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USF football report: Taggart seeks support

USF takes the field for its inaugural football game, against Kentucky Wesleyan.
USF takes the field for its inaugural football game, against Kentucky Wesleyan.
Published Sep. 7, 2016

Thirty years later, Taggart still pitching product

Back in the days of Ray-Bans and Ray Perkins, Willie Taggart and his youth football teammates spent many autumn Sundays selling Cokes at the old Tampa Stadium.

"I used to get tipped pretty good," said Taggart, then a star for the Palmetto Eagles. "I was a good worker."

Today at age 40, Taggart has transitioned from hawking sodas to sleek offenses. On Tuesday, the 19th anniversary of USF's inaugural football game, the Bulls' fourth-year coach again urged the area to support the Bulls and help fulfill the vision of former athletic director Lee Roy Selmon.

Win and they will come? That hypothesis has yet to be realized in the Taggart era. The Bulls have won their past five at home and eight of their last 10 overall, but actual attendance for Saturday's home opener against Towson (22,626) was only slightly higher than the 2015 opener against FAMU (21,928).

"You always hear people talk about us being a sleeping giant. It's not just the football team that's sleeping," Taggart said. "Everybody's got to wake up and become that giant and make it what we know it can be.

"We've all got to build it together. I say we all — us, our fan base, our community — we've all got to do our part in helping make Lee Roy's vision become a reality."

So when does he kick?

With 77 all-purpose yards and one tackle (on special teams) in Saturday's win against Towson, junior D'Ernest Johnson kept fortifying his case for most versatile Bull ever. Johnson now has 1,742 career all-purpose yards, one rushing and six receiving TDs, a TD pass (last year against UConn) and six tackles.

Audible

"Bone-headed, trying to enjoy college to the very fullest. For real, that's what it was. Obviously I learned my lesson."

Bulls senior LB Nigel Harris, discussing the team-rules violation that had him suspended (for two games) this time last season. On Saturday, Harris had six tackles, a sack and an interception against Towson

Beginner's pluck

A handful of Bulls who hadn't previously appeared in a game for USF had pretty smashing debuts Saturday against Towson:

WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling: three catches, 79 yards, TD (51-yarder)

QB Brett Kean: 5-for-7, 52 yards, TD pass (to D'Ernest Johnson) on first attempt

S Malik Dixon: seven tackles (tied for team-high), sack, forced fumble, pass breakup

TE Mitchell Wilcox: 21-yard TD (on first career catch)