TAMPA — University of South Florida head coach Willie Taggart is on the lookout for playmakers.
Taggart has extended an open invitation to any of his players to let him know if they feel they can make a bigger contribution in helping the Bulls win.
Last week, tight end Mike McFarland answered that invitation, texting Taggart to say he thought he could be more useful in the passing game. The results were impressive.
Through the first four games, McFarland caught four passes for 54 total yards. In Saturday’s win against Cincinnati, McFarland nearly matched his season total, catching four passes for 49 yards.
“It was great, because guys started listening,” Taggart said. “I’ve been saying from Day One, ‘I want playmakers.’ Just come to me and say, ‘Coach call this play.’ But when you ask me for it, I expect you to take care of business.
“That was great to see, that (McFarland) wanted it. We gave it to him and he made something happen.”
McFarland’s play of choice is a middle screen that worked for big first-down gains twice against Cincinnati.
Taggart hopes McFarland’s success will inspire other players to step up and demand the ball, though that also might have some drawbacks.
“We want our guys to be excited about making plays when they’re called upon, but they’ve got to want to make those plays,” Taggart said. “They can’t just expect for them to happen. We want that from more guys, but hopefully I won’t get a lot more texts, they’ll just do it when we call the plays.”
MARTIN AT TIGHT END: An interesting wrinkle on Saturday was G Lawrence Martin lining up as a tight end. Martin, at 6-foot-3, 316-pounds, does not look like a traditional tight end, but his move to that position is serious.
Martin played point guard on his high school basketball team and is athletic enough to play tight end, according to offensive coordinator Walt Wells.
“He’s still got some things to learn because it is different out there on the edge, but he gave us an extra push out there,” Wells said. “Athletically, he can do it. It’s a process of learning routes and reading coverage. Right now, we’re asking him to be more of a blocker, but we do have routes for him.”
BENCH, SHAW QUESTIONABLE: Starting QB Steven Bench (knee) and RB Marcus Shaw (hamstring) remain questionable for Saturday’s game at Connecticut, which will air at noon on BHSN, Channel 47. Bench was limping at practice Tuesday, while Shaw was not on the practice fields.