Football wrapup: Bulls will be back, but when?
If USF's final performance of 2013 evoked no hope, at least the final parting shot did.
"USF will be back on top, I can guarantee that," senior LB DeDe Lattimore said.
Granted, Lattimore didn't say when. And if the Bulls' 2013 finale is any sign, it could be a matter of decades instead of autumns. Yet the final numbers on the worst season in USF football history aren't all grisly and grim.
Some, in fact, are likely to inspire more hope than nausea. The most promising ones can be found on the depth chart for that 31-6 drubbing at Rutgers.
Sixteen of the 22 starters were underclassmen. Go two-deep, and the figure elicits more encouragement: 32 of the top 44 players have eligibility remaining.
That doesn't include the kicker, punter, long snapper, holder and primary returners -- none of whom were seniors.
Now, for the opposite perspective: USF returns a ton of people from a lousy offensive team. This is where those who lack the stomach for gore might wish to turn away.
The Bulls (2-10) finished the season 121st out of 123 Division I teams in total offense (256.4 yards per game). Their 11 offensive TDs were two fewer than anyone else at their level. Their scoring offense (13.8 ppg) ranked 120th.
And while they finished 22nd nationally in total defense (350.8 yards per game), the strides made by that unit were offset by the team's 102 penalties, second-most in Division I behind only Baylor (103).
So where do the Bulls go from here? Directly to the weightroom. As for the coaches, they'll hit every recruiting trail to which a GPS can lead them. Taggart was recruiting hours after the Bulls' charter flight hit Tampa pavement Sunday.
His top priorities: power and girth, neither of which the Bulls possess in sufficient amounts to operate the power-run style of play Taggart employs. Of his 20 verbal commitments for 2014, three are projected offensive guards. He could use some more.
"We're a weak football team, we're a small football team," Taggart said immediately after the Rutgers debacle. "Especially up front on the offensive line, we've got to get bigger
and stronger. That is high on the priority list."
Other needs: playmakers out wide; a signature from committed Miami Jackson dual-threat QB
Quinton Flowers; a sturdy downhill runner and replenishments on the defensive line.
If third-year sophomore Aaron Lynch (team-best six sacks) enters the NFL Draft, USF will lose five of its top eight defensive linemen. It also loses its heart and soul (Lattimore) and three senior cornerbacks.
But clearly, the Bulls appear better equipped to move forward defensively than offensively. Nonetheless, Taggart's not changing his run-first philosophy. No way.
"We're not changing," he said. "Our guys have had too much change around here. We need some
consistency. ... The way we play is the way we play."
So Taggart's staff will recruit, evaluate, self-examine, recruit, condition and strengthen, and recruit. In the process, maybe they'll find the power and playmakers needed to help Taggart's bus run far more efficiently.
"The team don't need nobody but Coach T," Lattimore said. "Coach T, he knows what he's doing."