Taggart admits his job was on the line entering season

After going 6-18 in his first two seasons as USF’s coach, Willie Taggart entered the 2015 season with his job in question. ORACLE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

Though he did his best at the beginning of the year to deflect rumblings that his days were numbered if the team didn’t win this season, USF coach Willie Taggart opened up about the situation for the first time in an interview published Monday by Sports Illustrated.

Taggart, who led the Bulls to bowl eligibility for the first time in five years Saturday with a 44-23 victory over No. 21 Temple, admitted he listened too much to the opinion of others while compiling a staff during his first two seasons. 

“I was told I needed to do this, I needed to do that,” Taggart told SI. “I always said I was going to do it my way, but I went against my own word.”

That — along with a lack of depth and consistency at key positions — led to a 6-18 overall record and complete shakeup before this season. Five new assistants were added to the staff, including co-offensive coordinator Danny Hope — the former head coach at Purdue — who replaced Paul Wulff and defensive coordinator Tom Allen, who took over for the fired Chuck Bresnahan.

“The new guys didn’t have to come, knowing the situation,” Taggart said in the article. “If we didn’t win this season, I wasn’t going to be here anymore. But they wanted to be here and be a part of that. That was important to me and says a lot about them.”

The moves worked out well for Taggart and the Bulls (6-4, 4-2), who are still in contention for the AAC East division title if they defeat Cincinnati on Friday and UCF on Thanksgiving and Temple loses one of its last two games against Memphis and Connecticut.

Under Allen’s guidance, USF is currently tied for 34th in Division I-A in scoring defense (22.3 points per game) and 49th in total defense. Offensively, the Bulls are 15th nationally in rushing (227.9 yards per game) and 53rd in total offense.

Last season, the Bulls finished toward the bottom in total offense and defense. 

“For what we had to rebuild here, we needed energy-givers, not energy-takers, to get it turned around,” Taggart said.

With USF guaranteed a bowl appearance this season, Taggart told SI he’s even more excited for what’s in store next season. The Bulls will add quarterback Asiantii Woulard (UCLA), receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (North Carolina State) and linebacker Cecil Cherry (Texas), who were all forced to sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules.

Having a complete staff and newfound job security doesn’t hurt either.

“What was important was to get guys that care about our players, not just themselves,” Taggart said. 

“That’s paid off big time.”