By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA – It’s a good thing Willie Taggart didn’t hold his breath while waiting to decide on a starting quarterback.
USF’s new head coach, players, fans and eager reporters did their best to remain patient for weeks at training camp while the group of signal-callers battled it out for the big gig.
"It was very close, probably one of the hardest decisions I've made when it comes to picking position guys in my head coaching experience," Taggart said Monday on the American Athletic Conference coaches teleconference.
Taggart officially tabbed redshirt sophomore Matt Floyd as the starter with a week to go before the season opener and come to find out the winner of the competition hasn’t been stressing about the situation one bit.
“Fortunately I trust in the Lord that whatever is supposed to happen is whatever he has planned,” Floyd said before practice last week. “I don’t have to go out there and put a lot of pressure on myself to perform because I know through my beliefs that he is going to take care of it. I just have to go out there and perform.”
Floyd’s faith was strengthened this summer when he attended a weeklong Ultimate Training Christian camp with Athletes in Action in Fort Collins, Colo., and he said the experience served as great preparation for the season.
“I thought I was pushing my body to the limit, and at that camp I learned I can push even harder,” he said. “I also learned to be more of a leader, to step out more and be more of a spiritual leader, a vocal leader and a leader by example on the team.”
Once fall camp got underway, Floyd was happy to show off a new inspirational tattoo on his left forearm that reads “CHASE LIONS” along with the Bible chapter and verse 2Samuel 23:20-21 which chronicles the adventures of Benaiah, a courageous general in King David’s army.
“The steps he took and his faith in God in the situations he was in led him to the ultimate goal he wanted to get. For me, it’s just do the same,” Floyd said.
Taggart has noticed a “night and day” difference in Floyd’s progression from spring practice to fall camp and verbally applauded his new starter’s ability to stay focused throughout the competition.
“He doesn’t get rattled easily,” Taggart said.
Floyd is much too busy for that with all the good stuff he’s got going on in his life. The 2012 All-Big East Academic Team member currently has a 3.01 GPA while he continues to work on a double major in political science and international studies. Floyd gained valuable professional experience as a summer intern on U.S. Senator Marco Rubio’s staff and got to meet Governor Rick Scott and other Florida representatives while attending various rallies.
Floyd also is an active member of USF’s Athletes in Action chapter and has been a busy Bull when it comes to community service projects since he enrolled early in the spring of 2011.
What Floyd Brings to the Table
Floyd grabbed the former USF coaching staff’s attention while throwing for 4,988 yards and 37 touchdowns at Milton (Fla.) High School and finally got to show his abilities on the college stage when he started USF’s final two games last season in place of injured B.J. Daniels.
Floyd made a good first impression on the new coaching staff during the spring game when he threw two TD passes to Andre Davis and has shown his playmaking ability this fall while working on becoming a more consistent quarterback.
“He made a lot of plays for us throwing the ball but also running around,” Taggart said. “I think when you have a guy that can get you at least two first downs with his feet and can throw the football you have a really good chance to have success on offense. He was able to do that consistently and get us in the right place. He made plays that he needed to.”
Floyd’s smarts also will come in handy on the field while he directs USF’s new pro-style offense that has hundreds of plays.
“Adjusting to this new style of offense and the complexity of it has been really interesting, fun and it’s been entertaining,” Floyd said. “It’s really great because it really takes advantage of defenses. There are a lot of plays that have answers to every kind of coverage you could possibly run.”
The Bulls Are Behind Their New Team Captain
Being a starting quarterback involves accepting a lot of the praise and criticism at the college level and Floyd is fortunate to have a strong support group as he steps into a huge role for the Bulls. Floyd found out Saturday night he’ll be a team captain with a little job security, too.
“Matt understands we’re not going to go game-by-game worrying about his position being taken,” Taggart said. “We’re going to get behind Matt and support him.”
Find out how Floyd fares 7 p.m. Saturday when the Bulls kick their season off against McNeese State at Raymond James Stadium. Purchase season tickets HERE.
“Regardless of what happens I’m still me,” Floyd said.