TAMPA, Fla. – University of South Florida Director of Athletics Mark Harlan announced today a three-year contract extension for Head Football Coach Willie Taggart which extends the Bay Area native through 2020. USF takes on No. 25 Western Kentucky in the Miami Beach Bowl in a 2:30 p.m. kick on ESPN today.
“We are very excited about the direction of our football program and the leadership, vision and enthusiasm that Coach Taggart has provided,” Harlan said. “I’ve been so impressed with how he has created a winning culture in the classroom, in the community and on the field and he has never waivered from his belief in what he is building. This extension is well-earned and well-deserved."
Taggart led USF to one of the biggest in-season turnarounds in college football in his third season. The Bulls won seven of their last eight games to earn a Miami Beach Bowl invitation and orchestrated an offensive explosion that has the 2015 team on course to rank as the most prolific offense in program history. Taggart took over a USF team that went 3-9 the season before his arrival and has doubled USF’s win total in each of the last two seasons going from 2-10 in his first season, to 4-8 and then 8-4 this year, a six-win swing that ranks tied as the third-best two-year turnaround in FBS Football over the past two seasons.
In 2015, the Bulls defeated every team in the East Division of the American Athletic Conference while posting an 8-4 record and a 6-2 conference mark – the most conference wins in program history. Taggart’s Bulls came within a loss by Temple of reaching the inaugural conference championship game and returned the program to a Bowl game for the first time since 2010 – this while featuring 69 underclassmen and 49 freshmen on the roster and being led by a sophomore or younger in nearly every statistical category.
“We had a vision of what we could create at USF and I would like to thank the players, coaches and staff who believed in that vision and who came together to make it a reality,” Taggart said. “President Genshaft and Mark Harlan have been tremendously supportive as we work together to build something very special here at USF. We appreciate the Bulls fans, students and alumni who have taken Bulls Nation to places it has never been before. We are just getting started.”
Taggart’s vision of keeping Bay Area players home, recruiting the top talent in Florida and playing a fast-paced, fan friendly style on both sides of the ball hit its stride in 2015. Back-to-back recruiting classes ranked at the top of the American Conference put more speed and talent on the field and the evolution of the “Gulf Coast Offense” has produced dizzying numbers.
USF outscored opponents 118-23 in the first half of the final three games of the season as the Bulls took a four-game win streak into the postseason, including blitzing No. 21 Temple (44-23), Cincinnati (65-27) and rival UCF (44-3). The Bulls’ first victory over a ranked opponent since 2011 saw sophomore running back Marlon Mack (Sarasota) fly to 230 yards and three touchdowns as USF’s rushing offense (242.9 ypg) skyrocketed to 11th in the nation and shattered the USF season rushing mark with nearly 3,000 yards on the year.
The Bulls’ offense has produced 402 points and 33.5 ppg, the second-most points in program history and in range of both the program’s season record point total (451) and scoring average (36.5). The Bulls’ 5,144 total yards on the year are the fourth-best mark in program history and just 239 yards shy of the season mark.
Mack’s 1,273 rushing yards on the year led The American and have him on pace to break USF’s season rushing mark of 1,374. His eight 100-yard games are also a new USF season mark and he has tied the career mark with 12.
Meanwhile, first-year starting quarterback Quinton Flowers (Miami) has blossomed into a dual-threat nightmare for defenses in his sophomore campaign. He broke the USF quarterback rushing record with 883 yards and a team-high 10 touchdowns on the ground while passing for 2,023 yards and a USF season record 21 touchdowns through the air with just eight interceptions and a quarterback efficiency rating of 152.55.
Junior wide receiver Rodney Adams (St. Petersburg) set a new program record with eight touchdown receptions on the year and his 692 receiving yards are just 42 shy of the USF season record.
Meanwhile, the Bulls’ new 4-2-5 defense ranks 15th in the nation in tackles for loss (7.5 tpg), 17th in interceptions (15), 22nd in scoring defense (21.1 ppg), 25th in sacks (2.67 spg) and 27th in turnovers gained (23) and did not allow any of eight conference opponents to exceed their scoring average.