A USF coaching search wish list with five potential replacements for Willie Taggart. The Bulls now look to remain a top AAC contender with a new head man after Taggart accepted the Oregon job.
USF is in the market for a new head coach, as Willie Taggart’s successful four-year tenure in Tampa has come to an end.
Oregon has hired Taggart to replace Mark Helfrich, who went 4-8 in a very disappointing 2016 campaign. The Ducks are bringing in one of the most successful Group of Five head coaches over the last two seasons, punctuated by Taggart’s 10-2 mark at USF this fall, which was the best in school history.
Unfortunately for a program such as USF, successful architects often become hot commodities during the annual coaching carousel, which means the Bulls are in the market for a new head coach to keep them in the mix as a top AAC contender.
Which replacements might athletic director Mark Harlan be considering at as he composes his coaching wish list?
Let’s take a look at five names that ultimately could emerge as potential head coaching candidates for USF.
Charlie Strong, Former Texas Head Coach
Things, right now, are really interesting for Strong, who should be in the mix for the Cincinnati opening. I have maintained that Strong would crush with the Bearcats, but fellow AAC member USF is an even better fit because of the amount of talent that he would be able to pluck from the Sunshine State.
We know he can coach. For whatever reason, though, he wasn’t able to find much success at Texas. But he went 37-15 in four seasons at Louisville and knows the Sunshine State quite well from his extensive time during different stints with the Florida Gators. His defense-first mentality would also be welcome in Tampa, and he would offer a seamless transition from the disciplined Taggart.
T.J. Weist, USF Co-Offensive Coordinator
How much of a look will Weist get? USF quarterback Brett Kean took to Twitter on Wednesday morning to express his desire for some Bulls coaches to stick around with Taggart taking off for Oregon. Weist would bring familiarity to the position, and he has experience serving as the UConn interim head coach in 2013 when Paul Pasqualoni was fired. That was a rough year for the Huskies, though they did finish it on a three-game win streak against Temple, Rutgers and Memphis. The current crop of Bulls players would compete for him if he is able to get an interview and land the job—if USF strikes out on some big names.
Lawrence Dawsey, FSU Co-Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers Coach
The former USF assistant is FSU’s co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach, but he does not have head coaching experience. However, he has ties to the Tampa area and was the receivers coach at USF from 2004-06. His first coaching job was as an assistant at Tampa Catholic High School, and he is currently FSU’s lead recruiter in Tampa. Suffice to say, he knows the area very well. This would be a great gig for Dawsey to finally break into the head-coaching circles.
Lane Kiffin, Alabama Offensive Coordinator
Another possible destination for the former Tennessee and USC head coach, whose stock has risen once again with Alabama in the national title hunt and a true freshman quarterback leading the way. The three years with Nick Saban has helped Kiffin put his tough seasons as head coach behind, and it would be interesting to see what he could do with rising senior quarterback Quinton Flowers. But would USF be scared off by the idea that Kiffin could use this as a stepping stone for a bigger gig?
Mario Cristobal, Alabama Offensive Line Coach
If it’s not Kiffin, then perhaps fellow Crimson Tide staff member Cristobal could be in the mix. The Miami native won two national championships as a player for the Hurricanes, and he has established ties to South Florida, which would serve as an easy transition when recruiting for the Bulls.
Don’t let the 27-47 mark as head coach at FIU fool you, as his stint featured two bowl appearances in six seasons at a school that had horrible facilities and zero direction. It was an outstanding coaching job. Cristobal never should have been let go by Panthers AD Pete Garcia, so he should do well if given the chance at USF.
NOTE: Keep an eye on Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, who may make more sense at Temple but could also get a look at USF. Remember, he spent time in Tampa as Bucs head coach and was the defensive coordinator for Butch Davis at Miami about two decades ago. He was a success at Rutgers, and USF is one of the better Group of Five gigs.