Every summer, during the third weekend in July, the University of South Florida football program host one of the largest 7-on-7 passing camps in America called the “Sling and Shoot”. The camp, which was the brain child of former Bulls and current North Texas offensive coordinator Mike Canales, started in 1997 drawing eight teams. Since that time the camp’s popularity and that of the USF football program have grown by leaps and bounds. In 2009 over 70 teams flocked to the USF campus for the passing tournament. The Bulls also run and offensive and defensive line camp called “Big Man Camp” in conjunction with Sling and Shoot allowing high school coaches to bring their entire team to camp. This year’s Sling and Shoot, which was held this past weekend, brought in 44 high school teams and coaching staff’s as well as approximately 200 lineman from Florida and Georgia as well as several other states.
While this year’s tournament didn’t have the largest turnout in recent memory it certainly may have been the most significant camp USF has hosted in several years considering it gave new USF head coach Willie Taggart and his brand new staff a golden opportunity to eye some of the best talent in the state as well as build relationships with prospects and high school coaches alike. The new USF head coach walked away with nothing but positive things to say about the opportunity to get 1,100 skill position players, 200 plus linemen and their respective coaches on USF’s campus.
“It’s a great camp, it is by far the best camp I have been a part of,” said Coach Taggart. “You get so many good athletes on your campus playing football. There were some really good football games going on out here.”
Coach Taggart also spoke about the opportunity to evaluate prospects and build relationships with both recruits and their coaches.
“It’s great for us to be able to evaluate kids and it is also great for the kids to be on our campus, to see what we have to sell here. It’s not just the kids but the coaches. It’s important for us to establish the relationships we need to build at South Florida, so it’s great to have them all here. It all goes back to relationships. We don’t know everybody so the more guys we meet and get to know the better it is and for those guys to get to know our staff. That way if they are going to push their kids to go to our school at least they know our staff and know that they are going to be around good people,” said USF’s new coach.
With over 1,300 kids on campus Coach Taggart also said he was impressed with the amount of talent at both Sling and Shoot and the Big Man camp.
“There is way more talent here than I thought. Some kids you hadn’t seen before are doing good things, just not at Sling and Shoot but at the Big Man camp as well. I know all of my coaches that I brought from Western Kentucky are in heaven right now.”
One new wrinkle on the South Florida football camp schedule are its off-campus satellite camps which Coach Taggart started this summer in an effort to make the Bulls a household name to high school players and coaches throughout the state of Florida. Coach Taggart and his staff hit the road hosting satellite camps in Miami, Fort Myers, Jacksonville and Fort Walton Beach. The road show was a hit with the Bulls hosting over 200 potential prospects at each location.
“We are an up and coming program, it’s not like we have a lot of tradition to build off of. A lot of these guys go to traditional schools (for camp) and a lot of guys can’t get here, so we will go to them,” said Coach Taggart of taking the camps to other cities around Florida. “We are trying to find real good football players who want to be here and be a part of something special, so we will go to them if they can’t come to us.”
Based off the early returns the third head coach in USF history and his staff are off to successful start as they head into their first season in Tampa. The Bulls already having 14 commitments for the 2014 signing class and we are still two weeks away from high schools starting fall practice. Couple the early commitments with the success and turnout of the on and off-campus camps this summer and the third era in USF football seems to be off to a smooth start from a recruiting standpoint.
Look for more updates on USF’s recruiting as we continue to get closer to the start of the 2013 football season.