The second spring of the Willie Taggart era commences this morning at USF with a pair of new assistants, a handful of early enrollees, at least one prominent transfer and two certainties:
Competition for jobs will be heavier than ever. So will virtually every letterman.
In the wake of an intense winter under the direction of strength coach Hans Straub, the Bulls should be noticeably brawnier when they hit the Morsani Complex practice fields today. Here are five other things to watch as football on Fowler Avenue re-starts.
• Picking up the pace. By all accounts, Taggart's proverbial bus might possess a fifth gear in '14. Though still bent on run-first physicality, the Bulls, 121st nationally in total offense last year (255.5 ypg), likely will experiment with a heightened tempo this spring.
• Mass appeal. We've heard the collective average weight of the Bulls' offensive line has increased by as much as 20 pounds this winter. New offensive coordinator/line coach Paul Wulff said last week that the group must get stronger physically. The collective weight gain is a solid start.
• Standing throw to throw. Though sophomore Mike White is the incumbent at quarterback, Taggart made it clear in the offseason that no one's job is safe in 2014. A more brisk offensive pace would seem beneficial to a dual-threat sort such as Steven Bench. When freshman Quinton Flowers arrives this summer, the derby really could intensify.
• D-line makeover. As a result of graduation and early NFL declarations (see Lynch, Aaron), the top four players from last season's depth chart are gone. Early enrollees Demetrius Hill and Eric Mayes, who arrived from junior college and a prep school, respectively, were recruited to fill this pressing need.
• Wanted: leaders. Now that 2013 team MVP (and tackling leader) DeDe Lattimore has graduated, who emerges as the vocal leader and locker room pillar? A senior such as wideout Andre Davis or defensive tackle Todd Chandler? A prominent youngster such as White, linebacker Nigel Harris or safety Nate Godwin?