Notes: Taggart pleased with new options at RB
TAMPA -- Running backs are a major part of Willie Taggart's offense, so the Bulls coach was pleased by the signings of Kissimmee Osceola's Sta'fon McCray and Miami Northwestern's Darius Tice as part of Wednesday's recruiting haul.
The two have similar frames -- McCray is 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds and Tice is 6 feet, 205 -- and Taggart has high expectations as he searches for reliable runners for his first season with the Bulls.
"I like big guys with little-guy feet. They can go the distance," Taggart said. "Being a running back, you've got to be tough. You've got to be competitive, and I think both guys have all those qualities."
McCray rushed for 3,248 yards and 42 touchdowns in the last two seasons, and USF convinced Tice to back out of a commitment to Cincinnati, choosing the Bulls after an official campus visit late last week. Tice, who rushed for 1,210 yards and 20 touchdowns as a senior, averaging 8.8 yards per carry, said he likes his combination of size and speed.
"I can run by you, run through you, make you miss. I try to mix it up," Tice said Wednesday.
HELP ARRIVING: Most plentiful position? Defensive back, where the Bulls signed six players, hoping to shore up a major concern after poor play and the graduation of both senior starters at cornerback.
"Two interceptions," Taggart said, holding up two fingers to emphasize how many interceptions the Bulls had as a team in 2012, including one by defensive tackle Elkino Watson. "We can't have that. It's that simple."
The best of the lot looks to be Lamar Robbins, rated a four-star recruit by 247sports.com, with a strong list of final schools: Oklahoma, Louisville, West Virginia and Purdue. Louisville made a late push after he committed last week, but the Bulls held onto the 6-foot-3, 188-pound defensive back.
"Coach Taggart really wanted to add difference makers," said assistant Larry Scott, a top recruiter in the Miami area. "It was a pretty solid class, pretty stout, but we wanted to add some guys we thought could make an impact pretty early in their careers. Some of these guys may be committed, may be going on visits, but we have to dig and claw and fight and get our way in. We did that with a few of them. To get in on those kids, to get them here, show them the university, it was big in getting their signatures today."
NOTHING GAINED, NOTHING LOST: Signing day came and went with few surprises, as the Bulls were able to hold onto four-star cornerback Lamar Robbins of Miami Southridge, but missed on two other Miami-area recruits, as receiver Stacy Coley chose Miami and lineman Denver Kirkland signed with Arkansas.
The Bulls were finalists for two local standouts, but missed on both, as Jesuit tight end Travis Johnson signed with Cincinnati, citing a desire to go out of state for his college years, and Lakewood receiver Marquez Valdes signed with N.C. State.
SHORTHANDED: The key to USF's recruiting success? Perhaps Taggart bunkering down in the first week after being hired, with only two of his current assistants -- Scott, retained from Skip Holtz's staff, and Ray Woodie, brought down from his Western Kentucky staff.
"We were in here, all three, all night, watching video, making phone calls, trying to piece things together and get another watch group of kids to get evaluated," said Scott, who was also carried over from Jim Leavitt's staff when Holtz was hired. "It was pretty important to be the bridge for what was going on. (WKU) recruited Florida so heavily, they knew a lot of the kids, too. We hit it running."
THIS AND THAT: USF's class includes a pair of pairs of high school teammates: Offensive linemen Jeremi Hall and Dominique Threatt, from Tri-Cities (Ga) High near Atlanta, and two from Kissimmee Osceola in McCray and defensive back Hassan Childs. ... Smallest signee? That'd be kicker Emilio Nadelman of Miami Central, who enrolled in January. He checks in at 5-foot-6, 165 pounds. That's literally half the size of Hall, who is listed at 330 pounds and 6 feet, 4 inches.