TAMPA -- When University of South Florida head football coach Willie Taggart unexpectedly learned Friday he would have to hire a new defensive coordinator he knew exactly where to look.
Ray Woodie was Taggart's right-hand man during Western Kentucky's turnaround and this past season for USF.
The conversation was brief and there was no hesitation on the part of either.
"He basically pulled me into his office and told me I am going to be the guy," Woodie said. "Coach Taggart is big on promotion, especially if you do your job. I am just grateful he gave me the opportunity. One of my major goals is be a coordinator and, hopefully, one day a head coach."
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Taggart said he had no second thoughts about Woodie and no doubt about him being able to handle the challenge.
"It didn't take long to identify coach Woodie as the right person to lead our defense," Taggart said. "He has done a great job of developing a strong linebacker unit over the past three years, and his positive impact on our special teams was very evident last year."
The promotion makes the Manatee County connection to the USF football program even stronger though Taggart will tell you that is not the reason he named Woodie to head the defense.
"Woodie has tremendously strong relationships with our players, great knowledge of our system and is well prepared to lead our defense," Taggart said.
Both have made their impact on Manatee County football. Taggart quarterbacked Manatee High School to two state championship games and won the state title his junior year under Hall of Fame coach Joe Kinnan, who is an assistant on the USF staff.
Woodie played at Palmetto and was head coach there and after serving nine years as head coach
at Bayshore, where he led the Bruins to their best era of football. They won their only district title during his tenure and made the postseason five times after making only one appearance before his arrival.
Woodie was in charge of the defense at Bayshore and Palmetto. He had multiple roles this past season for USF where he was assistant head coach, linebackers coach and special teams coordinator.
"This is one of my dream. I am ready for it and I am confident," Woodie said. "I don't know if I am going to be doing special teams anymore. Whatever I am asked to do I will do. It's just time to get back to work. You can't rest on your laurels."
Woodie is the Bulls' top recruiter and has received recruiting honors multiple times from various recruiting sites.
Under Woodie last season, South Florida's special teams finished sixth nationally in kick returns to set a program record and ranked first in the American Athletic Conference, averaging 26.7 yards per return. The Bulls ranked second in the conference and 36th nationally in punt returns, averaging 10.9 yards. The Bulls ranked 36th nationally in kickoff return defense and 65th in punt return defense.
Woodie replaces Tom Allen, who resigned after one highly successful season to take the same position for the University of Indiana in his native state.
Allen utilized a 4-2-5 defensive scheme that finished fourth in the AAC in total defense and recorded 17 interceptions, which is the third-best single season total in school history. The Bulls 7.5 tackles for loss per game tied for 13th nationally.
Woodie would not commit himself to any particularly defense next season and would not rule anything out.
"We are going to do some things. The game has changed and a lot of people we play use the spread offense," Woodie said. "I am going to do multiple things and try to fit our personnel. That is the key. We are not going to do something just to do it."