It’s a fresh start for USF and South Florida recruiting. After some dark days under Skip Holtz it appears the Bulls future looks bright under the new regime of Willie Taggart. After six months in Tampa he and his staff have already accomplished a lot off the field, especially this past month.
June has been kind to Taggart. The Bulls have picked up six commitments over the past few weeks. That includes four big ones from the Tampa Bay area.
Yesterday USF added three-star wide receiver/ defensive back Tajee Fullwood from nearby Tampa Bay Tech. At 6-foot-2 and 190-pounds, he possesses the ability to play on either side of the ball. Fullwood committed to the Bulls over FSU, Rutgers, Louisville, USF, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt and had close to two dozen scholarship offers.
“The connection with the coaches that I have is unbelievable. Every time I go there, they show me love like no other college has. They’re and up and coming team, and it’s in Tampa, Florida, so I gotta rep my city,” Fullwood said.
South Florida picked up some more help for their secondary with trio of cornerbacks since the end of May in Deiondre Porter, Devin Abraham and Deatrick Nichols. Porter is a terrific high school quarterback for Tampa Jefferson. But he’s also a dynamic athlete and great track guy for the Dragons. Porter’s not quite big enough to be an elite signal caller at the next level and he will transition over to full-time defensive back once he gets to college.
“The staff is unbelievable,” Porter said. “Coach [Ron] Cooper and I have developed this bond and I know he can help me get to the next level. Then you have Taggart. He wants to keep the Tampa kids home. This Tampa boy is staying home.”
Porter committed to the Bulls last week while Abraham committed to USF last weekend. He’s from nearby Tarpon Springs East Lake. The son of former Tampa Bay Buccaneer cornerback Donnie Abraham could play anywhere in the secondary.
"I can play cornerback and I can play safety," Abraham said. "I can play any position and do whatever it is they want me to do.
“I just love the coaching staff. Coach Taggart is great. So is everyone there. I want to be a part of that. I want to be a part of something special. That’s going to happen soon.”
The other cornerback pledge is no slouch either. Nichols is a very good player from one of the powerhouse programs in the Sunshine State, Miami Central. In fact, he’s the second Rocket to commit to the Bulls. Earlier this spring USF landed Central guard Michael Smith.
What’s the connection to the Central Rockets? In a brilliant move back in March, Taggart hired then Rocket coach Telly Lockette to join his staff in Tampa. Now the running backs coach for the Bulls Lockette should help the Bulls recruit that school as well as the south Florida area in general.
“That most definitely played a role,” said Roland Smith, Central’s new head coach. “But it was also about the relationship he developed with the other coaches up there, especially their defensive coordinator and defensive back coach. But coach Lockette being there did play a role.”
Perhaps the biggest pickup of the month was quarterback Chase Litton. Litton, 6-foot-6 and 190-pounds, is a strong armed signal caller from Tampa Wharton. There’s no question that he has all the tools to become quite a talent in Tampa. He just needs to mature and put it all together.
Litton, who has shown flashes over the past 18 months, played brilliantly over the weekend. He led Team Tampa to the IMG 7v7 National Championship. He was relaxed and efficient and is very excited about his future as a Bulls.
“It’s all about the opportunity there,” Litton said. “I want to help them build a dynasty. I want to make an impact as soon as I step on campus. It’s a place where I feel at home and my family loves it. So do I.”
USF went out of state to land a defensive tackle in Bruno Reagan from Clarskdale, Tenn. You can bet they knew about Reagan long ago when Taggart was at nearby Western Kentucky.
“I chose USF due to my relationship with the coaches,” Reagan said. “I've know them since the start of my process and there is no other staff I would play for.”
The key for Taggart is to recruit their backyard of Tampa Bay. Sure it’s still tough for the young Bulls program. They have to fend off the big three of Florida, Florida State and Miami and all the national BCS programs that recruit the area. Get your share and be in the game with the important ones - that's a must for this school and something that didn't happen for Holtz. But as you have read above, many kids want to stay home.
But they need to be given good, valid reasons to stay home. They need to see the program moving forward. They need to feel the energy and excitement. Most of all, they need to believe once again.
That’s what Taggart and his staff have accomplished in a very short time. Six of their ten commitments are from the area (also Largo standout running back Jarvis Stewart and linebacker Frankie Hernandez are committed to USF). Taggart played for Bradenton Manatee. And he’s also recruited the area and the state for a very long time. Florida was a huge recruiting base while he was at Western Kentucky.
But you have to build your roster with more than kids from just Tampa Bay. That’s a huge reason why he brought in a guy like Lockette. Creating a good base from the football populated area of south Florida is critical, as there are more recruits from that area than any part of the state. It’s not even close.
In case you don’t know, Central is home to two of the very best running backs in the state in Dalvin Cook and Joseph Yearby. Cook is headed to Florida while Yearby in committed to Miami. Don’t be surprised if one of these backs ends up at USF when it’s all said and done. Recruiting is about relationships and Lockette has good ones with these two. Landing one of these two players would be a big time coup for USF.
But there’s an awfully long way to go. Recruiting is a lot like the game of football. Much is based on momentum and right now big ‘mo’ is on the Bulls side. USF and Taggart must keep it going this fall and into the dog days of recruiting. A poor season could derail what they have created with this 2014 class.
And a nice season this fall will keep the Taggart train rolling.