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January 16, 2014
Taggart looks for improvement in Year 2
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This is the second part of a two-part series examining the USF comparison under coach Willie Taggart and his first two years at Western Kentucky.
South Florida suffered through its worst season in the history of the program, both in wins and offensively. We have broken down the numbers from last year's offense and the offense in 2012 - and even broke down the defensive differences.
However, Taggart has been here before, taking a WKU program that had lost 26 straight prior to his arrival and rebuilding the program - taking the Hilltoppers to a bowl game in seasons two and three of his three years before being hired by USF.
So what do all these numbers mean for USF going into 2014? For the offense, the unit hit the ground hard in 2013 after losing BJ Daniels and everything he meant to the offense. The unit has a lot of work to do and looking at the numbers, it is clear what they have to do to get better and stay on the field longer in 2014. For the defense, they improved, but they can improve more with more time under the current staff and more time learning on the field and time in the weight room.
For many, talking about the improvement and seeing the improvement are two different things. For that, we should take a look at Western Kentucky to see what Coach Taggart and his staff did there as they turned around a bad FBS program and how those numbers compare to USF.
2009 WKU: 0-12 (the year before Coach Taggart)
2010: 2-10 (Coach Taggart's first year as WKU Head Coach)
2011: 7-5 (2nd year under Coach Taggart)
The tells of the tape
To make it simple, the numbers showing an improving running game, more efficient passing, and an improving defense. For the defense, things are different for USF with a different coordinator than what Coach Taggart had at WKU.
So to really see the starting points for both programs, let's look at offense and compare the first year under Taggart at WKU and at USF.
In Taggart's first year at WKU, his team averaged 22.8 PPG while at USF in year one they averaged just 13.8 PPG. In Taggart's second year, the PPG went just to 22.9, but it shows that Taggart's track record for a decent offense is there. In terms of running the ball, WKU averaged 4.49 yards per carry, 174 yards per game, and scored 21 touchdowns total on the ground (USF had just 3 yards per carry, 88 yards per game and scored 4 rushing touchdowns last year).
Compared to Taggart's second year at WKU when the rushing yardage went up to 181 yards per game and touchdowns went up to 25. A key issue for the Bulls this year was finding a consistent running back. While Marcus Shaw had a good year, he wasn't the standard running back that Taggart wants in his system. At WKU, Taggart had a player named Antonio Andrews, a all-purpose back that could carry the ball 25 times a game, run for power and break a few runs outside, something USF didn't have. I believe in 2014, USF will find their go-to back and the running numbers will greatly improve along with a strong offensive line leading the way.
In passing, WKU averaged 143 yards a game, had 11 touchdowns and 6 interceptions in the first year (USF had 166.8 per game, 7 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions). In Taggart's second year at WKU, they averaged 167 a game, had 13 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions.
With a better running game, WKU didn't have to worry about passing too much and with stability at the position, the offense worked well. For USF on the other hand, shuffling 4 different quarterbacks and going to a true freshman halfway through the year is never going to equal anything great. USF was awful passing and despite a strong game from Mike White in the Houston game, there position was bad all year long (helps not having a great run game either).
Analysis: What comes next?
So what can we make out of all these numbers? For one, the WKU stats compared to what USF did in the first year under Taggart have to be taken with a grain of salt.
Taggart inherited a team that was devoid of talent and had to completely change the scheme over to a different system. Taggart had better playmakers at WKU with Andrews when he took over, compared to USF who had one running back and no quarterback when he came in. Looking at the stats, it is easy to see that Taggart's system can work.
It took time, just over two years, but he turned one of the worst DI programs into a winning one. USF, once a team ready to leap to the next level, has fallen to the lower levels, a place Taggart has seen before with a team. For fans, it was a bad year, but the numbers don't lie, Coach Taggart can get it done and with another strong recruiting class coming together for 2014, there are much brighter days ahead for this program.