South Florida’s record-breaking running back Marlon Mack might not play Saturday because of an injury, but head coach Willie Taggart expects the Bulls’ offensive production to increase.
It’s a sign of growth for Taggart and the Bulls that they are able to take that position.
It’s not a slight on Mack. It’s just that the two-time American Athletic Conference rushing champ has more than a good supporting cast in D’Ernest Johnson and Darius Tice.”
“We know how to win and everyone has the mentality that we’ve got to go out there and get the ‘W,’” said Johnson, the Bulls’ co-offensive MVP last year when he led the team with 1,251 all-purpose yards.
Taggart is also confident because he was impressed with the play of his offensive line in last week’s 56-20 victory against Towson.
“I thought they did some good things up front,” Taggart said. “We are nowhere where we need to be or where we will be, but I thought they did a lot of good things. From a technical standpoint, we can do a lot better up front and we need to be better. But for their first game playing together, those guys did a good job. They opened some holes for the backs to run and protected for the quarterback to throw the ball. I would take that any Saturday.”
Mack is questionable after sitting out the second half last week. He has been undergoing the concussion protocol that could last up to the 7 p.m. kickoff at Raymond James Stadium.
“If Marlon doesn’t play, then those guys have an opportunity to go out and show what we’ve all been saying from Day One,” Taggart said. “(Confidence) is high. It’s where it needs to be and it’s where it should be,
USF’s Gulf Coast Offense produced six touchdown drives that took less than two minutes in the season opener.
The competition, Northern Illinois, gets better this week, but that doesn’t change Taggart’s approach as he attempts to open a season 2-0 for the first time since he took over the program four years ago.
Going back to the start of last season when the Bulls installed the Gulf Coast offense, 60 percent of USF’s touchdown drives have taken less than two minutes. In total, 37 of USF’s past 50 touchdown drives have required six plays or fewer. USF has won six of its past seven home games by an average score of 45-19.
The Bulls’ defense under new defensive coordinator Ray Woodie picked up where it left off last year, producing four turnovers that led to 21 points and included an interception and three fumble recoveries. USF is tied for the national lead in take-aways.
But Woodie, the former Palmetto and Bayshore head football coach, wasn’t handing out plaudits. He is asking for more.
“We have to keep getting better. We can’t get in a settling position. You have to be really disciplined with your eyes to play and defeat a team like them,” Woodie said of Northern Illinois. “Our everyday goal is to force takeaways. Those guys had a really good first game doing that. Our goal is three, and we reached that.”
His defense will be tested by an NIU team that committed one turnover in a 40-34 triple-overtime loss to Wyoming last week while racking up 462 yards of offense.
But Nigel Harris, who had USF’s only interception, was fully behind Woodie.
“Coach Woodie called some awesome plays for us, and he made it easy for us to make the plays and get the takeaway,” Harris said. “There’s the five A’s that he always preaches: Alignment, Assignment, Adjustment, Alert, and Attack. So if you get all five of those good, it’s a positive play.”
Who: NIU (0-1) at USF (1-0)
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa
TV: CBS Sports network
Tickets: Ticketmaster.com or at stadium ticket office