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Cliett, Davis, Kloss named captains

If Saturday morning's team photo is any sign, the Bulls are following through with their plans for nameless jerseys, though Coach Willie Taggart is hardly shunning name recognition altogether.

On Friday night, he announced via Twitter three seniors -- WR Andre Davis, LB Reshard Cliett and PK Marvin Kloss -- will be the Bulls' 2014 captains. The trio was chosen by its teammates.

"I think it says a lot, especially when we as coaches don't have any influence on who gets picked," Taggart said during the photo session at Raymond James Stadium. "It's all by their peers and like I tell our guys, I think that's the best award you can get."

Davis, a Jefferson High alumnus, is on the cusp of a handful of USF career receiving records. Cliett leads all active Bulls with 101 career tackles. Kloss was a Lou Groza Award finalist last season; he'll rotate his captaincy with other special-teamers during the year, Taggart said.

"For them to think of me as a captain, I really appreciate that," Davis said. "I'm ready for it."

DUVAL EARNS A RIDE: Fifth-year senior WR Jordan Duval, a special teams regular who appeared in all 12 games last season, has earned a scholarship for 2014, Taggart announced. The former Hillsborough High all-county receiver and punter recorded his first two college receptions last year.

"He's been helping us a couple of years now, not necessarily at a position but on special teams, and that's important," Taggart said.

"I think that's one of the coolest things Coach Taggart does, giving walk-ons a chance to earn a scholarship," QB Mike White said. "(Duval) deserves every bit of it. He's out there making plays day-in and day-out whether it's on offense or special teams."

ODDS AND ENDS: Kloss said walk-ons Jake Carlton and Alex Salvato are splitting reps at long snapper. "Both of them have been doing a spectacular job," Kloss said. "They fit the mold perfectly, so there's no drop-off in performance in any way." ... If Saturday's shorts-and-jerseys walk-through is any sign, CB Chris Dunkley -- moved from receiver in the offseason -- has earned a starting spot entering game week. ... TE Mike McFarland (left knee) continues to be limited by a brace. ... We can't resist this anecdote: White, a lifelong Dolphins fan, said he made his debut on the Jumbotron at Joe Robbie Stadium (now Sun Life Stadium) as a 3-month-old. "My dad was holding me with one arm, and backing my grandpa away from a fight with the other," White said.

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Taggart: Staff will call the plays

Former Bucs coach Tony Dungy (center) and his wife Lauren speak to USF coach Willie Taggart during their visit Friday to the Bulls' practice.

JOEY KNIGHT | Times

Former Bucs coach Tony Dungy (center) and his wife Lauren speak to USF coach Willie Taggart during their visit Friday to the Bulls' practice.

TAMPA -- Though still a few days shy of his 38th birthday, Willie Taggart already has served as a head coach, coordinator and position coach for running backs and receivers at the college level.

Starting next Saturday, he'll add a new role to his resume: CEO.

Taggart, primary play-caller his first four seasons as a head coach, confirmed Friday he's delegating that job to his offensive staff. Coordinator Paul Wulff will be on the sideline, with QB coach David Reaves in the box. Taggart won't reveal just how the plays will be signaled in.

"I'll still have some input," Taggart said. "But one thing I thought I could do a better job at is managing the game, and not just offense but the entire football team."

USF scored a Division I-worst 11 offensive touchdowns in 2013 as players acclimated themselves to Taggart's offense, a hybrid of West Coast and power-run principles with some option and zone-read interspersed. Wulff already was highly familiar with it, having spent the previous two seasons as an offensive assistant to 49ers coach and former Taggart boss Jim Harbaugh.

"I'm not gonna get away from (play-calling), but again, I'm gonna have my hands on a little bit of everything and let those guys do their job and make sure we're doing what's best for our football team," Taggart said. "I'm excited about it. I think it's gonna make a huge difference for us."

HUDDLE UP: All USF students are invited to the Morsani Practice Complex Saturday at 5 p.m. to join the Bulls football team for the "Huddle," a free, pep rally-type gathering that promises to be exactly what it sounds like.

Students will form a huge huddle with Bulls players and coaches, hear a few words from Taggart and enjoy some free food in a tailgate setting.

"Another way to get interactive with our students," Taggart said. "It's their football team as well."

BREAKING CAMP: The Bulls formally ended preseason camp Friday with an afternoon practice in shorts, jerseys and helmets. The only significant injuries of the month: freshman LB Nick Holman (torn labrum) and TE Mike McFarland (knee).

McFarland wasn't present at the portion of Friday's practice open to reporters, but Taggart has said he's optimistic the senior will be ready for next weekend's season opener against Western Carolina.

"Really good camp," Taggart said.

"Really excited about the progress where our team is now and the job that our coaching staff has done with their players, and I'm really excited to see our guys go play. I think I'm kind of like everyone else, just anxious to see them go out and perform."

WALK-THROUGH: To refresh the veterans and orientate the rookies, the Bulls will hold a private walk-through Saturday at Raymond James Stadium. After team pictures are taken, the Bulls will simulate their game-day procedure, from the walk to the stadium to getting dressed to running through the tunnel. "We've got to play there (next Saturday) and we want to make sure there are no hiccups," Taggart said.

ODDS AND ENDS: Former Bucs coach Tony Dungy and his wife Lauren attended Friday's practice. Their son, former Plant DB/WR Eric Dungy, is embarking on his first season as a Bulls receiver after transferring from Oregon. ... Converted WR Chris Dunkley, training mainly at cornerback now, said he'll still get some offensive reps in certain situations, and will continue returning kicks and punts. Dunkley led USF in kick returns (18) and return average (22.6 yards) last season.

AUDIBLE: "That's a trick question." -- senior RG Quinterrius Eatmon, when asked if he's glad camp is over  

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Ready for some futbol? Women's soccer opens tonight

For at least one muggy August evening, the anticipation surrounding Bulls football will be upstaged.

By Bulls futbol.

USF's women's soccer team will try to build on its two-year, 18-match home unbeaten streak tonight when it opens the 2014 season against FAU. Kickoff is at 7:30.

The Bulls, picked fourth in the American Athletic Conference preseason coaches poll, haven't lost at Corbett Stadium since a 3-1 defeat against No. 12 UCF on Aug. 17, 2012. They return seven starters from last season's 10-4-6 club but will have a rookie in goal.

Rangy rising junior Christiane Endler, a second-team all-conference pick last season, signed a pro contract with the Chelsea Ladies Football Club of the FA Women's Super League this past spring. Freshmen Thordis Aikman, Lydia Cagle and Katarina Elliott spent the preseason competing for Endler's job.

Coach Denise Schilte-Brown hasn't revealed the starter, but Aikman started the final exhibition match, a 4-0 victory against Stetson.

The Bulls close the weekend with a 1 p.m. match at No. 8 Florida on Sunday.

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Football report: '13 opener still stings

Senior WR Andre Davis admits the Bulls lacked concentration entering last season's opener against Division I-AA McNeese State.

The former Jefferson High standout said Thursday a lot of players didn't take the game seriously and it showed. McNeese stunned USF, 53-21.

"I feel like we went into the game kind of lackadaisical; kind of thinking that we had them beat before we stepped onto the field," said Davis, whose team opens at home against Western Carolina a week from Saturday. …

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Football report: Backfield by committee likely

Running backs coach Telly Lockette said Wednesday the Bulls will employ a committee approach to the backfield to start the season.

Lockette said Wednesday he's still looking for someone to separate themselves in the tight derby, which includes sophomore Darius Tice, redshirt freshman Sta'fon McCray and heralded freshmen Marlon Mack and D'Ernest Johnson.

He hopes to name a starter on Monday for the opener against Western Carolina five nights later.

"One day, one guy will have a great practice. Next day, the freshmen will have a great practice," Lockette said. "So, right now we're just trying to get some stability and see who is going to take the bull by the horns."

Tice, the only player with collegiate experience, has taken most of the first-team snaps in practice and earned praise from Coach Willie Taggart for his performance in the team's first live scrimmage on Aug. 14.

Still, Tice acknowledged everyone has been competing at a high level.

"I'm leading it off right now and then you have the other guys behind me, so we're all contributing and doing our part," he said. "When the first game comes, we'll see if anyone stands out."

ROBBINS OKAY: Sophomore DB Lamar Robbins said he suffered a thigh contusion one day in camp, but insisted it wasn't serious.

Robbins appeared in 11 games last season and had one interception.

"Things are going good. ... It was just a minor setback for me," Robbins said.

ODDS AND ENDS: Senior TE Mike McFarland (knee) was not on the field for practice during the 30 minutes of allotted viewing time for reporters. ... Equipment manager J.C. Lees tweeted a picture of another accessory the Bulls have to complement their new gold, chrome helmets: a matching chin strap.

AUDIBLE: "When the University of Miami was on track, they recruited the tri-county: Dade, Broward and West Palm Beach. And that's how they built their program. So we try to take a page out of that also and we try to follow that blueprint." -- Lockette on the strategy USF uses to recruit in South Florida, where he was coach at powerhouse Miami Central for five seasons. USF's current roster features 18 players from that tri-county region.

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Football report: Bulls not sweating jersey issue

While USF's fan base seemed divided -- based on social media reaction -- on the Bulls' nixed attempt to stitch "THE TEAM" on the back of each jersey, the Bulls' veterans said they warmed up to the idea long ago.

C Austin Reiter and DT Todd Chandler, both fifth-year seniors, said coaches brought up the idea during the spring. It was quashed by an NCAA rule limiting the contents of jerseys to player names, numbers, authorized logos, etc.

Instead, the Bulls will wear nameless jerseys.

"As far as the aspect of having no names on the jerseys, I think it's a great idea because all we want to do right now is win games and we don't want to draw any distractions to any individual," Reiter said.

"Not that there would be, but I think that's a great idea that Coach (Willie Taggart) brought up and that's kind of a shame that we won't be able to have 'The Team' on there."

Taggart said he wasn't disappointed with the plan's failure. "It's the rules," he said. "Our goal this whole offseason was to come together as a team and we're still gonna have the team mindset by not having any names on the back of the jerseys." …

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A TEAM loss: Bulls settle for blank jerseys (UPDATED)

Bulls head coach Willie Taggart proposed this for the backs of USF's football jerseys this season.

University of South Florida

Bulls head coach Willie Taggart proposed this for the backs of USF's football jerseys this season.

After consultation with the NCAA -- and serious social media backlash -- USF has announced it has ditched the idea of replacing last names with THE TEAM on the back of jerseys this season.

With the exception of the numbers, they'll simply remain blank, team spokesman Brian Siegrist said Tuesday.

Responding to a circulating rumor, Coach Willie Taggart confirmed Monday evening the Bulls were planning to go with THE TEAM moniker for all jerseys, a violation of NCAA Rule 1-4-5 governing the design of football jerseys.

Siegrist said at that point, the idea still was being vetted with the NCAA, and nothing had yet been sewn on the Bulls' official game jerseys, though a mock-up had been circulated to local media.

On Tuesday, Siegrist said: "We're just gonna go ahead and leave the jerseys blank this year. That's where it ends up at."

Rule 1-4-5 indicates that other than the player's number, the jersey may only contain the player's name, school name, NCAA logo, sleeve stripes, the American and/or state flag and a logo for the school, conference, mascot, postseason game, memorial or the military. …

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Football report: Bulls to go nameless

The back of USF's jerseys will look like this in 2014.

Photo provided by USF

The back of USF's jerseys will look like this in 2014.

TAMPA -- In an otherwise innocent effort to create unity, Coach Willie Taggart also may have created a firestorm among his fan base with his confirmation Monday the Bulls will not have names on the back of their jerseys this season.

Instead, two words -- THE TEAM -- will be listed above the numbers.

"We're going to represent the Bulls," Taggart said before Monday evening's workout. "That's not to say that (the names) won't come back some time, but our football team is focusing on the team. That's where it needs to be."

The announcement triggered social media hubbub, with Twitter reaction ranging from hearty approval to astonishment to embarrassment. Taggart said the move was necessitated by last year's 2-10 effort.

"That was one of the things we thought as a coaching staff that we could do better, is becoming a team," Taggart said. "If we became a football team that was all about USF and not individuals, good things can happen for us. And we've seen that throughout the offseason and I feel like it'll translate into the season as we get going."

WHITE NO LONGER GREEN: A day after being named starter for the Aug. 30 season opener, sophomore QB Mike White said he matured greatly during his competition with junior Steven Bench, walk-on Evan Wilson and freshman Quinton Flowers.

White was informed during a position meeting Sunday night, and was immediately congratulated by Bench, whom he called "a class act."

"I feel really confident, I feel like I'm seeing the field well," said White, an 18-year-old with no college spring practices when he became the starter for the last five games of 2013. …

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Men's soccer: Bulls picked second in AAC

USF's men's soccer team, seeking its eighth consecutive NCAA Tournament berth, is second in the American Athletic Conference's preseason coaches poll released Monday.

The Bulls, 8-4-9 last season, received one the league's eight first-place votes and 48 points overall. Connecticut, which lost to the Bulls (via penalty kicks) in last year's conference tournament final, got the other seven first-place nods and 56 points.

Bulls sophomore midfielder Lindo Mfeka and senior forward Edwin Moalosi, each of whom collected five goals and four assists in 2013, earned spots on the preseason all-conference team.

USF hosts two 7:30 p.m. exhibition matches this week, Tuesday against Saint Leo and Saturday against the University of Tampa. It opens the regular season Aug. 29 at Florida Gulf Coast.

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Mike White wins Bulls QB job

Sophomore Mike White was named the Bulls' starting quarterback Sunday evening.

DEMETRIUS FREEMAN | Times

Sophomore Mike White was named the Bulls' starting quarterback Sunday evening.

TAMPA -- USF sophomore quarterback Mike White, who started the final five games of 2013, will retain his job for now.

The program announced on its official Twitter feed Sunday night that White will start the Bulls' Aug. 30 season opener against Western Carolina at Raymond James Stadium. The youngest QB in camp, White, 19, was informed at a Sunday evening team meeting.

The announcement follows a two-week competition that also featured junior Steven Bench, Sarasota walk-on Evan Wilson and oncoming freshman Quinton Flowers. On Saturday, following the Bulls' second live scrimmage of August, Coach Willie Taggart said a decision was forthcoming.

"We want to go into next week being pretty sure on who we're gonna work with and who we'll continue to bring along with us," he said.

The first commitment of the Taggart era, White was a 186-pound rookie with two college pass attempts when he became USF's fourth starting quarterback of 2013 in an Oct. 31 game at Houston. Statistically he delivered his best performance (26-for-41, 311 yards, two TDs, one INT) in that 35-23 defeat.

In the ensuing four games -- all losses -- he threw eight picks and one TD. Now 25 pounds heavier, White -- and Bench, for that matter -- have been lauded by Taggart for their overall accuracy and command of the offense.

"After the Houston game, I felt the need to kind of make more plays," White said last Monday. "And being a quarterback, you've got to realize that not every play is gonna be a 15-yard completion. There's gonna be some times you need to throw it away and live to see another down.

"And I think I kind of got away from that toward the end of the year. And that's one thing I've been working on (in camp). ... I think that was the biggest thing, I tried to push too much instead of just letting the playmakers make the plays."  

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Fan Fest: Storms arrive, QB announcement doesn't

A conclusion to USF's quarterback derby appears to be forthcoming.

Coach Willie Taggart said final decisions on many positions -- including QB -- could be made as soon as Sunday after he meets with assistants and reviews film from Saturday's second live scrimmage of the preseason.

"We want to go into next week being pretty sure on who we're gonna work with and who we're gonna continue to bring along with us," Taggart said.

From most indications, choosing between incumbent Mike White and junior Steven Bench will be an arduous task. Throughout the first two weeks of practice, the two traded snaps with the first-team offense and Taggart continually praised their competitiveness.

He reiterated that message after Saturday's session, which was closed to the public.

"I think all of our quarterbacks (played well)," Taggart said. "Mike looked good. Steven looked good throwing the ball."

FLOWERS BLOSSOMS: Freshman QB Quinton Flowers drew high praise from Taggart and teammates for his performance in the scrimmage. The four-star recruit from Miami threw three TDs while working with first-, second- and third-stringers, Taggart said.

"He ran the ball real well and he took control of the offense well too," senior WR Andre Davis said.

Taggart said Flowers' progression over the last few days has been fun to watch.

"Early on, there was a lot going in on him and he struggled a little bit," Taggart said. "But he kept his poise, he kept working and he's starting to make some plays for us."

NO DAMPENED SPIRITS: Inclement weather forced USF to move its annual Fan Fest from Corbett Stadium to the Sun Dome, but the day's festivities were hardly a wash.

A video of the event can be seen here. About 1,800 fans attended, mingling for autograph and photo opportunities with athletes and coaches from all fall sports, and shopping for discounted USF jerseys, helmets, shirts and shoes.

"It was fun. It was good to have our fans stick around to be a part of this," Taggart said. "We even had fans that were standing out in the rain to stay here just to meet the coaches and the players. I was taking pictures with guys (who were) soaking wet. It just goes to show their appreciation and their passion for USF."

ODDS AND ENDS: Sophomore DB Lamar Robbins had an interception in the scrimmage. ... What is Taggart's most pleasant surprise from training camp? The freshmen. "It's not often you get freshmen coming in here and being really physical," he said. ... Former QB Matt Grothe was at Fan Fest and signed autographs. ... Taggart said defensive line coach Eric Mathies has lost 90 pounds and defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan is down about 50 pounds from last season.

AUDIBLE: "We don't talk about redshirting around here. Other than that (red no-contact) jersey he has on in practice, we don't talk about that. ... We just let them compete and let them decide that." -- Taggart on whether he will redshirt Flowers.

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Practice report: On-campus Fan Fest set for Saturday

Rain or shine, USF's annual Fan Fest will be held Saturday from noon to 3 p.m at Corbett Stadium, home to USF's soccer teams.

The free event will feature interactive games for kids, autograph and photo opportunities with players and coaches from all fall sports, and an expansive sale of Bulls merchandise and old-school apparel.

Prior to the event, the Bulls will stage their second live scrimmage -- closed to the public -- of the preseason.

FROM 'BIG RED' TO BIG TIME: For USF sophomore LB Nigel Harris, the fall of 2013 was nothing short of a whirlwind.

The former Hillsborough High standout -- then around 190 pounds -- was thrust into the starting lineup in Week 3 against Florida Atlantic in place of injured veteran Reshard Cliett. After collecting a team-high 12 tackles, he earned six more starts, finishing with 35 total tackles and one forced fumble in 12 games.

Now 30 pounds heavier, Harris (6-foot-2, 220 pounds) has emerged as a centerpiece in the Bulls' new 3-4 defensive scheme. "The year before last year, I was just playing at high school 15 minutes up the road. There wasn't that many eyes watching me," Harris said. "But now ... with more people watching me, I just have to step my game up."

Linebackers coach Raymond Woodie complimented Harris' work ethic and predicted a bright future if he continues. "He has a huge upside," Woodie said. "If he just keeps improving, he has a chance to be an all-conference player in my opinion."

ODDS AND ENDS: Early-afternoon showers forced the Bulls to postpone Friday's workout until the early evening. ... Cliett praised transfer LB LeGrande Harley for his performance (two picks, scoop-and-score) in the team's first scrimmage on Wednesday. "Since I've been at USF, I ain't never seen a guy that fast and that passionate with a football," Cliett said. ... Former Bulls DE Tevin Mims, an undrafted Dolphins free agent, visited his old team Friday. "It's weird that I'm  not in a jersey," he said.

AUDIBLE: "It meant everything, man. Just having a second chance to play ball. This is where I ended up last. This is where I ended up making a name for myself. I was just blessed to have an opportunity to play here." -- Mims, who played at the University of Texas and Navarro (Texas) Junior College before transferring to USF in 2012.

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Full disclosure: My initial AP ballot

For the second consecutive year, the Associated Press has afforded me the privilege of being derided, disparaged and decried by many of you on a weekly basis.

Small price to pay for being among the 60 or so voters in the AP football poll. The preseason top 25 is set to be released Saturday. Not sure how closely it will resemble my ballot listed below but I'm eager to find out.

A few points (or disclaimers) about my top 25: First, I don't subscribe to the philosophy (shared by more than you might think) that the reigning national champ remains No. 1 until someone knocks it off. Every team is different.

But FSU isn't that much different. …

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Practice report: Taggart pleased with scrimmage

A day after the Bulls' first live scrimmage of the preseason, Coach Willie Taggart said he saw a number of things during the closed session that were missing most of last season.

Namely touchdowns, offensive self-assuredness and a heightened sense of urgency.

"We had guys catching touchdowns, we had guys getting interceptions, guys picking up fumbled snaps for touchdowns. Some big hits on both sides of the ball from a lot of guys," said Taggart, who holds another closed scrimmage Saturday morning, prior to the Bulls' annual Fan Fest.

Taggart singled out senior WR Andre Davis, sophomore transfer WR Rodney Adams, sophomore RB Darius Tice (who had a 10-yard TD run) and junior transfer LB LeGrande Harley. Compressing a year's worth of stats into one situational scrimmage, Harley had two interceptions including a pick-six, and picked up a fumble for a scoop-and-score

"It's just different guys making plays for us at different times," Taggart said. "You just see when it goes smooth and guys do what they're supposed to, they understand what they're doing now. And now they're scoring touchdowns and getting excited about it and want to do it a lot more often now."

Taggart said Saturday's scrimmage will more closely resemble a real game. Don't be shocked if he names a starting quarterback afterward.

BULLS LAND OL: Several recruiting services reported late Thursday afternoon the Bulls have received a non-binding "commitment" from Island Coast three-star DL Marlon Gonzalez. Ranked the state's 87th-best prospect by 247Sports, Gonzalez (6-foot-3, 260 pounds) already has de-committed once, from FSU.

He becomes the second three-star prospect to give a non-binding verbal pledge to USF in as many days. Miami Northwestern S Khalid McGee reportedly did the same Tuesday night.

LESS IS MORE: The sleeker, slimmed-down version of junior TE Sean Price, first spotted in the spring, continues to elicit raves in August.

Currently 243 pounds (17 less than what he topped out at last fall), Price enjoyed a breakthrough March after coming on toward the end of 2013 (11 catches in his last three games). He said he has kept the weight off primarily by eating healthier. His favorite healthy indulgence: a baked potato with a dab of sour cream or Ranch dressing.

"Definitely there were times when I was on the field (last year) when I felt like I couldn't get out of my break, couldn't get out of my stance," said Price, an Under Armour All-American with 22 career TD catches at North Marion High. "I felt like I was trying too hard to come out. I wasn't quick and explosive like I wanted to be."

Through 11 days of preseason camp, Taggart said Price has shown better movement, has become a mentor to the younger tight ends and, perhaps most importantly, has made a succession of clutch catches on third down.

"He's starting to figure it out, and watching him in the spring, he looked so much faster," Taggart said. "He lost weight ...and his routes were sharper. And now it's like he's doing it without thinking. And again, that's what I know the quarterbacks are excited about. He's gonna be where he needs to be and he's going to make a play for you."

ODDS AND ENDS: Speaking of tight ends, senior Mike McFarland continues to be slowed by a huge brace on his left knee. When asked if he'll be ready for the Aug. 30 season opener, Taggart said, "Mike better be ready for the first game. We heal differently around here." ... Taggart said after a slow start, junior college transfer TE Marlon Pope has come on lately, and not a moment too soon for a team that needs all the pass blockers it can muster: "I'm mostly a blocking tight end," said Pope, who played at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. "But I can catch a few balls."

AUDIBLE: "They call him 'Freakshow' for a reason. I mean, he's making catches out here that are just different. We're loving it; he's going up and making some big-time catches for us." -- Taggart on Davis' play this preseason

AUDIBLE, PART II: "A successful day is for...everybody that loves the Bulls to come out and be a part of our Fan Fest and get to know our players, get to know our coaches, get to know me. I think a successful day is if I can get around to meet everybody that comes out. That would be a great day for us." -- Taggart, who will be available (with his team) for pictures and autographs Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. at Corbett Stadium

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Women's hoops: Non-conference slate released

USF women's coach Jose Fernandez must prepare his team for a series of formidable non-conference foes in November and December.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

USF women's coach Jose Fernandez must prepare his team for a series of formidable non-conference foes in November and December.

If it hopes to again become an NCAA Tournament team, USF's women will have to play like one right out of the gate this fall.

A rugged early slate, a partial reason for their banishment to the Women's NIT last season, highlights the Bulls' 2014-15 schedule. Many of the matchups were previously reported, but the school confirmed the entire non-conference schedule a couple of weeks ago. …

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