Sunday, June 17, 2018
Colleges

Taggart says USF-UCF rivalry good for all

NEWPORT, R.I. — Commissioner Mike Aresco has touted the renewed USF-UCF rivalry as one of the great new things to come with the American Athletic Conference, and as the league hosted its annual football media day, the two head coaches traded barbs in what will only build up leading to the Bulls and Knights meeting Nov. 29 in Orlando.

UCF coach George O'Leary, asked Tuesday about how he has gotten to know USF coach Willie Taggart, started the fun by challenging USF's ambitious recruiting goals, which include keeping a presence in his back yard.

"I was laughing. He got there and he said he's going to own the I-4 corridor," O'Leary said. "I said to him, 'Obviously, you've got to go back and look at your geography.' "

Taggart, smiling later in response, said he knew what he was saying when he said it, and his goal hasn't changed.

"We're doing a pretty good job at it, too," said Taggart, who has six of his 12 commitments for 2014 from Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. "We're doing what we said we were going to do when we came here. I'm a football coach. I'm not into geography and all that."

The teams are close rivals on more than just a state map — UCF was fourth in the league's preseason media poll, one spot ahead of the Bulls. Taggart said he likes facing UCF every year as a conference rival.

"I think it's good for the state when you have something like that, good for both universities, to go out and compete against someone you don't like too well," he said. "It's always good to compete and have rivalries. I think that's what college football is all about."

USF beat UCF four years in a row from 2005-08, but hasn't played UCF since, replacing the Knights on the schedule with nonconference opponents such as Western Kentucky and Ball State. O'Leary has publicly lobbied for the series to be renewed for some time. Asked on Tuesday if his fans were excited for the renewal, O'Leary joked, "Excited? They drive me nuts."

O'Leary sees tangible benefits to the rivalry, which should result in strong attendance wherever the game site. USF sold out the last UCF game in Tampa in 2007, an announced 65,948. The 2008 game in Orlando drew 46,805, UCF's second-highest total at Bright House Networks Stadium.

"That, to me, is a natural rival," O'Leary said. "It's an I-4 game. It's a win-win. Thanksgiving weekend's a tough weekend to draw, I don't care who you are, unless you're playing in a rival game. Georgia-Georgia Tech, Alabama-Auburn. It used to be Texas-Texas A&M, I don't know if it still is or not. That's going to be a win-win from a stadium, economy, everything concerned."

The recruiting battles will continue all year — UCF signed five players from the Tampa Bay area in February, and O'Leary has picked up two commitments in those counties for 2014. Taggart said USF's relative youth, playing in its 17th season of college football, makes it hard to build strong traditional rivals, but having the Knights on the schedule every year could do just that.

"We're a young program. We couldn't have much of a rivalry," he said. "I know we played UCF before. I look forward to it. It's great for our conference and great for our state."

Comments
Florida’s Brady Singer voted top college baseball player of year

Florida’s Brady Singer voted top college baseball player of year

OMAHA, Neb. — Florida pitcher Brady Singer has won the Dick Howser Trophy as college baseball's player of the year.Singer, who received the award Friday, carries a 12-1 record and 2.30 ERA into the College World Series, which begins Saturday. T...
Published: 06/15/18
Former Plant QB Rex Culpepper cancer-free; ready to return to Syracuse lineup

Former Plant QB Rex Culpepper cancer-free; ready to return to Syracuse lineup

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Rex Culpepper is back. The smile on his face said it all. The redshirt sophomore quarterback had his first full workout with Syracuse on Friday after overcoming testicular cancer. He said he broke down and cried when he was told he w...
Published: 06/15/18
Willie Taggart comes clean on the origin of ‘Do Something’

Willie Taggart comes clean on the origin of ‘Do Something’

During his question-and-answer session with more than 500 Manatee-Sarasota boosters Monday evening, FSU's Willie Taggart was peppered with the normal inquiries about recruiting, offensive scheme and the Seminoles' quarterback derby.All well and good....
Published: 06/12/18
When Willie Taggart filled in for Tommie Frazier at Manatee High

When Willie Taggart filled in for Tommie Frazier at Manatee High

It would have been easy — expected, even — for Willie Taggart to be nervous when he started in place of the injured Tommie Frazier as Manatee High's starting quarterback in 1991.Nope. Taggart wasn't, even though he was the first...
Published: 06/12/18
FSU football coach Willie Taggart gets local hero’s welcome

FSU football coach Willie Taggart gets local hero’s welcome

SARASOTA — He slithered and scrambled his way into the local consciousness in the fall of 1991.Manatee High's Willie Taggart, 145 pounds in a sopping jersey, suddenly found himself with the keys to the Hurricanes' ruthlessly efficient opti...
Published: 06/11/18
Updated: 06/12/18
Florida Gators add West Virginia grad transfer Adam Shuler

Florida Gators add West Virginia grad transfer Adam Shuler

Former West Virginia defensive lineman Adam Shuler announced Monday that he plans to join the Gators as a graduate transfer.Shuler, a 6-foot-4, 268-pound Longwood native, started 10 games for the Mountaineers last season. As a redshirt sophomore, he ...
Published: 06/11/18
Florida State’s Jessica Warren lives ‘every senior’s dream’ with Women’s College World Series title

Florida State’s Jessica Warren lives ‘every senior’s dream’ with Women’s College World Series title

OKLAHOMA CITY — Jessie Warren’s career finished just the way she envisioned it. On Monday night, Florida State’s star third baseman made perhaps the play of her career, a diving catch and throw for a double play that helped preserve a 1-0 win over Wa...
Published: 06/06/18
Florida Gators hire former Auburn AD Jay Jacobs

Florida Gators hire former Auburn AD Jay Jacobs

Former Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs is joining Florida as its executive associate athletic director, the Gators announced Tuesday afternoon."Florida Athletics is fortunate to have someone of Jay's caliber joining the (University Athletic Assoc...
Published: 06/05/18
What Mississippi State says about Dan Mullen’s September homecoming

What Mississippi State says about Dan Mullen’s September homecoming

I haven't yet ranked every college football game in the state (as I did last year), but here's a spoiler: Dan Mullen's return to Starkville on Sept. 29 will be very high.The Florida Gators' new coach hasn't shied away from his Mississippi State homec...
Published: 06/05/18
Ray Lewis, Lomas Brown, Simeon Rice among College Football Hall of Fame nominees

Ray Lewis, Lomas Brown, Simeon Rice among College Football Hall of Fame nominees

Eleven former players/coaches with state ties are up for consideration for the College Football Hall of Fame.Notables notables on the ballot, released Monday morning, include:Florida OT Lomas Brown: 1984 All-American and two-time all-SEC talent helpe...
Published: 06/04/18