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. Volleyball: Bulls brace for non-conference odyssey

    Blog

    Armed with the deepest team of her tenure, third-year USF volleyball coach Courtney Draper will learn soon if it's also her most resilient.

    The Bulls, picked fifth in the American Athletic Conference preseason poll, embark on a daunting non-conference stretch when they open their season with two matches Friday at the Mortar Board Premier at Purdue.

    The Bulls face Purdue, eighth in the AVCA preseason poll, at 10 a.m.; then play LSU, which received votes in the poll, at 5. They finish the event with a Saturday afternoon match against No. 14 San Diego.

    The tournament is the first of three USF will play on the road in the season's first 23 days. The Bulls also will play three matches at Auburn the weekend of Sept. 12-13, and three more at Pittsburgh the following weekend....

  2. Football report: Paging 'Mr. Adversity'

    Blog

    After an offseason of initiatives, booster events and pep rallies designed to lure his fan base back to Raymond James Stadium, Willie Taggart has extended a final invitation to Saturday's season opener -- to one prospective visitor.

    On Tuesday, the Bulls coach referred to him as "Mr. Adversity."

    "I think if there's one area you worry about, for me, it's just how are guys going to respond to adversity?" said Taggart, whose team failed to respond in last year's season opener, a 53-21 drubbing against Division I-AA McNeese State.

    "I think they'll go out and play well, I think they'll make plays, I think they'll do those things. But the one thing we haven't capitalized on, really, is adversity. You don't get that until the season starts and it's gonna happen. It's how you're gonna respond to it. I think that's something that got us last year."

    Fifth-year senior DT Todd Chandler said the Bulls were looking past McNeese to a Week 2 game at Michigan State in the 2013 season-opening debacle, when the Cowboys scored 40 unanswered points. USF managed only eight offensive touchdowns in the ensuing 11 games.

    "Adversity definitely became...one of our relatives last season," TE Sean Price said. "But like with anything, we've built a callous to it, as Coach (Paul) Wulff (offensive coordinator) would say. We definitely know how to handle it now and if it does come we'll be ready for it."

    MCFARLAND ON THE MEND? Senior TE Mike McFarland, slowed by a left knee injury in the latter half of preseason camp, suited up for Tuesday's practice and showed more mobility than he has in the last couple of weeks. Taggart said Monday he expects McFarland, a preseason all-conference pick by Sporting News and Athlon, to play against Western Carolina.

    "The nice thing is, he's progressing and he's getting a lot closer," Wulff said. "But again, I think that's still down the road for us to know for sure (about his weekend status)."

    GET ON THE (REAL) BUS: Starting this season, hopping on Coach Taggart's bus could be a literal endeavor.

    On Tuesday, USF announced two student transportation initiatives for home games, including free round-trip bus service from campus to Raymond James Stadium. Buses will arrive in 15-minute increments at two campus sites, the Marshall Student Center bus entrance and Juniper-Poplar Hall.

    Additionally, students who become members of the Student Bulls Club (SBC) -- a $10 annual membership -- can purchase reserved parking spaces in the Student Tailgate Zone for $5 per game. For information, go to GoUSFBulls.com.

    HUMBLED, THEN PROMOTED: In the wake of a humbling offseason and slow start to preseason camp, freshman OLB Vincent Jackson has performed his way to a No. 2 spot on the depth chart. Taggart said Jackson, a former Jesuit High star, came on late in August once he began digesting the Bulls' scheme.

    Regurgitation preceded digestion, however. "He thought (summer conditioning) was gonna be like high school when he first got in here and (strength) Coach 'O' (Irele Oderinde) put it on him in the weight room and made him throw up," Chandler recalled.

    "But one thing I can say about Vince, he never quit, he never gave up. He came to practice battle-ready every day."

    Jackson is among five freshmen on the Bulls' two-deep depth chart, but Taggart is putting no limit on how many rookies might play in 2014.

    "We're not thinking about redshirting anyone right now," he said. "Guys are still working and still competing. It's just Game 1. ... A lot of those guys just got here, but you've seen the growth that they've made in three weeks. You can only imagine where they're gonna be in another three weeks."

    ODDS AND ENDS: Taggart said sophomore Darius Tice -- the only tailback in camp with a collegiate carry -- will start Saturday, but the position could evolve into a committee approach. ... Saturday's game marks the radio debut of new Bulls sideline reporter (and former linebacker) Kawika Mitchell. ... The Bulls don't play a team they lost to in 2013 until Nov. 1 (Houston).

    AUDIBLE: "We're coming out like this is Florida State and we're playing for a national championship." -- Chandler on I-AA Western Carolina...

  3. Know the foe: Western Carolina

    Blog

    A look at Western Carolina, which faces the Bulls on Saturday at Raymond James Stadium

    Nickname: Catamounts

    Location: Cullowhee, N.C.

    2013 record: 2-10

    Coach:  Mark Speir (third season, 3-20)

    The breakdown: Five Catamounts, at least two of them prominent starters, have been suspended for this game for various reasons. The most significant loss is junior WR Karnorris Benson, last year's top receiver (51 catches, 834 yards, 12 TDs). ... Despite an abysmal recent history, WCU, with only seven seniors on its roster, was picked fifth in the Southern Conference media and coaches preseason polls. ... Catamounts 6-foot QB Troy Mitchell, making his 15th career start, set a school record for a quarterback with eight rushing TDs in 2013. ... WCU appears pretty seasoned up front with the exception of 310-pound freshman LT Andrew Miles.  ... Defensively, the Catamounts start four sophomores and no freshmen. Junior ends John McBeth and Caleb Hawkins have combined for 33 starts. "They're really solid on the edges," Bulls offensive coordinator Paul Wulff said.

    Odds and ends: The Catamounts have lost their last 21 road games dating to October 2010. ... WCU never has defeated a Division I team. Its official game-week release indicates a win at USF would "arguably be the biggest victory" in program history. ... Only two Catamounts are from Florida.

    Taggart's take: "They can run the football and they've got some skill guys out at receiver. Not necessarily the tallest guys but quick, fast, they're competitive. You really watch when those guys play up a different level, they really play hard. They have some guys that will hit you on defense, they have a running back and quarterback that are very talented, and they do a lot of misdirections. They do some inside zone, but they'll run some option out of things they do and some unbalanced (stuff); some really good schemes. We've got to be disciplined as a defense in what we're doing and wrap up and contain the quarterback."...

  4. FSU Seminoles, Mario Edwards Jr. expect another big year

    College

    TALLAHASSEE — The question, more interrogation than inquiry, was hurled at Jimbo Fisher from an upper row of FSU's theater-style meeting room during the Seminoles' recent media day.

    The paraphrased version: Mario Edwards Jr. had only 31/2 sacks last year, and people have been kind of waiting for him to stockpile all those sack numbers and, well …

    Fisher stopped the reporter right there. The same ears FSU's coach had lent the questioner suddenly were pinned back, in defense of his top defender....

    Mario Edwards earned third-team All-ACC honors (28 tackles, 9 1/2 for loss) as a sophomore last fall. [Getty Images]
  5. Six freshmen on Bulls' game-week depth chart

    Blog

    A half-dozen freshmen, including former local prep standouts Devin Abraham (East Lake) and Vincent Jackson (Jesuit), are on USF's updated two-deep depth chart entering the Bulls' first game week of 2014.

    The chart, which features the Bulls defense in a 3-4 alignment, was posted on the program's official Facebook page. Abraham, a January enrollee who missed spring drills due to shoulder surgery, is a second-team safety behind another Bulls newcomer, juco transfer Jamie Byrd (Pasco High)....

  6. Football report: Dunkley earns starting job

    Blog

    The move of veteran Bulls WR Chris Dunkley to cornerback has evolved from experiment to entrenchment.

    Coach Willie Taggart confirmed Monday that Dunkley has won a starting job at corner and will remain there for the time being. He'll also remain on special teams, where he led the Bulls in kick returns (18 for 406 yards) and ranked second in punt returns (four for 97) last season.

    "All I'm concerned about is Chris being the best defensive back he can be for this football team right now," Taggart said on the American Athletic Conference weekly coaches teleconference Monday.

    "I feel like we have guys over on offense that can take care of that side of the ball. If there comes a time where Chris is needed over there we can do that. But right now we want Chris to focus on being a great defensive back for us and a great return man for us."

    A former five-star receiving prospect who originally signed with Florida, Dunkley said his gravitation toward defense began last spring, when the coaches staged a practice period in which players were allowed to switch positions.

    "I switched my position and made a lot of plays at corner," said Dunkley, who totaled 11 catches the previous two seasons.

    "I always had corner deep down in me, but I would say finally (secondary) Coach (Ron Cooper) seen it in me and gave me the opportunity. And ever since then the sky's been the limit, and I thank Coach Coop for that every day."

    FIVE CATAMOUNTS OUT: Western Carolina announced five players, including 2013 leading receiver Karnorris Benson, have been suspended from Saturday's game against the Bulls at Raymond James Stadium.

    Benson (51 catches, 834 yards in '13) is serving a two-game suspension related to academic eligibility requirements from the '13 fall semester. Four others, including starting DB Bryson Jordan, have been benched for violations relating to class attendance, tutors and the Academic Enhancement Program or study hall, the school announced.

    TE 'EXPECTED' TO PLAY: Taggart said Monday he expects senior TE Mike McFarland to play Saturday. The former Blake High standout has worn a brace on his left knee the last couple of weeks and has appeared limited during portions of practice open to reporters.

    Two others, DB Jalen Spencer and LB Nick Holman, won't play Saturday, Taggart said. Otherwise, the Bulls are healthy entering game week....

    Converted WR Chris Dunkley has earned a starting cornerback job, Coach Willie Taggart confirmed Monday.
  7. Willie Taggart aims for USF Bulls turnaround in Year 2

    College

    TAMPA

    In the autonomy narrative consuming college football, USF is filed among the "have-nots," at least in an economic sense. If Alabama and Florida State are the Ali and Frazier of the moment, USF's in the cruiserweight division.

    But strip away the business part — the dollars and cents and season-ticket sales and 24-hour league networks — and focus on the roster. At that point, one can't help but realize the Bulls are far wealthier in the "have" department than a season ago....

    Willie Taggart was 2-10 in his first season at Western Kentucky in 2010 but in 2011, his second season there, WKU went 7-5.
  8. Analyzing the 2014 USF Bulls by position

    College

    Quarterback

    Incumbent Mike White, above, still seeking his first victory as a starter, held off a challenge from junior Steven Bench in the preseason. Based on observation and sound bites, both possess more command of the offense than they did a season ago. One has to presume coach Willie Taggart will devise some packages to use Bench's mobility. What to do with promising freshman Quinton Flowers? Taggart won't discuss redshirt scenarios....

    OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times (2013)
  9. USF football preview, odds and ends

    College

    Barring injury or a sudden desire to throw in another direction, senior WR Andre Davis (above) will own every major Bulls receiving record by the end of the season — or even the end of nonconference play.

    The former Jefferson High star enters 2014 needing 107 receiving yards, 15 catches and five TD receptions to become the Bulls' career leader in each category. He had 49 catches for a USF season-record 735 yards last fall....

    OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times (2013)
  10. 2014 USF Bulls football schedule

    College

    SATURDAY

    Who: Western Carolina

    Where: Tampa

    When: 7 p.m.

    SEPT. 6

    Who: Maryland

    Where: Tampa

    When: 3:30 p.m.

    SEPT. 13

    Who: N.C. State

    Where: Tampa

    When: 3:30 p.m.

    SEPT. 19

    Who: Connecticut

    Where: Tampa

    When: 8 p.m....

  11. Cliett, Davis, Kloss named captains

    Blog

    If Saturday morning's team photo is any sign, the Bulls are following through with their plans for nameless jerseys, though Coach Willie Taggart is hardly shunning name recognition altogether.

    On Friday night, he announced via Twitter three seniors -- WR Andre Davis, LB Reshard Cliett and PK Marvin Kloss -- will be the Bulls' 2014 captains. The trio was chosen by its teammates.

    "I think it says a lot, especially when we as coaches don't have any influence on who gets picked," Taggart said during the photo session at Raymond James Stadium. "It's all by their peers and like I tell our guys, I think that's the best award you can get."

    Davis, a Jefferson High alumnus, is on the cusp of a handful of USF career receiving records. Cliett leads all active Bulls with 101 career tackles. Kloss was a Lou Groza Award finalist last season; he'll rotate his captaincy with other special-teamers during the year, Taggart said.

    "For them to think of me as a captain, I really appreciate that," Davis said. "I'm ready for it."

    DUVAL EARNS A RIDE: Fifth-year senior WR Jordan Duval, a special teams regular who appeared in all 12 games last season, has earned a scholarship for 2014, Taggart announced. The former Hillsborough High all-county receiver and punter recorded his first two college receptions last year.

    "He's been helping us a couple of years now, not necessarily at a position but on special teams, and that's important," Taggart said.

    "I think that's one of the coolest things Coach Taggart does, giving walk-ons a chance to earn a scholarship," QB Mike White said. "(Duval) deserves every bit of it. He's out there making plays day-in and day-out whether it's on offense or special teams."

    ODDS AND ENDS: Kloss said walk-ons Jake Carlton and Alex Salvato are splitting reps at long snapper. "Both of them have been doing a spectacular job," Kloss said. "They fit the mold perfectly, so there's no drop-off in performance in any way." ... If Saturday's shorts-and-jerseys walk-through is any sign, CB Chris Dunkley -- moved from receiver in the offseason -- has earned a starting spot entering game week. ... TE Mike McFarland (left knee) continues to be limited by a brace. ... We can't resist this anecdote: White, a lifelong Dolphins fan, said he made his debut on the Jumbotron at Joe Robbie Stadium (now Sun Life Stadium) as a 3-month-old. "My dad was holding me with one arm, and backing my grandpa away from a fight with the other," White said....

  12. USF coach gives up playcalling — almost

    College

    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 playcaller his first four seasons as a head coach, confirmed Friday that 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....

  13. 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.
  14. Tampa Bay Times preseason college football Top 25

    College

    The Tampa Bay Times preseason top 25 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 the Seminoles returned to college football's apex. Think about it: Quarterback 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 might be even better this year. Their most significant loss: defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt (to Georgia)....

    PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 06:  Florida State Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher (R) holds the Coaches' Trophy as quarterback Jameis Winston (L) #5 looks on after defeating the Auburn Tigers 34-31 in the 2014 Vizio BCS National Championship Game at the Rose Bowl on January 6, 2014 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
  15. 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....