By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - The pressure of being a big-time head football coach hasn't phased Willie Taggart one bit.
USF's new leading man had less than two months to assemble a staff and put together a recruiting class that can help the program get back to national prominence ASAP.
"This is going to be fun," Taggart said.
Fun consisted of a ton of hard work but Taggart gave USF fans a glimpse of what's to come during National Signing Day when he introduced a 23-man recruiting class along with a coaching staff that seems like it has been together for years.
"The best thing about it is all these guys wanted to be at USF," Taggart said Wednesday. "These coaches wanted to be here and these players wanted to be here. That's what it's going to take to build this program - a bunch of guys that want to chase greatness."
And it all started with the magnet that pulled everything together.
New defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan said it took all of about 15 minutes to see what Taggart was about during a sit-down, and by then the coach with 13 years of NFL experience was easily sold on joining the green and gold.
"Just to sit there, look Willie in the eyes and have him shoot straight about what he wants to do, where he wants the program, went a long way," Bresnahan said. "Everything was right, especially him as a person."
Taggart's upfront style was a key reason why athletic director Doug Woolard welcomed him into the USF family with open arms, and recruits have done much of the same. University School star quarterback Mike White, the 3A Florida Player of the Year out of Fort Lauderdale, had his letter of intent faxed over to Bulls headquarters at 7 a.m. sharp on Wednesday and other recruiting gems mounted all the way up to the final moments of USF's Signing Day Show when Taggart said, "I'm living the dream."
Straight-shooting Taggart made an impression a couple of hours later when he answered a reporter's question with ease at his official signing day press conference.
"How long will it take for some of these new freshmen to see the field?" said a voice from behind a TV camera.
Taggart's reply: "All will have the opportunity to come in and take somebody's job. It's on the current guys to keep their jobs. They are going to have their opportunities. It's going to be highly competitive."
Sure, it's a popular line for a new head coach to throw out there but it would be hard to find someone to argue Taggart's statement because of his track record of keeping his word. Minutes into his introductory press conference, Taggart said he would meet with each recruit personally, no matter how short of a timeline he had. Minutes into Wednesday's meeting with the media, Taggart said he visited the homes of all but four or five of the new bunch of Bulls. The rest got a visit from Taggart at their respective schools and the result was exactly what he expected.
"We got all the ones we wanted and all the ones that wanted to be here. I don't know about anybody else," Taggart said Wednesday.
A recruiting pitch that's from the heart really can go a long way. Taggart's determination to make USF great again very soon certainly doesn't hurt either.
"I didn't want to get into something that takes five years to build," Bresnahan said. "I wanted to come into something that I consider a sleeping giant and that's exactly what we have here."
"What we have to do now is put everybody on the bus, put 'em in the right seat and let Coach T drive this bus!," Taggart said shortly after he put on the USF cap for the first time.
Coach T might want to look into getting a bigger bus because his family grew a ton on National Signing Day. At this rate, it shouldn't be a problem.
"This is going to be fun," Taggart reiterated.