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September 16, 2013

TheBullRush: Growing pains

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Growing pains on offense are painful

28 to 10. 0-3 and the first loss in program history to FAU. 5 touchdowns given up by the USF offense. No, this isn't a bad dream, this is the current state of the USF offense under Coach Willie Taggart in his first season. Going back to last season, the Bulls had BJ Daniels, a veteran dual threat quarterback that had been the life of the offense for 4 years.

But after he went down to an injury, we saw Bobby Eveld and Matt Floyd struggle to resemble anything of an offense as Skip Holtz packed his bags after going 3-9.

The offense, which had been a spread system that relied on the quarterback to scramble under Todd Fitch failed to adjust to the pocket passers the Bulls had and it showed.

With Skip and Fitch gone, enter Taggart and Coach Walt Wells and their more pro-style, run heavy offense, but so far after three weeks, we are still seeing the same, stagnant offense that we watched last year and there doesn't appear to be any change at this point.

The offense has scored 6 points and 10 points against the last two Football Bowl Series opponents (Michigan State and Florida Atlantic) and scored 9, 10, and 3 points against FBS schools going back to last season.

So what is the problem with the offense? It falls on two things, scheme and talent.

It all starts here

Starting with the scheme, the pro-style system is fairly complex despite many thinking it just involves a lot of running.

During the pre-snap reads, there is a lot of shifting by the wide receivers and tight ends as they adjust to the defense and what the quarterback is seeing.

Quarterback Steven Bench, who was here for the entire summer and having some knowledge of a similar system back from Penn State was still behind in the playbook entering last week, showing how long it takes a player to get use to the system.

Coach Taggart said prior to the FAU game that the quarterbacks in general were not grasping the offense as much as he wanted to expected, showing that everyone was struggling.

We've even seen the offensive line struggling trying out how to block and what style they should take on plays, leading to bad pockets and even fewer yards

Why are they struggling? It comes down to both players and the coaching. Coach Wells and Coach Taggart want to do a lot on offense and mix it up a lot, but they don't have the skill players to run this. They need to make it more basic and find something consistently that can work for them.

For the players, they have to do more work. They have come a long way, but it is clear they are still far away from knowing the playbook. They have to keep working and keep progressing each week (along with not turning it over so much).

But to me the biggest issue on offense is the lack of talent. For years, Skip failed to get a quarterback on the depth chart leaving the team with two options in Floyd and Eveld. Taggart went out and brought in Steven Bench and we can see how long it took Taggart to put him into the game. After going with Floyd week one, USF went to Eveld week two - but after two series against FAU he went right to Bench, despite saying he was slowly working him into the offense.

The offensive line isn't blocking well, the receivers can't get open, and the depth chart doesn't look that great. If the offense didn't have Marcus Shaw (had 22 carries for 159 yards against FAU) the offense would be even worse off right now.

Coach Taggart put together a strong first recruiting class when he got here, but it is easy to see the talent is lacking and the players he has are not the ones that can get the job done right.

I predict we will see Bench the rest of the way unless he gets hurt or Eveld and Floyd have a intervention and become Peyton like out there in practice. It is going to be a long season and as fans we have to hang in there. We will kick, scream, and be frustrated, but we have to have faith in the system with Taggart and hope he can work his way through the roster he inherited from Skip and continues to get the players that can run his system.

Matt Staton is a columnist with Runningthebulls.com. A graduate of USF in 2010, he has been an observer of USF sports since 2005.

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