TAMPA — If Wednesday's proceedings were any sign, most of the stops on coach Willie Taggart's proverbial bus route were within 90 minutes of USF's campus.
Twelve of the 28 players who signed with the Bulls, including six early enrollees, hail from a bay area high school (counting Bradenton and Manatee counties). By contrast, Skip Holtz's three signing days as Bulls coach featured six total bay area players.
"They built a lot of good bonds locally," said statewide analyst Chris Nee of 247Sports. "That's something that's going to pay off for them down the road, not just in this class."
Six were from Hillsborough County alone, including Sickles LB Josh Black and Jesuit LB/DE Vincent Jackson, neither of whom revealed their choices until Wednesday.
"You go back to Day 1, that's one thing we said we were going to do," said Taggart, whose class was ranked the best among American Athletic Conference schools by four major scouting services. "I think that's what's ultimately going to make it a great program. I think every year you're going to see the heart of our recruiting class is going to come from the bay area. And then we'll go out and get the arms, the legs, the ankles, toes, feet; we'll get 'em all."
No QB Concerns: Taggart had a quick response when it was suggested Miami Jackson dual-threat QB Quinton Flowers (6 feet, 210 pounds) doesn't fit the mold of the rangy pocket passer typically found running a power-run offense.
"Neither (does) Russell Wilson or Johnny Football," Taggart said, referring to the Seattle Seahawks quarterback and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel.
Rated the nation's No. 9 dual-threat quarterback by 247Sports, Flowers totaled more than 8,000 yards, including 2,002 rushing yards, in his high school career. His USF bio says he has run the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds.
Wilson and Manziel "aren't rangy, either, but they're football players, they know how to play football," Taggart said. "They're tough, smart and highly competitive people. That's what we're looking for, and I think that's what you get out of Quinton Flowers."
EARLY RISER: According to USF's "warboard" inside a Selmon Athletics Center conference room, the Bulls had 13 letters of intent before 7:45 a.m. The first, at 7:01, came from Immokalee athlete Jimmy Bayes.
Bayes also was the first of the 28 signees to commit to USF. Rated a four-star athlete by Rivals, Bayes posted 78 tackles (8 1/2 for loss), a sack, six forced fumbles and a blocked field goal for the 9-3 Indians in 2013.
"I know you question it a lot when kids say they commit, but this kid understands that word," Taggart said. "He's been with us from Day 1, he's been selling the USF program from Day 1. Never wavered, didn't take any other visits."
BUYING IN: In the wake of the worst season (2-10) in USF history, several local signees said Wednesday that they were sold on Taggart's long-term vision, and they were impressed by how effectively he laid it out.
Taggart's pitch: "Building a dream team here in Florida," said East Lake DB Devin Abraham, an early enrollee. "Being part of something new and part of something that's going to be pretty great."
"He's doing the right thing," Jefferson LB Juwuan Brown added. "He's going to change a lot. Watch."
BULL BITS: Of the 23 high school players who signed Wednesday, 19 attended a USF camp in the offseason. "That is huge," Taggart said. … Taggart was active on Twitter most of Wednesday morning, often tweeting out a Drake lyric after receiving a letter of intent. … Taggart, who indicated in December he had 31 scholarships to give, said he doesn't anticipate adding to this group. … There was interest in the Bulls' class. Taggart did seven radio spots, his normal signing day news conference and the live-streamed online webcast produced by the school.