Joey Knight, Times Staff Writer

Joey Knight

A fourth-generation Floridian, Joey Knight was born in Tampa and raised in Zephyrhills, where he still resides. He moved to the Times in July 2006 after 15 years at the Tampa Tribune, which included a seven-year stint (1997-2004) as University of Florida beat writer. He began covering the University of South Florida athletic department for the Times in 2013. A married father of three, he enjoys running, classic television and classic heavy-metal music.

Phone: (813) 310-6328

E-mail: jknight@tampabay.com

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  1. Taggart: Staff will call the plays

    Blog

    TAMPA -- Though still a few days shy of his 38th birthday, Willie Taggart already has served as a head coach, coordinator and position coach for running backs and receivers at the college level.

    Starting next Saturday, he'll add a new role to his resume: CEO.

    Taggart, primary play-caller his first four seasons as a head coach, confirmed Friday he's delegating that job to his offensive staff. Coordinator Paul Wulff will be on the sideline, with QB coach David Reaves in the box. Taggart won't reveal just how the plays will be signaled in.

    "I'll still have some input," Taggart said. "But one thing I thought I could do a better job at is managing the game, and not just offense but the entire football team."

    USF scored a Division I-worst 11 offensive touchdowns in 2013 as players acclimated themselves to Taggart's offense, a hybrid of West Coast and power-run principles with some option and zone-read interspersed. Wulff already was highly familiar with it, having spent the previous two seasons as an offensive assistant to 49ers coach and former Taggart boss Jim Harbaugh.

    "I'm not gonna get away from (play-calling), but again, I'm gonna have my hands on a little bit of everything and let those guys do their job and make sure we're doing what's best for our football team," Taggart said. "I'm excited about it. I think it's gonna make a huge difference for us."

    HUDDLE UP: All USF students are invited to the Morsani Practice Complex Saturday at 5 p.m. to join the Bulls football team for the "Huddle," a free, pep rally-type gathering that promises to be exactly what it sounds like.

    Students will form a huge huddle with Bulls players and coaches, hear a few words from Taggart and enjoy some free food in a tailgate setting.

    "Another way to get interactive with our students," Taggart said. "It's their football team as well."

    BREAKING CAMP: The Bulls formally ended preseason camp Friday with an afternoon practice in shorts, jerseys and helmets. The only significant injuries of the month: freshman LB Nick Holman (torn labrum) and TE Mike McFarland (knee).

    McFarland wasn't present at the portion of Friday's practice open to reporters, but Taggart has said he's optimistic the senior will be ready for next weekend's season opener against Western Carolina.

    "Really good camp," Taggart said.

    "Really excited about the progress where our team is now and the job that our coaching staff has done with their players, and I'm really excited to see our guys go play. I think I'm kind of like everyone else, just anxious to see them go out and perform."

    WALK-THROUGH: To refresh the veterans and orientate the rookies, the Bulls will hold a private walk-through Saturday at Raymond James Stadium. After team pictures are taken, the Bulls will simulate their game-day procedure, from the walk to the stadium to getting dressed to running through the tunnel. "We've got to play there (next Saturday) and we want to make sure there are no hiccups," Taggart said.

    ODDS AND ENDS: Former Bucs coach Tony Dungy and his wife Lauren attended Friday's practice. Their son, former Plant DB/WR Eric Dungy, is embarking on his first season as a Bulls receiver after transferring from Oregon. ... Converted WR Chris Dunkley, training mainly at cornerback now, said he'll still get some offensive reps in certain situations, and will continue returning kicks and punts. Dunkley led USF in kick returns (18) and return average (22.6 yards) last season.

    AUDIBLE: "That's a trick question." -- senior RG Quinterrius Eatmon, when asked if he's glad camp is over  ...

    Former Bucs coach Tony Dungy (center) and his wife Lauren speak to USF coach Willie Taggart during their visit Friday to the Bulls' practice.
  2. Tampa Bay Times preseason college football Top 25

    College

    The Tampa Bay Times preseason ranking as selected by staff writer Joey Knight, a voter in the Associated Press poll. His AP ballot will be available each week during the season on his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bulls.

    1. Florida State

    A summer ago, any reasonable forecaster might have projected 2014 as the year of the Seminoles' return to college football's apex. Think about it: Jameis Winston would have a year of seasoning, the offensive front would teem with seniors, and veteran talent would be visible in nearly every nook of the defense. Well, Winston's staggering rookie season expedited things, and the 'Noles may be even better this year. Their most significant loss: defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt (to Georgia)....

  3. Ready for some futbol? Women's soccer opens tonight

    Blog

    For at least one muggy August evening, the anticipation surrounding Bulls football will be upstaged.

    By Bulls futbol.

    USF's women's soccer team will try to build on its two-year, 18-match home unbeaten streak tonight when it opens the 2014 season against FAU. Kickoff is at 7:30.

    The Bulls, picked fourth in the American Athletic Conference preseason coaches poll, haven't lost at Corbett Stadium since a 3-1 defeat against No. 12 UCF on Aug. 17, 2012. They return seven starters from last season's 10-4-6 club but will have a rookie in goal.

    Rangy rising junior Christiane Endler, a second-team all-conference pick last season, signed a pro contract with the Chelsea Ladies Football Club of the FA Women's Super League this past spring. Freshmen Thordis Aikman, Lydia Cagle and Katarina Elliott spent the preseason competing for Endler's job.

    Coach Denise Schilte-Brown hasn't revealed the starter, but Aikman started the final exhibition match, a 4-0 victory against Stetson....

  4. USF Bulls change equation on defense

    College

    TAMPA — If all goes as planned, the makeover of USF football will contain aesthetic and athletic qualities this fall.

    Immediately noticeable will be the gold-and-chrome helmets with matching chin straps, the nameless jerseys, maybe even the gloves — glossy and green — worn by several players. That's the style.

    Slightly less conspicuous, but certainly more significant, will be the three down linemen on defense, often flanked by agile ends or outside linebackers on both edges. That's the substance....

    Fifth-year senior Todd Chandler (6 feet, 321 pounds), who squatted 700 pounds over the summer, is your classic nose tackle.  ]
  5. Bigger, stronger QB Mike White set to lead USF Bulls

    College

    TAMPA

    Over one screwy weekend two autumns ago, Mike White earned a scholarship from USF only to presume he lost it. As the Skip Holtz coaching era segued from dusk to darkness, some Bulls assistants crossed the Courtney Campbell Causeway to observe White, a gangling Fort Lauderdale University senior quarterback, in a Class 3A playoff game at Clearwater Central Catholic. Before kickoff, they told White, in not so many words, a solid performance would warrant an offer. He didn't toss a first-half incompletion, finishing 26-for-30 for 324 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-0 win. "They told me at halftime, 'Listen, we just need Holtz to sign off on it and we're offering you,' " White recalled. Less than 48 hours later, Holtz was fired, and White believed the offer was toast. A week later at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, he led University to a state title, rallying it from 17 points down for a 24-17 win against Madison County. At roughly the same time, Willie Taggart was being introduced as Holtz's replacement. White barely had untied his cleats when Taggart called him with a message: You're still our guy. "I knew I wanted to be a Bull right then, so I said, 'Let me talk to my parents,' " White recalled. "I talked to my parents. Two minutes later, I called him back and committed."...

    Stripped of his redshirt in late October last season, Mike White sparkled in his starting debut at Houston and nearly led the Bulls to one of the year's biggest upsets at UCF. But his next win as USF's starter will be his first. [DEMETRIUS FREEMAN   |   Times

]
  6. Football report: Bulls not sweating jersey issue

    Blog

    While USF's fan base seemed divided -- based on social media reaction -- on the Bulls' nixed attempt to stitch "THE TEAM" on the back of each jersey, the Bulls' veterans said they warmed up to the idea long ago.

    C Austin Reiter and DT Todd Chandler, both fifth-year seniors, said coaches brought up the idea during the spring. It was quashed by an NCAA rule limiting the contents of jerseys to player names, numbers, authorized logos, etc....

  7. A TEAM loss: Bulls settle for blank jerseys (UPDATED)

    Blog

    After consultation with the NCAA -- and serious social media backlash -- USF has announced it has ditched the idea of replacing last names with THE TEAM on the back of jerseys this season.

    With the exception of the numbers, they'll simply remain blank, team spokesman Brian Siegrist said Tuesday.

    Responding to a circulating rumor, Coach Willie Taggart confirmed Monday evening the Bulls were planning to go with THE TEAM moniker for all jerseys, a violation of NCAA Rule 1-4-5 governing the design of football jerseys....

    Bulls head coach Willie Taggart proposed this for the backs of USF's football jerseys this season.
  8. Football report: Bulls to go nameless

    Blog

    TAMPA -- In an otherwise innocent effort to create unity, Coach Willie Taggart also may have created a firestorm among his fan base with his confirmation Monday the Bulls will not have names on the back of their jerseys this season.

    Instead, two words -- THE TEAM -- will be listed above the numbers.

    "We're going to represent the Bulls," Taggart said before Monday evening's workout. "That's not to say that (the names) won't come back some time, but our football team is focusing on the team. That's where it needs to be."

    The announcement triggered social media hubbub, with Twitter reaction ranging from hearty approval to astonishment to embarrassment. Taggart said the move was necessitated by last year's 2-10 effort.

    "That was one of the things we thought as a coaching staff that we could do better, is becoming a team," Taggart said. "If we became a football team that was all about USF and not individuals, good things can happen for us. And we've seen that throughout the offseason and I feel like it'll translate into the season as we get going."

    WHITE NO LONGER GREEN: A day after being named starter for the Aug. 30 season opener, sophomore QB Mike White said he matured greatly during his competition with junior Steven Bench, walk-on Evan Wilson and freshman Quinton Flowers.

    White was informed during a position meeting Sunday night, and was immediately congratulated by Bench, whom he called "a class act."

    "I feel really confident, I feel like I'm seeing the field well," said White, an 18-year-old with no college spring practices when he became the starter for the last five games of 2013....

    The back of USF's jerseys will look like this in 2014.
  9. Men's soccer: Bulls picked second in AAC

    Blog

    USF's men's soccer team, seeking its eighth consecutive NCAA Tournament berth, is second in the American Athletic Conference's preseason coaches poll released Monday.

    The Bulls, 8-4-9 last season, received one the league's eight first-place votes and 48 points overall. Connecticut, which lost to the Bulls (via penalty kicks) in last year's conference tournament final, got the other seven first-place nods and 56 points.

    Bulls sophomore midfielder Lindo Mfeka and senior forward Edwin Moalosi, each of whom collected five goals and four assists in 2013, earned spots on the preseason all-conference team.

    USF hosts two 7:30 p.m. exhibition matches this week, Tuesday against Saint Leo and Saturday against the University of Tampa. It opens the regular season Aug. 29 at Florida Gulf Coast....

  10. Mike White named USF Bulls starting QB

    College

    TAMPA — USF sophomore quarterback Mike White, who started the final five games of 2013, will retain his starting job for now.

    White will start the Bulls' Aug. 30 season opener against Western Carolina at Raymond James Stadium, the Bulls announced on their Twitter account Sunday night. The youngest QB in camp, White, 19, was informed at a Sunday evening team meeting.

    The announcement follows a two-week competition that also included junior Steven Bench, Sarasota walk-on Evan Wilson and freshman Quinton Flowers. ...

    Sophomore Mike White started the final five games of last season for USF.
  11. Mike White wins Bulls QB job

    Blog

    TAMPA -- USF sophomore quarterback Mike White, who started the final five games of 2013, will retain his job for now.

    The program announced on its official Twitter feed Sunday night that White will start the Bulls' Aug. 30 season opener against Western Carolina at Raymond James Stadium. The youngest QB in camp, White, 19, was informed at a Sunday evening team meeting.

    The announcement follows a two-week competition that also featured junior Steven Bench, Sarasota walk-on Evan Wilson and oncoming freshman Quinton Flowers. On Saturday, following the Bulls' second live scrimmage of August, Coach Willie Taggart said a decision was forthcoming.

    "We want to go into next week being pretty sure on who we're gonna work with and who we'll continue to bring along with us," he said.

    The first commitment of the Taggart era, White was a 186-pound rookie with two college pass attempts when he became USF's fourth starting quarterback of 2013 in an Oct. 31 game at Houston. Statistically he delivered his best performance (26-for-41, 311 yards, two TDs, one INT) in that 35-23 defeat.

    In the ensuing four games -- all losses -- he threw eight picks and one TD. Now 25 pounds heavier, White -- and Bench, for that matter -- have been lauded by Taggart for their overall accuracy and command of the offense.

    "After the Houston game, I felt the need to kind of make more plays," White said last Monday. "And being a quarterback, you've got to realize that not every play is gonna be a 15-yard completion. There's gonna be some times you need to throw it away and live to see another down.

    "And I think I kind of got away from that toward the end of the year. And that's one thing I've been working on (in camp). ... I think that was the biggest thing, I tried to push too much instead of just letting the playmakers make the plays."  ...

    Sophomore Mike White was named the Bulls' starting quarterback Sunday evening.
  12. Mike Evans' near-touchdown turns into turnover

    Bucs

    TAMPA — The Bucs' top draft pick received a formal coronation with cannon blasts Saturday night. Fittingly, they were blanks.

    Instead of celebrating his first pro touchdown, receiver Mike Evans had to deal with the fallout from a touchback.

    "It was a rookie mistake," he said.

    And it shaped up as Tampa Bay's most electrifying offensive play of the night, for a few moments. Evans leaped for a Mike Glennon pass on an intermediate route on third and 15, bounced off safety Jimmy Wilson and dashed down the left sideline for what was initially declared a 42-yard second-quarter touchdown....

    Bucs Mike Evans (13) loses the ball just before crossing the goal line. Play was called a touchdown but it was over ruled on review and the ball went to the Dolphins as the fumble resulted in a touchback during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers preseason game against the Miami Dolphins at Raymond James Stadium Saturday night 8/16/2014.
  13. New USF Bull perseveres through trying time

    College

    TAMPA — The first diagnosis, during a mandatory physical before his senior season at Lakewood High, was overridden by second opinions. Turned out, no hole existed in Rodney Adams' heart.

    "He had to go through all those specialists to tell him there was nothing wrong with him," Adams' maternal grandmother, Ruth Cooper, said. "He was just freaking out."

    Fifteen months later, though, a hole did appear, and it was gaping. This time there was no mistake, nor was there medicine to fix it. In time he'd learn to function with it, but on Nov. 3, 2013, the hole rendered him helpless, disconsolate and angry....

    Rodney Adams was a freshman at Toledo last year.
  14. Full disclosure: My initial AP ballot

    Blog

    For the second consecutive year, the Associated Press has afforded me the privilege of being derided, disparaged and decried by many of you on a weekly basis.

    Small price to pay for being among the 60 or so voters in the AP football poll. The preseason top 25 is set to be released Saturday. Not sure how closely it will resemble my ballot listed below but I'm eager to find out.

    A few points (or disclaimers) about my top 25: First, I don't subscribe to the philosophy (shared by more than you might think) that the reigning national champ remains No. 1 until someone knocks it off. Every team is different.

    But FSU isn't that much different....

  15. USF's first scrimmage makes coach Willie Taggart happy

    Sports

    TAMPA — A day after USF's first live scrimmage of the preseason, coach Willie Taggart said he saw a number of things during the closed session that were missing most of last fall.

    Namely touchdowns, offensive self-assurance and a heightened sense of urgency.

    "We had guys catching touchdowns, we had guys getting interceptions, guys picking up fumbled snaps for touchdowns. Some big hits on both sides of the ball from a lot of guys," said Taggart, who holds another closed scrimmage Saturday morning, before the annual Fan Fest at Corbett Stadium....

    Senior receiver Andre Davis was one of several players USF coach Willie Taggart praised Thursday.