Commentary | New coach Willie Taggart keeps USF Bulls on their toes in spring game

adell@bradenton.comApril 14, 2013 

TAMPA

Willie Taggart's first spring football game at USF is in the books and here is what we know:

There is no depth chart, no one has a starting job, and the offense is getting better.

Confused?

That's OK.

It's vintage Taggart. He likes to keep everyone guessing.

It creates hunger and enthusiasm among his players.

The battle for the starting quarterback job between Bobby Eveld and Matt Floyd most likely got a little tighter, though you wouldn't want to put your money on either after Saturday's game at Raymond James Stadium.

"Nobody is ahead, but they are getting better," Taggart said. "Matt did some good things, but like I told them all spring you put the ball on the ground and it takes away all the good things you did. A fumbled snap and defense gets the ball; that will get you beat."

Floyd threw two touchdown passes to Andre Davis. On his first offensive snap, he hit the wide receiver for 85 yards and then threw a 1-yarder into the corner of the end zone just before halftime.

Last year, Floyd did not throw a touchdown pass in 110 attempts and was intercepted five times. Unofficially, he was behind Eveld this spring. He made up some ground, though he had an advantage with Davis, the Bulls' leading pass-catcher last year.

"We wanted to see some big plays. Andre did that, and Matt threw some good balls in there," Taggart said. "One area of concern was too many fumbled snaps and penalties that you can control (false starts). Bobby didn't play as well as I thought that he would. He made a couple of good throws. "

Floyd completed 9 of 16 passes for 208 yards. But the redshirt sophomore fumbled four snaps and lost three, which is sure to keep him standing next to Taggart when the real games begin.

"Obviously we have to fix things like the snaps. It's great to have a guy like Andre," Floyd said. "The competition (with Eveld) sometimes brings people apart, but it has brought us closer together. I don't know anything about who is going to starter. That's up to coach T."

Eveld struggled most of the game, connecting on 14 of 24 passes for 143 yards. He scored on a 1-yard run and added a two-point conversion on a run to account for his Green team's final points in a 14-11 loss.

The Green's leading receivers were Derrick Hopkins (four catches for 60 yards) and Lakewood Ranch tight end Jake Carlton (4-28). For the White team, Clinton Jones (45 yards), Deonte Welch (40) and Mike McFarland (32) had two receptions each.

"Andre has been making plays all spring. It's why they call him the

freak. We have to do a good job of getting him the ball," Taggart said.

Willie Davis (Green team) led all rushers with 39 yards on 15 carries, one of which resulted in a 13-yard loss. Marcus Shaw, who figured to be the starter in the fall, picked up 33 yards on 11 carries.

"I thought throughout spring they ran the ball better than they did today," Taggart said. "There were a lot of holes, and our running backs missed them trying to rush it too much rather than being patient and trusting their blockers."

Taggart couldn't say whether the defense or offense was better at this point because the teams were divided up with a mixture of starters and reserves.

"We didn't blitz, and offensively we didn't do a lot of motion and shifting that we will in the fall so it's hard to say who is ahead," Taggart said. "But we got better on both sides of the ball. Earlier in the spring, the defense was way ahead of the offense."

When Taggart took the head coaching job last December, inheriting a program that was coming off its worst season in school history (3-9), he promised there would be more than the two interceptions the Bulls had all last of year.

Linebacker Reshard Cliett made Taggart look good when he picked off an Eveld pass. Fellow linebacker DeDe Lattimore and linemen Elkino Watson, along with Cliett, led the White team with five tackles each.

Hans Louis led everyone with six tackles, including three solos and two tackles for losses and recovered a fumble. Demi Thompson (defensive end) had five tackles, a sack, two tackles for losses, a forced fumble and had a fumble recovery.

"Our linebackers as a whole looked good," USF linebackers coach Ray Woodie said. "We showed that we have depth there, which we were worried about. Reshard has a way to go, but he can be an intricate part of our defense. He got a lot better tonight, and that's what you want."

Former Palmetto High quarterback Trent Miller completed four straight passes in his only appearance and finished his stint connecting on 4 of 5 attempts for 26 yards.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.

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