BRADENTON – Top defensive lineman prospect Derrick Calloway had already made a verbal commitment to Louisville when the Cardinals stomped Florida in a Sugar Bowl upset, undoubtedly making the decision seem all the wiser. But former Hurricane QB and new USF head coach Willie Taggart quickly identified Calloway as a local player he'd like to attract to the Bulls' 2013 recruiting class, and a weekend visit to the school was apparently enough for the impact player to change his mind.
Calloway, who was first team All-State as a junior, entered 2013 as one of the top defensive line recruits in Florida, drawing interest from USC, Florida State and Arkansas, all of whom reportedly offered scholarships to the 6'2, 310 pound tackle, who is also the defending state champ in the shot put. But Calloway was drawn to Coach Charlie Strong's rising program and a Cardinal defense that showcased interior lineman.
However, that was before USF brought in Taggart, the QB on Manatee's 1993 state championship team, who went on to star for Western Kentucky, where he would eventually become head coach after coaching running backs for Super Bowl bound Jim Harbough (San Francisco) when he was at Stanford.
While at WKU, Taggart developed a reputation as a top recruiter, leaning heavily on his knowledge of under-targeted talent from his native area. Taggart brought in over a dozen local players including Manatee's Leon Allen, Southeast's Bo Brand and Jonathon Dowling, and Palmetto's Daquall Randall, not to mention several players from elsewhere in Southwest Florida.
Clearly, if Taggart could draw so much local talent to a struggling program in rural Kentucky, it was expected that he'd be able to do even more with an emerging BCS contender in the heart of the local area.
With the recent acquisition of Calloway and Booker High defensive end Eric Mayes added to his 2013 class, Taggart is more than meeting expectations. Calloway has developed a reputation as a big inside tackle with unique foot speed and excellent technique, and he's seen as a player that can come into the Division I level and have an immediate impact.
Mayes, an athletic 6'4, 240 lb. DE, is also seen as a player that can come in and compete for time. He was reportedly close to committing to Missouri when Taggart wooed him to USF. St. Thomas Aquinas guard Kyle Schafenacker, who has verbally committed to Uconn, also visited USF this weekend and the Bulls hope he'll also decide to stay closer to home.
Players haven't been the only “gets” for Taggart. The 36-year old coach also recently hired former Oakland Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan, who's led NFL defenses to three division titles and a Super Bowl appearance. After two consecutive losing seasons in the floundering Big East Conference, USF hopes Taggart can right the ship. Phase 1 – assembling a talented recruiting class and coaching staff –seems to be off to a promising start.
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