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Fischer: My top three targets for USF’s new head coach

Christopher Fischer

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Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire

So the pundits want to project Lane Kiffin or Greg Schiano ending up as the next University of South Florida head coach, hmmm. Both intriguing and dumb ideas. Well maybe not Kiffin, but would you really want a guy who’s personified a pouting 5-year old, as the head coach of your program?

If it wasn’t for Nick “Big Daddy” Saban smacking him around a couple of times, Kiffin would’ve soiled his comeback shot as Alabama’s Offensive Coordinator. But I do like the idea of an offensive minded guy taking over for Willie Taggart’s “Gulf Coast Offense.”

Well, it looks like the Houston Cougars are going to hire him on Thursday, anyway.

Then there is Schiano, the guy who micromanaged the Bucs to his own futility. This guy was such a joke as a head coach, he couldn’t even handle public relations opportunities. He was obsessed with having the thermostat set at a particular degree and the infamous “toes on the line” with the Bucs at practice. (And if I had to hear this guy say “Ham and Egger” one more time, I’d deliver a case of Dr. Seuss books to him just so he could pick out a different phrase.)

Yes, they both are have great current mentors (Kiffin with Saban, Schiano with Urban Meyer) in elite programs, but both seem to be missing a screw. If that sounds familiar USF fan, SEE SKIP HOLTZ.

Here’s three names I think warrant the strong sell by USF Athletic Director Mark Harlan.

PJ FLECK: (Western Michigan, Head Coach)
He may not get a shot at a Power 5 opening, but I’ve been big on this guy since he left the Bucs Wide Receivers coaching position to take over at Western Michigan.

A proven home area lock down recruiter, a motivator and a guy who can flat out coach. He’s the next big gun in college coaching. USF may want to think of itself as a “destination job”, but don’t kid yourself. It’s a stop on the way. Think of it this way, when you’re a ten-year old dreaming of going away to college one day, you don’t say “I want to go to USF.” Coaches have the same thought process when it comes to destination jobs.

Fleck just turned 36-years old and can talk on the same wave length as the kids he’s recruiting. He turned Western Michigan in to a champion in just three seasons, going undefeated, winning the MAC title this year and will now play Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl.

He has familiarity in Tampa Bay (Albeit brief – spending one season with the Bucs). Fleck will have offensive weapons in place to be able to run his offense. He is everything USF is looking for right now. Plus, with all the water around Tampa he’ll be able to live out his “Row The Boat” mantra.

DOUG NUSSMEIER (Florida, Offensive Coordinator)
Nussmeier has been an Offensive Coordinator at Alabama, Michigan and Florida over the past four seasons. He knows the state when it comes to recruiting and he runs a pro-style offense.

He’s another coach from the Nick Saban’s coaching tree, which has faired pretty well (Jimbo Fisher, Jim McElwain, Kirby Smart just to name a few).

Nussmeier played and coached in the NFL, giving him the capability to use his resume in recruiting.
Charlie Strong (Former Texas Head Coach)
Strong is a defensive minded coach which would change the trajectory of how the program was being built under Taggart. That idea may not sit well for fans that like big numbers on the scoreboard. But Strong could give USF a coach who will stick around for a while.

Strong unceremoniously was escorted to the exit door in Austin with his 16-21 record. But he is still a recruiting dynamo in Florida, especially in South Florida where Taggart was making hay. Strong won a National Championship as the Defensive Coordinator at Florida. And he won two conference titles as the head coach at Louisville, two more titles than Taggart won. Also add in to the mix, his players love him.

And while in today’s society this should not be an issue, Strong would succeed Taggart as the only African-American head coach in Florida at a big state school.

Those are my three picks, sure they have local ties and aren’t completely outside the box. But maybe USF warrants a coach with a bigger name this time around. The program is as strong as it’s ever been, which couldn’t be said when Taggart took over.

No Bull, this is an important hire for USF. They need a coach with charisma, they need a coach who can invoke confidence, they need a coach who can win, and they need a coach who can finally bring home a conference title.

There are no shortage of candidates who can bring them all four.

A native Floridian who graduated from Clearwater High School and the University of Florida, Chris Fischer has spent nearly 15 years in Sports Televison, including the last five as Sports Reporter and Anchor with the CBS affiliate in Tampa Bay-WTSP. He is a multi time AP Sports and Local Emmy award winner and will be seen this season as a sideline reporter on CBS-TV’s network coverage of the NFL.Chris brings enthusiasm and passion (particularly when it comes to his Gators) to College and NFL coverage to F.F.I.

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    pepper grubbs

    December 11, 2016 at 7:21 am

    I do not have confidence that Lane Kiffin can run a successful program, he hasn’t proven it and if not for Nick Saban he wouldn’t be having the success he is currently enjoying.

    Greg Schiano is intriguing, because I would like to see a better defense, but he doesn’t really fit at USF.

    Charlie Strong would be a great recruiter of talent, but I don’t understand how he failed so miserably at Texas. He is a defensive coach and the Texas defense the last two years looked like they didn’t know what to do and weren’t even interested in doing it.

    I have seen Florida’s offense the last couple of years and it isn’t pretty, so Doug Nussmeier wouldn’t ever be a blip on my radar. If you can’t even put a mediocre offense on the field at Florida (which is your job) why would I hire you as a head coach.

    P.J. Fleck is probably the guy I would be most interested in, but I don’t think he is interested in USF.

    If not P.J. Fleck then Charlie Strong would be my next pick. Even if he can’t get it done on the field, at least he will have recruited some good talent for the next head coach.

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USF Bulls

New Bulls coach Scott eagerly embracing new challenge

Florida Football Insiders

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a runner-up finish in Monday night’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game loss to LSU, former Clemson co-offensive coordinator, and new USF head coach, Jeff Scott is now going full throttle in his first few days back in Tampa with his new program.

Scott posted on social media Friday morning that one of his top priorities is to reconnect with all of the jigh school coaches in and around the Tampa area:

This is not unfamiliar for the first-time head coach, as this was part of his role was procuring players for Dabo Swinney’s Tigers out of West Central Florida.

Scott also gave access to the Tampa Bay Times and beat writer Joey Knight on his inaugural meeting with his new team Thursday at the USF facility.

And, Scott began by prioritizing his team in the meeting room having the seniors sit in the front with the juniors behind and then, the underclassmen behind them.

It will be a challenge over the next season or two for Scott to revitalize a program that essentially went “off the cliff in the middle of the 2018 season.” That’s when the Bulls under Charlie Strong lost their remaining six games, including their bowl game and then, were blown out twice early in the 2019 season to drop to 1-3.

USF regained their footing in the middle of the year wining against lesser American Athletic Conference competition in a couple of games, but promptly lost out, including their final 4 games to finish 4-8. That resulted in Strong’s firing.

The 39 year old Scott had Clemson through and through, as he played for the Tigers in the early 2000s for three years and returned to become an assistant coach for the Tigers in 2008. Since then, he has been a receiver’s coach, recruiting coordinator, and then, co-offensive coordinator for the last three years.

The Tigers, behind All-American QB Trevor Lawrence,  rolled through a second straight unbeaten season and then, a 62-17 blowout win over Virginia in the ACC Title Game. In a bid to repeat as National Champs, the Tigers defeated Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl on December 28th in one of the College Football playoff semi-finals.

Alas, the “fairy tale” did end well, as LSU behind Heisman winning QB Joe Burrow, defeated them 42-25 Monday night in New Orleans.

There’s some more that USF fans can be excited about and Scott’s successes with wide receivers. He has helped develop some great NFL prospects like DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, and Mike Williams. His  current Clemson group likely has at least two more NFL wideouts, too.

After years of the inconsistent offense, it appears that the Bulls leaders felt a change in philosphy was needed.

And Scott, the son of former FSU and Clemson offensive coordinator Brad Scott, appears to be the guy to change it all.

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USF Bulls

Coordinator musical chairs all related to Willie Taggart

Florida Football Insiders

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Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

Now that head coaching hires have been made at the prominent jobs in the state and around college football, the musical chairs of assistants and specifically coordinators is also fascinating. And in the case of FSU, USF and FAU they are all interrelated to former USF and FSU-now FAU, boss, Willie Taggart.

In Boca Raton, the new FAU coach has announced his first coordinator hire and it’s none other than his former defensive consultant at Florida State, his former defensive coordinator at Oregon and the former USF head coach, Jim Leavitt:

Taggart had brought Leavitt on board, as the season began to unfold in Tallahassee, initially, to consult, but eventually as a defensive coach on the field.

The tandem came together in Eugene, Oregon three years ago, when Taggart left USF and was hired by the Ducks. He then brought Leavitt with him from being the defensive coordinator at Colorado.

However, Leavitt did not follow Taggart to Florida State in 2018, as had been reported that he would. He stayed behind for one more season, in Eugene.

Meanwhile, Taggart had a disastrous 5-7 first season with FSU after having hired former Michigan State defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett to run his defense. Meanwhile, Leavitt was fired after the 2018 season by Oregon coach Mario Cristobal and then, was available to come join Taggart this year.

However it was to no avail , as Taggart was fired himself, on November 3rd after just nine games into his second season.

Continuing, Taggart had hired Kendal Briles to run his offense in 2019 from Houston, but Briles had previously been at, wait for it… Florida Atlantic as the OC. And now, there’s word of where Briles is headed, and, that’s to the University of Arkansas, as their new offensive coordinator.

The Hogs made a surprising coaching hire of former Georgia offensive line coach, Stan Pittman, who has never been a head coach at the college level before. Desperate to improve in the SEC West, Briles up tempo offense did help the Florida State in terms of increases of  yardage per game and points per game output this past season.

Meanwhile, back at USF, new coach Jeff Scott had already announced on Sunday that former FAU defensive coordinator and head coach for their bowl game, Glenn Spencer, is his new defensive coordinator in Tampa.

Spencer has extensive experience, especially as a defensive assistant and coordinator for over a decade at Oklahoma State.

Staying with the “musical chairs” connected to his current and former jobs:

On Monday evening Scott also announced that Charlie Weis Jr., the son of the former Notre Dame coach and Patriots offensive coordinator, would be joining his staff with the Bulls.

Weis had most recently been the offensive coordinator for…..you guessed it again, the last two years at Florida Atlantic taking over for Briles with Lane Kiffin. But, Kiffin did not take Weis with him, when he left FAU for Ole Miss two weeks ago. And, Taggart did not retain Weis.

Still with us?

At 27 years of age Weis is still the youngest coordinator in FBS football.

So, to recap: Taggart and Leavitt are back together for the third time in four seasons in the third different location.

Spencer and Weis, who were the coordinators at Florida Atlantic for Kiffin, weren’t kept by Taggart, but are now are now both at USF, where Taggart and Leavitt used to be head coaches.

And Briles, who coached for Taggart and for part of the year with Leavitt in Tallahassee is now on his way to the SEC with the Hogs.

It’s never dull with a coaching carousel.

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