Published in The Crow’s Nest April 2015
In each of his three years as USF’s football head coach, Willie Taggart has changed his offensive scheme and, now, he is losing his best quarterback on the roster, Mike White.
The Bulls changed to the spread, a more up-tempo system, which will require a more mobile QB.
As a result, White fell behind senior Steven Bench and sophomore Quinton Flowers on the depth chart during the team’s spring practices and was granted his request to transfer to another school.
“Mike and I talked after the conclusion of spring practice, and he expressed his desire to pursue the remainder of his career at another school,” Taggart said in a press release by USF. “We wish Mike all the best in his future and thank him for his contributions to our program and University.”
White started 15 games in his two seasons with the Bulls, throwing for 2,722 yards, 11 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
As a freshman, White was thrown into the starting lineup and threw three times as many interceptions (9) as touchdowns (3).
But things looked better in 2014 for White. He was the only quarterback who could deliver the deep ball to wide receiver Andre Davis in clutch situations, including a game-winning touchdown with four seconds left on the clock against a winless SMU team.
White was benched in the prior game and relieved Flowers late against SMU. White came into the fourth quarter and rallied back down 13-0 to win the game for the Bulls, proving he should be the team’s starter.
Throughout the remainder of the season, however, things didn’t go as smoothly.
Whether it was White’s broken left forearm or the receivers’ inability to catch anything thrown their way, it was evident the team wasn’t comfortable naming White their full-time starter.
The Bulls finished the season 4-8, scoring an average 17.2 points per game.
But not everything is about statistics. There are skills that the junior QB brings to the table in which don’t translate into the stat sheets.
White has the arm strength, accuracy and a pocket presence that the other QBs cannot match, nor make up for. Bench has showed he likes to extend plays with his feet but is unable to put points on the board while playing under center. Flowers, simply, is not ready to lead the team yet.
The Bulls did not need to change their offensive scheme in order to start winning. They should’ve worked on the obvious issues, like a predictable running attack, dropped passes and their inconsistency at the linemen positions.
Due to back-to-back lackluster seasons, Taggart is, now, on the hot seat.
After USF fired the 2014 season’s assistant head coach, defensive and offensive coordinators, Taggart is pulling out all the stops. Maybe it is so he can live with himself knowing he tried different approaches after the Bulls inevitably falter in 2015. But by switching offenses again and allowing White to leave the program, the Bulls are setting themselves up for failure before the season gets underway.
White will have to sit out his junior season if he transfers to another Division-I school. He has yet to name which schools he is interested in.
“I hold everyone in this program in high regard; I signed here for a reason,” White said to the Tampa Bay Times. “I think the world of these coaches and this university and that’s what made it such a tough decision to leave. I wish them the best of luck. … I just felt there’s a better situation for me.”
(Photo Courtesy of USF Athletics)