Taggart on USF team speed: 'We're getting there'
USF football coach Willie Taggart was the guest speaker Wednesday at the monthly luncheon of the Greater Temple Terrace Chamber of Commerce, and this is a time of year where these public engagements are our best insights into how the summer is going for the Bulls.
Taggart talked for about 15 minutes, speaking about his excitement for the year ahead, then took questions from the crowd for about 20 minutes more. He literally did not mention a single player by name, which I suppose speaks to his focus on the team as a whole. He does like talking about himself in the third person, but you get used to that as well. If there's one quote you can count on from Taggart, it's Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm."
-- On USF's lack of success in recent years: "It's a production world. The world doesn't give you anything. I think our guys realize that, the last couple of years. We're athletic enough. We're talented enough. I just don't know if we worked hard enough to get to where we need to be. I know South Florida started off in the trailers and all that, a blue-collar football program. We're going to get back to being blue-collar. ... I'm not going to allow anyone to eat off our university for free. Everybody's got to do something to hold up their end of the bargain. No more bus riders and steak eaters. I want a bunch of hard-nosed, smart, tough football players willing to go out and do something, make it happen for all of us to be excited."
-- On USF's perceived place in college football and the state: "One thing we're not going to do anymore is sit around and think we're just the little guys on the block, and everyone can just hit us upside our heads. We're not doing that anymore. We're big-time, too. We're a big-time program and that's going to be our mentality. ... We're committed to winning now, and we fear no one."
-- Asked about his team speed on both sides of the ball: "Um ... we're getting there. (Laughter). We have some guys in spots. As a total overall team speed, we're not necessarily where I'd like to be. We're not bad. We're not bad. We've got some good players. Those players have to work really hard to show they are good players. They've got to get back and remember when they were good players, back in high school. They thought they were the best thing since sliced bread. We need them to get back to doing it that way, and working that way and producing on the football field. Speed kills. Speed makes a difference. Being smart and tough makes a big difference, too."
-- On progress in the weight room and conditioning this spring: "I thought we weren't tight enough as a football team, weren't big enough as a football team. I told Coach Hans (Straub) one of the first things we have to do is look like a big-time football team. Our guys need to get bigger, faster, stronger, and I'm seeing the difference in our guys when they walk by. A lot of our guys are picking up weight, getting stronger, looking different. They really have me excited."
-- "Sleeping giant?" Check: "I believe this program is an up-and-coming program. It's a sleeping giant, ready to wake up. Sleeping giant. Coach Taggart's not going to do it by himself. It's going to take our entire community. We all know what it can be and what it should be."
-- On mentoring: "Without Jim Harbaugh and his dad and having those mentors, I don't know who Willie Taggart would have been. Mentoring is so important to me. It's a big, big requirement when it comes to being a coach on Coach Taggart's staff. It's one of the things I ask and drill coaches on when they come in to interview is being a mentor to our kids. I think they all need it, they all want it. It's only right that we do it as coaches. We've experienced everything those kids are going through. That's something that's really important to me."
-- Plugging his USF football women's clinic on July 27: "It'll make it a lot easier at home on Saturdays and Sundays, with your husband, watching the game. He might get a little upset because you might know a little more than him. ... This is your football team, too. It's not just Coach Taggart's. It's our football team. We're going to do this together."
-- On the physics of eliminating outside distractions: "We all know right from wrong. We have to handle our business and decrease drag. That's the most important thing: decrease drag. We have a lot of drag in our life. Decrease that around football players."
-- On requiring as much academically and socially as he does with football: "It's holding them accountable to be the very best. Don't allow them to miss class, don't allow them to be late to things. That's your job, your responsibility. You owe it to yourself. If we're going to pay for you to do it, you're going to be there. You can go to some other program where they allow you to do it that way, but we're not going to allow that here. You can't allow kids to do it their way. They don't know. We're going to teach them, teach them what's important."
-- Yes, he was asked about any plans for an on-campus stadium: "I think I'm the wrong one to ask. I only plan on winning. If we don't win, we're not going to get anything. We have to do something on the field. I think Raymond James is a pretty good stadium, personally. I know when I played in college and we came down here, I played my best game ever in that stadium. It was big-time."
-- On his recruiting priorities: "First and foremost, we're going to take care of our in-state. And what we call in-state is the Bay area and I-4 corridor. That's our in-state. We've got to take care of that. There's a lot of good football players in this area by itself. We have to do our due diligence and get some of those players, keep those players here. What we can't do is settle when it comes to recruiting. We play Miami, we play Michigan State. We need those kinds of players. To beat them, you have to recruit those kinds of players. We're not going to back down on anyone. We're putting a big focus here locally. So many good players are leaving here, helping other teams win championships. This is your hometown. It's the Bay area. You've got to stay here."
-- On importance of him coaching his assistants: "A big part of my job is coaching the coaches, so they can teach our kids how I want our kids to think and do things. That's something I had to learn along the way. My first year as a head coach, I thought all the assistants were like me as an assistant coach. It doesn't work that way, and I had to learn that. We struggled my first year as a head coach, and I think that's why, I didn't do a good job coaching our coaches. I was all into our players, but you live and learn."