Q&A: USF coach Willie Taggart at American Athletic Conference meetings

Interview conducted by Paul Tenorio of UCF Knights Notepad

Yesterday, I posted USF coach Willie Taggart's thoughts on the UCF-USF rivalry.

Here is what he had to say in a number of other questions before the start of the first day of American Athletic Conference meetings in Ponte Vedra.

These are your first meetings as head coach at USF, and the program’s first in the American Athletic Conference. What are the most important things to get out of these meetings from a football standpoint?

For me personally it’s getting to know the league a lot better and seeing what our vision is for our league and I think at the end of the day when we all leave out of here all on the same path and go out and represent our conference the right way.

There had been so many unknowns about this conference. Is it important to get these final questions – bowl games, logos, revenue splits – answered so The American can move forward?

I think that’s the case with anything. That was a process that our conference had to go through and now that a lot of those things are out of the way, you can move forward and continue to get better as a conference. It’s going to be on each team to go out and perform well. To really get noticed like what we want to be. And I have no doubt it’s going to happen. I think it’s going to be a really good league and surprise a lot of people.

Since arriving at USF, you’ve made a quick impression with your energy and enthusiasm. How has the recruiting process gone so far for you, is the staff getting to know the coaches, players and area better?

We’ve done a great job of just trying to hit every school that we can, especially on the I-4corridor. We went to every school on that corridor and then throughout the state of Florida. Just getting out there and trying to get our brand out there. The beauty is a lot of our coaches coached down here before so they have a lot of relationships with the coaches, and now we’re trying to build new relationships with the coaches that we don’t know and it’s going well. A lot of kids are coming on campus, which is awesome. I think any coach loves to get kids on their campus, and that’s been fun to see and also exciting because coming off of a 3-9 season, to still have interest from a lot of the kids says a lot about our football program. Now we got to go out and take care of our business to keep it going.

I know you guys hired Telly Lockette out of the Miami area, how important is it that you have a strong presence in such a talent-laden area?

It’s very important if we get them, we got to get the players. I think Lockette is a really good college football coach. Everyone wants to talk about his being from Miami, and that’s not necessarily the reason [he was hired]. That was a part of it, but he’s a good football coach, too. A young football coach. And he’s going to do a good job for our players at the University of South Florida, and [he], like all of our other coaches, is going to go out and recruit the best guys and try to get them in our program whether they are from Miami or anywhere else. I want them all to be big-time recruiters. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s going to take.

I know you are still looking for an answer at quarterback, and there are some possible transfers you could add to the competition. How has that position battle looked this spring, and how do you see that competition developing come summer?

I think we’ll find ourselves a quarterback by the time we open the season, and it’ll be someone who is going to lead us where we want to go. We have some guys that are really capable of doing it, and we still have some work to go. We got to create competition at that position. But I do think we have some guys that can get the job done, and after going through spring ball I feel even better about it now knowing what we have and how we can work with them. I’m confident that we’ll get it done.

For you as a first-year coach, how important was this spring in being able to evaluate the roster and really get a feel for what you have in the program? I know you saw film, but to be able to see it live?

It’s big just to see what we have. You watch film and you get a good idea from watching film what you have, but to go out and see what you have but also see how guys learn in the meeting room and who can go out and transfer what they learn in the classroom to out on the football field and perform. I think that was most important, to figure out how guys learn. They learn a lot differently. And then to go out and execute and see who are the performers and who is not. We want some big-time competitors, it’s going to be a highly-competitive environment in our program and we’re looking for that. That’s what we were looking for this spring, guys that can compete and tough guys. And smart guys, and guys who just love football. And we found some of those guys, I think.

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