TAMPA, Fla. — Now that The American Athletic Conference Media Day for 2014 has concluded and everybody that attended the event has left and went back to their respective homes, the coaches, the student-athlete and the media are just ready to get the 2014 football season started.
The anticipation is no different here in the city of Tampa, around the campus of the University of South Florida and for the Bulls’ football coach Willie Taggart, it is the excitement of a spanking brand new football season making the next few weeks-a new adventure.
The fans do have some questions for the Bulls this off season that will need to be addressed.
Can the Bulls’ offense improve enough, can the quarterback direct the offense with confidence, can the running game be stable and can the offensive line be a force at the line of scrimmage?
The improvement has all ready started Taggart says, the work in the weight room is an area in which his team is improving. The offensive line last season averaged 297 pounds but the off season program is improving the line to an average of 310 pounds and Taggart says that is because of the work they have done in the weight room.
There are also no shortage of questions on the defensive side of the ball.
Can the Bulls’ defensive line control the line of scrimmage, can the linebackers contribute and can the defensive backfield contain the opponent from gaining big yardage and extending offensive drives?
Only time can provide the answer for the Bulls’ defense.
The members of the media that cover the conference believe that the Bulls will have to prove and show that this team has plenty of the correct answers to all of the questions surrounding the team.
The media picked The University of South Florida to finish in sixth place in the American Athletic Conference, the Bulls finished the poll with a total of 157 points.
The pick of the media to sit at the top of the conference this season, is the Bearcats of the University of Cincinnati, which just happen to be the first team that Taggart and the Bulls defeated last season at Raymond James Stadium.
Taggart and his coaching staff keep saying that last season is a faded memory – ancient history.
Taggart said that this off season, the players seem to be ready to get to work, he says they have improved mentally and there is no question about there dedication in the classroom and to the game of football.
“Our guys are starting to think the way we want them to think now,” Taggard said. “What we wanted to do first this off season is come together as a football team and become a closer football team.”
USF started the off season by setting a new school record with 23 student-athletes on the conference All-Academics team.
“I look at what we’ve done off the field and everything, is what I call on schedule in doing things the right way,” Taggart said. “There eagerness to learn football is off the chart right now, something we didn’t have before. I think a lot of that has to do with everybody understanding the expectation and the standard we’re going to live by.”
Last season the Bulls started the season against McNeese State University and the Cowboys upset the Bulls, 53-21, at home and the Bulls seemed never to recover and struggled with the rest of the season.
The first game of this season will be played under the lights at Raymond James Stadium, Saturday evening August 30, 2014 against Western Carolina University and Taggart says his team will not over look the Catamounts.
“This off season that’s all we’ve been focusing on is Western Carolina,” Taggart said. “We don’t let our guys talk about anybody else.”
Taggart says he felt like that the Bulls just lost focus last season and that is not going to happen this season.
“It’s important how we start the season,” Taggart said. “We’ve got to go in, locked into Western Carolina and make sure we go out and have the best performance we can have to start the season off with.”
For college football fans, this is one of the best time of the year. A brand new football season, every team is at the same spot and with the same the record.
The goal is the same for everybody, win a conference championship, get invited to a bowl game and all of this begins for the Bulls at home beginning at 7 p.m. under the lights at Raymond James Stadium in the city of Tampa, August 30.
For the fans that follow the Bulls, they must have and keep the faith, that Taggart is right and his team keeps focused for the entire season.
As the sun explodes into yellow and red sits in the western sky just beyond Newport, Rhode Island, the Atlantic Ocean waves gently rolled into shore and the conclusion of the American Athletic Conference Media Day, it just signals the start of the 2014 NCAA football season for Taggart and the University of South Florida.
About the Author
Written by Mel Suiter
Graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2002 and have been working as a beat writer for The Ypsilanti Courier covering Eastern Michigan University football and men's basketball during my school career and after graduation. I like the Mid-American Conference and the rest of the mid-major conferences.