SARASOTA -- Willie Taggart understands his first two seasons weren't a fantastic start to his University of South Florida coaching career, but he knows getting the program back to its winning ways is a marathon and not a sprint.
While the Bulls only improved in the win column by two games this past year, and the team is 6-18 under Taggart, the third season is where you see growth and development from the younger guys.
"I've told my kids from day one that we need to improve, nobody stays the same you either get better or worse but it will take time," Taggart said. "We got better from year one to year two, it may not have been as much as some people wanted but we certainly got better."
Taggart and other Bulls coaches joined fans and alumni at Lee Roy Selmon's in Sarasota on Monday night for a meet-and-greet, answering questions and giving insight to their teams.
Taggart, a Palmetto native who helped lead the Manatee Hurricanes to a 1992 state championship, has found his own leader right here in this same area.
"Marlon Mack stepped up for us last year and was a leader that we needed," Taggart said. "He wasn't a very vocal guy, but he got it done leading by example, and his teammates wanted to emulate that."
Mack, a Booker high graduate, finished the season with 1,041 rushing yards on 202 carries and nine touchdowns en route to winning conference freshman of the year honors. Production the team is hoping to get out of him this year.
"When I started here, we didn't have a guy that could be the face of our team, but now Mack is that guy for us," Taggart said.
This offseason, Taggart added his former Manatee High coach, Joe Kinan, to his staff as an offensive consultant.
"He's a coach that's been there, and I know he will help me a great deal. It's only going to benefit the guys in the locker room and the other coaches," Taggart said.
Now that Taggart has his leader in place and a familiar coach to help his staff, the finish line might closer than most are anticipating.