taggart said the DeLand native has never faced any disciplinary problems during his two years with the program and described Knox as a “good kid with good grades and a good football player.”

“Never had an issue with Ben at all, so it was even more surprising when I heard it was him and what went down,” said Taggart, who indicated he has not spoken to Knox since the incident. “I never thought it would be him … to do something like that.”

What’s more perplexing to Taggart is that he had reiterated to his players the importance of making good decisions after Saturday’s game. He even sent a follow-up text to the team later that evening as a friendly reminder.

“I was ticked, and a lot of our players were ticked off, because they got the same text and they knew about doing things the right way,” Taggart said.

No timetable has been set for when a final decision on Knox’s future with the program will be made as an investigation into the incident continues. For now, Taggart said the team is moving on without Knox as it prepares for a road game at Connecticut on Saturday at noon.

“It’s life. It’s things we deal with,” Taggart said. “You’ve got to make good decisions. There’s consequences to all of your actions that you make and we’ve got a lot of guys doing things right and we’re going to focus on those guys and focus on UConn and getting better. 

“We’re going to let authorities take care of the matter and what they have to do, and we’ll go from there.”