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Report: Taggart to be named coach at Oregon

USF fourth-year coach Willie Taggart (left) reportedly is taking the same job at Oregon.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

USF fourth-year coach Willie Taggart (left) reportedly is taking the same job at Oregon.

USF coach Willie Taggart will be named coach at Oregon, ESPN's Brett McMurphy reported earlier this morning.

Neither Taggart nor Bulls athletic director Mark Harlan immediately responded to a text message, and current players haven't been formally informed of Taggart's departure.

RELATED: Next Bull up? Possible Taggart replacements

A team meeting at USF is set for 1:30 p.m. The news comes four years to the day after word broke that Taggart -- then Western Kentucky coach -- would be hired to replace Skip Holtz at USF.

Taggart replaces Mark Helfrich, dismissed after finishing 4-8 this past season. Helfrich led the Ducks -- and Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota -- to the College Football Playoff national title game only two years ago.

"If it is true, just want to say thank you for everything @CoachTaggart," backup QB Brett Kean said via Twitter. "Really hope USF keeps some of these coaches around." …

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Next Bull up? Possible Taggart replacements

Expect former Texas and Louisville coach Charlie Strong's name to be linked to the vacancy at USF.

Times file photo

Expect former Texas and Louisville coach Charlie Strong's name to be linked to the vacancy at USF.

Now that Willie Taggart reportedly is headed for Oregon, here are some names likely — and perhaps some not so likely — to be tossed around as his possible replacements. (Note: This list is in alphabetical order.)

Mario Cristobal, Alabama offensive line: A Miami native who won two national titles as a Hurricanes offensive lineman, Cristobal's south Florida ties would be priceless in recruiting. He also has head coaching experience, having gone 27-47 with two bowl appearances in six seasons at FIU.

RELATED: Reports say Willie Taggart to be named coach at Oregon

Lawrence Dawsey, FSU receivers coach: This former 'Noles All-American and Bucs receiver spent three seasons (2004-06) as Jim Leavitt's receivers coach at USF. His time in the NFL will appeal to recruits, and no one will have to remind him of the necessity of recruiting the bay area. …

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How will Taggart's exit affect USF's '17 recruiting class?

Jefferson High offensive lineman Jean Marcellus said he remains committed to USF despite Coach Willie Taggart's departure.

MONICA HERNDON | Times

Jefferson High offensive lineman Jean Marcellus said he remains committed to USF despite Coach Willie Taggart's departure.

When news broke early Wednesday morning of USF coach Willie Taggart's depature for Oregon, the Bulls had 18 non-binding verbal commitments from the Class of 2017.

Just how much that number fluctuates in coming days -- or weeks -- is anyone's guess.

The only four-star commitment, Cocoa ATH Bruce Judson Jr., said he already had been contacted by Taggart as dawn broke Wednesday.

For now, Judson, whose team plays in Thursday night's Class 4A state title game in Orlando, indicated he remains committed to the Bulls, though it's clear Taggart will continue pursuing him diligently as Ducks coach.

Others who already have reaffirmed their commitments: Jefferson OG Jean Marcellus and Orange Park Oakleaf CB Nick Roberts, both of whom are three-star prospects according to 247 Sports; Sarasota Booker DT Kelvin Pinkney Jr., a two-star prospect; and Tift County (Ga.) TE Frederick Lloyd.

Jefferson DE J'Bril Glaze, meantime, told the Tampa Bay Times he's not so sure of his commitment at this point.

We'll update this story as the day progresses.

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Taggart update: Eery silence around USF camp

USF coach Willie Taggart reportedly interviewed for the coaching vacancy at Oregon last week.

Times file photo

USF coach Willie Taggart reportedly interviewed for the coaching vacancy at Oregon last week.

As speculation connecting Willie Taggart to Oregon intensified Tuesday, things remained silent around USF's program.

Eerily silent, in fact.

Evidently, Taggart, the Bulls' fourth-year coach who reportedly interviewed with Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens last week, has conveyed nothing to staff or recruits about the status of his candidacy with the Ducks.

One program source, when asked Tuesday if they have heard any Taggart updates, replied, "Crickets." A handful of prominent Bulls recruits said they haven't spoken with Taggart recently; one indicated assistants have told him they're in a wait-and-see mode.

Meantime, published reports indicate Mullens had moved his search to New York, where he was working in conjunction with an Atlanta-based search firm for another round of interviews. Both USA Today and CBS Sports reported OU made an offer to Temple's Matt Rhule, who turned down the Ducks and accepted the job at Baylor.

That quickly turned attention back to Taggart, who is scheduled -- for now -- to appear at a Birmingham Bowl function in Birmingham on Thursday afternoon.

He is completing the first of a five-year, $9 million deal with USF, which he signed last December. …

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What they're saying about the Birmingham Bowl

Nationally, USF's date with South Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl isn't generating much anticipation, though it's clear the No. 25 Bulls (10-2) will enter the Dec. 29 contest as a favorite.

Check out this site, where the initial betting odds appear in the Bulls' favor. Additionally, ESPN's Adam Rittenberg predicts a convincing Bulls triumph against the Gamecocks (6-6).

As for the glamour of the matchup itself, well, CBSSports ranks it 38th out of 40 bowl games this season, suggesting it's on the verge of being re-named the Will Muschamp Bowl.

Speaking of Muschamp, here's his initial sound bite on the Bulls (from his Sunday press conference):

"A really good football team. Willie Taggart's a guy that I've got a lot of respect for. They've got a school-record 10 wins. Quinton Flowers I recruited, so I know we'd have a hard time tackling him in a phone booth. He's really good, he's a slippery guy. They've scored over 30 points in every game, they're very athletic defensively, so we're gonna have our work cut out for us. ... They've done a fantastic job this season, only losing two games."  

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Have Ducks cooled off on Taggart?

USF coach Willie Taggart reportedly interviewed for the same job at Oregon last week.

Times file photo

USF coach Willie Taggart reportedly interviewed for the same job at Oregon last week.

Because plenty of dominoes still could fall in this dizzying period of upheaval on the coaching landscape, Bulls fans have reason to remain anxious about Willie Taggart's future at USF.

But it's appearing less likely that Oregon will represent his next rung on the coaching ladder.

Published reports indicate Ducks athletic director Rob Mullens has moved his search to New York, where he's working in conjunction with an Atlanta-based search firm for another round of interviews. The latest names mentioned: Penn State's James Franklin and North Carolina's Larry Fedora.

That news comes a full five days after Taggart reportedly interviewed with Mullens. Former Bucs coach (and current Ohio State defensive coordinator) Greg Schiano and Boise State coach Bryan Harsin also reportedly have interviewed. 

The fact that Mullens' search continues in earnest naturally prompts the question of whether Taggart resides atop the Ducks' wish list. The Tampa Bay Times has learned Taggart recently informed his staff that "right now" nothing is happening with the OU job. …

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Bulls women 22nd in latest AP poll

USF junior point guard Laia Flores is ranked third nationally with 8.0 assists per game.

ZACK WITTMAN | Times

USF junior point guard Laia Flores is ranked third nationally with 8.0 assists per game.

The USF women's basketball team, winner of its first six games, has cracked the Associated Press' top 25 for the first time this season.

The Bulls, who have emerged as one of the nation's hottest 3-point-shooting teams, are No. 22 in the latest poll released Monday after nearly cracking last week's top 25. USF already has defeated two teams (Georgia, Jacksonville) that reached last season's NCAA Tournament, and are No. 8 in the current RPI standings.  

They enter final-exams week (they're off until Sunday) fifth in Division I-A in 3-pointers per game (10.5) and seventh in 3-point percentage (42.6). Individually, sophomore Kitija Laksa is tied for eighth nationally in scoring (22.3 ppg), while junior Laia Flores is third in assists per game (8.0).

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Flowers named Bulls' MVP

USF quarterback Quinton Flowers has been named the team MVP for the second consecutive year.

Times file photo

USF quarterback Quinton Flowers has been named the team MVP for the second consecutive year.

For the second consecutive year, QB Quinton Flowers has been named the Bulls' overall MVP.

Flowers was presented the honor, formally called the John & Cynthia Ruzic MVP award, at the team banquet Sunday evening. Other top honors: RB Marlon Mack was named offensive MVP, DT Deadrin Senat was defensive MVP and RB/PR D'Ernest Johnson was named special teams MVP.

Flowers, selected by American Athletic Conference coaches as the league's Offensive Player of the Year last week, ranks in the top 20 in Division I-A in nine offensive categories. He has established USF season records for rushing yardage (1,425), total offense (3,976), rushing touchdowns (15) and total TDs (37).

Mack (1,137 yards) has seven 100-yard rushing efforts this season, and enters the Birmingham Bowl tied with Flowers for the season rushing-TDs record.

Johnson leads the conference in punt-return average (12.8 yards) and had an 83-yard return for a TD at Syracuse. Senat's 46 tackles (including six for loss) lead all Bulls defensive linemen.

Others honored Sunday night are listed below:

WR Rodney Adams (Most Improved Player)
LT Kofi Amichia (Tough Man Award)
QB Quinton Flowers (Captains Award)
DT Bruce Hector (Defensive Lineman Award, Frank Morsani Leadership Award)
P Jonathan Hernandez (Outstanding Walk-On)
WR A.J. Legree (Lee Roy Selmon Award)
QB Chris Oladokun (Offensive Scout Team Award)
C Cameron Ruff (Offensive Lineman Award)
LS Alex Salvato (Academic Excellence Award)
LB Auggie Sanchez (Captains Award)
WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling (Frank Morsani Leadership Award)
S Craig Watts (Defensive Scout Team Award)
TE Mitch Wilcox (Freshman of the Year)

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USF headed to Birmingham Bowl (UPDATED)

USF coach Willie Taggart (left) and the Bulls are expected to receive an invitation to the Birmingham Bowl later today.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

USF coach Willie Taggart (left) and the Bulls are expected to receive an invitation to the Birmingham Bowl later today.

USF, on the heels of a 10-2 regular season, announced Sunday afternoon it will play South Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl at Legion Field.

The Dec. 29 contest fulfills the Bulls' postseason wish list in two aspects: (1) It's a bona fide bowl trip instead of an in-state commute, and (2) it represents a nationally-televised opportunity to garner credibility against a prominent Power Five team.

“This is a great opportunity for our program to go out and show the country what we are all about and add another significant victory to a record-breaking season,” Bulls coach Willie Taggart said in a statement released by USF.

“We wanted to make going to bowl games a regular occurrence again at South Florida, so it’s great to be returning to a bowl for a second straight season and have the opportunity to play an SEC opponent in Birmingham.”

ESPN owns and operates the Birmingham Bowl and will televise the game, which kicks off at 2 p.m. Tickets are $50 each; ticket information can be found here. …

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Full disclosure: My latest AP ballot

Let's clarify something here and now: If I were a College Football Playoff selection committee member, this ballot would look a bit different.

The CFP protocol states when two teams being considered for the playoff are comparable, their head-to-head result (if there was one) and the conference championship game are among the primary tie-breakers.

In light of that, Penn State would rank ahead of Ohio State on my CFP ballot. The Nittany Lions may not necessarily be better, but we all know the best teams don't always vie for championships (see March Madness).

But this isn't a CFP ballot. For AP poll purposes, I'm ranking the teams I feel are the best 25 in the country, in order.

Hence the reason I have Ohio State second.

It's also why I have Iowa 14th, Temple 16th and USF 20th. In my assessment, all are among the nation's 20 best teams at this point in time.

And time's running out. This is the final poll until the new year.

1. Alabama
2. Ohio State
3. Clemson
4. Washington
5. Penn State
6. Oklahoma
7. Michigan
8. Wisconsin
9. USC
10. FSU
11. Colorado
12. Western Michigan
13. West Virginia
14. Iowa
15. Oklahoma State
16. Temple
17. Houston
18. Stanford
19. Virginia Tech
20. USF 
21. Auburn
22. LSU
23. Louisville
24. Pittsburgh
25. Florida

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Report: Taggart met with Oregon AD

In recent days, Twitter has been rife with photos of USF prospects posing with Bulls coaches during in-home visits. Shaun King, T.J. Weist, Alonzo Hampton and David Reaves all have popped up in these smile-centric snapshots.

One coach conspicuously absent: Willie Taggart.

Oregonian columnist John Canzano, citing an anonymous source, reported Saturday via Twitter that Taggart met with Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens in Texas. The Ducks are seeking a replacement for Mark Helfrich, dismissed after four years in the immediate wake of a 4-8 season.

USF athletic director Mark Harlan declined comment when asked by the Tampa Bay Times if anyone from Oregon has requested permission to speak with Taggart, saying he doesn't address  personnel matters of that nature.

Taggart, who has won 17 of his last 21 games as Bulls coach, has been widely considered a strong candidate for the job.

Atlanta-based Parker Executive Search reportedly is assisting Oregon in its search for Helfrich's replacement. The state of Oregon has a "Rooney Rule" that requires at least one minority candidate to be interviewed for the job.

 

 

  …

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Former USF assistant Tom Allen named IU coach (UPDATED)

Former USF defensive coordinator Tom Allen reportedly will serve as interim coach at Indiana.

Photo provided by USF

Former USF defensive coordinator Tom Allen reportedly will serve as interim coach at Indiana.

Former USF defensive coordinator Tom Allen, who left for the same job at Indiana last winter, has been named Hoosiers head coach, the school announced Thursday  evening.

Allen replaces Kevin Wilson, whose abrupt resignation was accepted amid reports the school was investigating his treatment of Hoosiers players.

"Once Coach Wilson and I concluded to part ways, I turned to determining who the best person in the country would be to keep up our momentum and take us to another level with our football team," IU athletic director Fred Glass said in a school news release.

"I quickly concluded that person was in our midst in Tom Allen. He is a leader of men. He is demanding without being demeaning. He is a proven, successful coach on a national scale with deep Indiana ties. He cares about his players, and they care back."

In one season at IU, Allen -- raised in New Castle, Ind. -- has overseen a defensive resurgence of sorts. The bowl-eligible Hoosiers (6-6) rank 40th nationally in total defense (372.6 ypg) after ranking 120th (509.5 ypg) last season. …

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Is Willie Taggart a 'strong' Oregon candidate?

USF coach Willie Taggart has been linked to the coaching vacancy at Oregon.

Times file photo

USF coach Willie Taggart has been linked to the coaching vacancy at Oregon.

As you read this, Willie Taggart's name continues to ricochet off each coast -- Pacific and Atlantic -- of cyberspace.

Speculation about the fourth-year Bulls coach's future intensified Wednesday evening when Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman tweeted that Taggart has emerged as a "strong" candidate to replace Mark Helfrich at Oregon.

Frankly, we don't see it happening (neither do some program insiders to whom we've spoken). And if you recall, Taggart interviewed last season at South Carolina (in what some skeptics deemed a leverage move to sweeten his deal at USF).

And a vague tweet issued Thursday by Taggart himself may have offered a glimmer of hope to Bulls fans praying he'll remain in Tampa.

 

Time decides who you meet in life, your heart decides who you want in your life, and your behavior decides who stays in your life. Go Bulls!

Still, far stranger things have happened in the collegiate stratospher. And Taggart's up-tempo offensive philosophy, surreal resuscitation of USF football, and connection to the West Coast (three years as Stanford's running backs coach) has given Feldman's tweet some traction. …

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Navy's Will Worth omitted from All-AAC team

Navy quarterback Will Worth (15), a Newsome High alumnus who leads the nation in scoring, didn't land anywhere on the All-American Athletic Conference team.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Navy quarterback Will Worth (15), a Newsome High alumnus who leads the nation in scoring, didn't land anywhere on the All-American Athletic Conference team.

On the surface, the 2016 All-American Athletic Conference football team, chosen by the league's coaches, appears decent. …

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Quinton Flowers named AAC Offensive Player of the Year

USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) has been named the American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) has been named the American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

While Quinton Flowers continues flying a bit below the radar around the country, his record-shattering season is appreciated around the conference.

Case in point: The American Athletic Conference coaches have elected Flowers the league's Offensive Player of the Year. The announcement comes the same day Flowers, previously named a semifinalist for the Walter Camp Award, wasn't picked as a finalist.

He's the first Bull to be named a conference offensive player of the year, and one of three Bulls named to this season's All-AAC first team, joining TB Marlon Mack and LT Kofi Amichia.

The entire team can be seen here.

In his second full season as the Bulls starter, Flowers statistically asserted himself as one of the greatest player evers to put on a USF uniform.

He already has established a Bulls single-season rushing yardage record, and is the only player in school history to amass at least 1,000 rushing and 2,000 passing yards in the same season. His 1,425 yards on the ground (he has 2,551 passing yards) represent the eighth-best rushing season by a Division I quarterback.

He enters the Bulls' bowl game ranked 10th nationally in total offense (331.3 ypg). …

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