Taggart: QB Bench already making a presence
New USF quarterback Steven Bench won't start classes with the Bulls until next month, but the Penn State transfer already a regular around the football office, getting a head start on getting to know his teammates and the offense he'll be learning.
"He's been walking around like he's been there the entire spring. It's been really cool. The kid has a great personality and he's fitting in really good with our team," Taggart said Monday night at an "Around the Horns" booster tour stop in Orlando. "That was something important for me to see with him. I saw him walk through our office this morning, talking to every coach and everybody that walked by, in a good mood, a lot of enthusiasm. It's refreshing to have around there -- usually when guys come in from another school, they kind of work their way in, ooze their way in. Steven hit the ground running."
Bench, who played sparingly as a freshman at Penn State, will be eligible this fall and competing with returning passers Bobby Eveld and Matt Floyd, as well as incoming freshman Mike White, for the Bulls' starting quarterback job. Taggart said getting to know his teammates might be even more crucial than learning the playbook.
"For me personally, and I told him, the most important thing for him is to get to know his teammates," Taggart said. "Football, that part is going to come. You have to work hard, show those guys you're committed to the University of South Florida like they have been, get them on your side. It's hard to be a really good quarterback if you don't have your entire football team on your side and behind you. We share that with all of our guys, not just Steven, but Bobby and Matt and Tommy (Eveld), all those guys. When you get your teammates to believe in you and play for you, that's when you become a better quarterback."
White's name has come up as a potential selection in this week's MLB draft -- he's also a standout pitcher at Fort Lauderdale's University School. Taggart said he's confident White will end up at USF this fall, knowing he can play baseball with the Bulls as well if he wants.
"He's fired up to be here. I'm ready to see him get here," Taggart said. "He has a unique personality, is a hard worker. I'm excited about the competition at that position. It's going to be big-time for us and something we truly need. ... Four good players, either one could come in and be the guy. We're going to allow those guys to come in and compete. We're not going to just give it to anybody. Those guys have to have all the things we look for in a quarterback, not just the athletic ability but from a leadership standpoint and being the face of our football team."
THIS AND THAT: Taggart said punter Chris Veron, a rising junior who did not play for the Bulls in three seasons, will not be back with the team. Veron is due to graduate in August and will pursue a career in law enforcement. His departure solidifies walk-on Mattias Ciabatti as the front-runner for the punting job, which Justin Brockhaus-Kann held the last three seasons before graduating. ... While Terrence Mitchell is leaving the Bulls to transfer to Div. II Fort Hays State, Taggart said it remains a possibility that another suspended player, receiver Chris Dunkley, could still return to the team for this fall. Dunkley recently completed a pre-trial diversionary program, resolving legal issues from an arrest in September. "He still has work to do," Taggart said. "There are standards and ways of doing things and everybody has to be held up to those standards. If he continues to do things, there's a good chance he can come back. He knows what he's got to do."