Taggart: Defensive energy must return
The way Willie Taggart saw it, fundamentals weren't the only thing missing from his defense's performance Saturday.
The fire was gone, too.
Energy joined execution as defensive no-shows in the Bulls' 55-35 loss to FSU, leaving USF's fourth-year coach equal parts puzzled and perturbed, and leaving his unit ranked last in the American Athletic Conference in total defense (451.5 ypg).
The 478 rushing yards amassed by FSU was the most ever surrendered by a Bulls defense, breaking the old record (Navy, 2015) by 50 yards.
"We've got to play with more energy -- more juice on the defensive side of the ball," Taggart said during his weekly press conference Tuesday.
"I don't see that out of our guys like I've seen before and we've got to get that back. I don't see guys throwing up the Bull Shark defense (gesture) and that ticks me off. We're gonna be the Bull Shark defense, let's throw them up. Let's make the plays and throw them up."
Some fans will make a correlation between that perceived lack of juice and the offseason departure of coordinator Tom Allen, arguably the staff's most high-spirited coach in 2015. Allen's replacement, veteran Taggart assistant Raymond Woodie, is less animated by nature.
Moreover, he spends game days in the coach's box, a practice Taggart said will continue.
"I don't think that necessarily had anything to do with the performance we had on the football field Saturday," Taggart said. "If it did, then (moving Woodie down) is what we'll do. That's not the issue. I think there's other things we can do better to make sure those things don't happen."
Among those other things?
"In my opinion, I feel like the No. 1 thing we have to do well that we didn't do well as a defense was tackling," FS Tajee Fullwood said Tuesday.
"We missed a lot of tackles and stuff, and that wasn't the type of defense that we want to be. During practice (Tuesday), we emphasized on tackling a lot, and that's just something we really have to get better at."
BROTHERS JOHNSON: For the second time in their lives, D'Ernest and Tshumbi Johnson will stand on opposite sidelines Saturday night. The brothers, raised in Immokalee, opposed each other for the first time last season in the Bulls' 65-27 rout of the Bearcats.
Tshumbi Johnson, a Bearcats receiver who redshirted in 2014 (D'Ernest's freshman year), had no catches. His younger sibling had 100 total yards including 71 on the ground.
"He said we came out and hit 'em in their mouth. We got the best of 'em," D'Ernest said. "He said, 'But next year we're gonna be comin' ready.'"
INJURY UPDATE: TB Darius Tice had surgery Tuesday on his broken right ankle, but Taggart said he's doubtful the senior can play again this season. A medical redshirt is off the table because Tice has played in more than 30 percent of the Bulls' regular season games. ... MLB Danny Thomas (sprained left ankle) suited up Tuesday, but wore a protective boot.
ODDS AND ENDS: The online gambling site Bovada has Taggart as a 6-1 bet to replace Les Miles as LSU coach. Houston's Tom Herman, at 5-4 odds, is the early favorite. ... Mark Neely will handle ESPNU's play-by-play of Saturday's game at Cincinnati, with Ray Bentley the analyst. ... USF is averaging 46.5 points in its last eight contests, which ranks behind only Texas Tech (52.8) and Louisville (48.9) during that stretch.
AUDIBLE: "Before, our offense wasn't having any success and we all loved our defense. Now the offense is having a little success and now we're all like, 'We suck on defense.' It is what it is. It's kind of the world we live in. But again, we can play better. We're better than what we showed on Saturday." -- Taggart