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           ***** NCAA Football Preview - South Florida Bulls *****
 
 By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Football Editor
 
 Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
 
 2012 SEASON IN REVIEW: For each of the last few seasons it seems that South
 Florida has been considered a team poised for big things only to crumble when
 the rubber hit the road. Last season with exciting quarterback B.J. Daniels in
 his final year all signs pointed up.
 
 The Bulls began the campaign 2-0, highlighted by a thrilling 32-31 win on the
 road over Nevada. With that win it looked as if the Bulls' issues with
 finishing games might have come to an end.
 
 That would not be the case though as after the solid start the Bulls won just
 one more game the rest of the season, while suffering a six-game losing
 streak. Several of those losses were tight, with defeats of four points or
 fewer to Ball State (31-27), at Louisville (27-25) and to Syracuse (37-36).
 
 However coming close can only take you so far and with the Bulls finishing the
 season at just 3-9 and a paltry 1-6 in Big East action, once promising head
 coach Skip Holtz was fired and the Bulls are now forced to move in a different
 direction.
 
 2013 ANALYSIS:
 
 OFFENSE: In the wake of the Holtz era comes the regime of Willie Taggart.
 After serving in a number of roles as an assistant for Western Kentucky and
 Stanford from 1999-2009, Taggart got his first head-coaching gig in 2010 with
 the Hilltoppers. At his alma mater Taggart built quite a solid program with
 back-to-back 7-5 seasons in 2011 and 2012, while getting the team to its first
 bowl game ever last year.
 
 Taggart isn't inheriting a ton of experience on the offensive side of the
 ball. Daniels smashed a number of school records and would likely have
 excelled under Taggart's tutelage. Unfortunately the former Bull is just that,
 leaving the starting quarterback position up for grabs.
 
 The candidates to replace Daniels are senior Bobby Eveld, sophomore Matt Floyd
 and Taggart recruit Mike White. Floyd was the more productive performer as
 Daniels' backup last season. Floyd threw for 466 yards and completed 51.8
 percent of his pass attempts. However, he was intercepted five times and did
 not throw for a touchdown. Eveld threw just eight passes. White completed 68.8
 percent of his pass attempts and threw 22 touchdowns to just two interceptions
 in his senior season of high school.
 
 Though the quarterback situation is still muddled, whoever wins out will have
 a solid go-to receiver to throw to in Andre Davis. The 6-foot-1 junior caught
 46 passes for 534 yards and six touchdowns last season, all of which were team
 highs. In fact no other receiver had more than three touchdown receptions. The
 rest of the unit doesn't have the production of Davis, put players like
 D'Vario Montgomery have a ton of potential.
 
 Austin Reiter and Quinterrius Eatmon are a pair of juniors that will lead the
 offensive line as the only returning starters. Both could make strides forward
 this season and if they do, it could open things up for the inexperienced
 backfield which is led by Marcus Shaw, who rushed for 248 yards last season.
 
 DEFENSE: Taggart and his new defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan are
 inheriting a team that needs a complete makeover on the defensive end.
 Bresnahan will have his work cut out for him as the Bulls are coming off a
 season in which they ranked second to last in the Big East in scoring (274.
 ppg), rushing (149.9 ypg), passing (251.9 ypg) and total (401.8 ypg) defense.
 The Bulls were also horrific in creating turnovers with just a pair of
 interceptions all season and a turnover margin of -19, which was among the
 worst in the FBS.
 
 The defense does have six returning starters so Bresnahan's job will be
 primarily turning experience into production. Up front Luke Sager and Ryne
 Giddins are a pair of seniors that can be disruptive. Giddins regressed in
 2012 and will be trying to get back to his 2011 form when he had 11.0 tackles
 for loss and 5.5 sacks. Helping to fortify the defensive line will be Notre
 Dame-transfer Aaron Lynch, a former Freshman All-American.
 
 The linebackers will be led by DeDe Lattimore, who is the de facto leader of
 the defense with 36 starts under his belt. Lattimore led the team in tackles
 for loss (7.5) and sacks (3.5) last season and is also the team's top
 returning tackler (76). Reshard Cliett had 40 stops last season and also has
 starting experience.
 
 Both cornerback spots are open in the secondary where the Bulls desperately
 need better play. Ja'Quez Jenkins and Mark Joyce are both seniors that return
 as starters at safety but neither showed a ton of promise a year ago. The
 secondary could see a lot of moving parts all season.
 
 SPECIAL TEAMS: Marvin Kloss will enter his junior season with the unenviable
 task of replacing USF's all-time leading scorer, Maikon Bonari. Kross took
 care of kickoffs the last two seasons. Mattias Ciabatti will be the full-time
 punter. He had just one punt a year ago which went for 43 yards.
 
 It is unclear how much Taggart will use Shaw in the return game with the
 senior the top option as starting running back. Shaw returned a team-high 10
 kickoffs for a 24.5 yard average last season. Davis had just a 3.3 yards per
 return average on punts and will likely be shielded from those duties. Derrick
 Hopkins is the most likely replacement.
 
 OUTLOOK: The Bulls were horrific in conference play in the last two seasons of
 the Skip Holtz era (2-14). To be fair, they were not much better in non-league
 action which led to Holtz's untimely departure. Enter Taggart, who is tasked
 with reinvigorating a once promising program.
 
 "Our program is a sleeping giant.  But we can't rely on anybody else to say
 that for us.  It's on us to go out and do it.  We've got to stop making
 excuses or blaming anyone else," Taggart said.
 
 Taggart's first time on the sideline for the Bulls will be against a non-FBS
 squad in McNeese State. The schedule takes an abrupt turn in difficulty the
 following weeks when the Bulls travel to face Michigan State and then close
 out September against Miami-Florida. The league schedule begins with
 alternating home and away contests against Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville
 and then Houston. From there the Bulls play a pair of home contests before
 ending the season on the road against UCF and Rutgers.
 
 This is the first year in a while that expectations surrounding South Florida
 aren't particularly high.
 
 However Taggart has certainly kept them up in the locker room.
 
 "You look at our schedule, and I think every game we have on our schedule is
 winnable," Taggart said. "Our intention is to win a  championship.  That's
 what we want to do.  And we intend to do that."
 
 Though Taggart's confidence is understandable for a first year coach looking
 to infuse enthusiasm into a stale program, if he can get this team to claw its
 way to postseason eligibility it would come as a bit of surprise. Taggart has
 the coaching chops to do it but he will need a ton of big improvements
 throughout the roster for the Bulls to be a real threat in the American
 Athletic Conference.
 
 
 
 08/21 12:05:58 ET

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