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Saturday, Apr 19, 2014
USF Bulls

USF offensive coordinator foresees ‘drastic improvement’

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TAMPA — When the University of South Florida opens spring football drills today, there’s an obvious priority for improvement.

Last season, USF (2-10, 2-6 American Athletic Conference) scored 11 offensive touchdowns — last in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

“We have to get better,’’ Bulls coach Willie Taggart said. “We will get better.’’

That’s the cue for new USF offensive coordinator Paul Wulff, formerly an offensive assistant with the San Francisco 49ers and head coach at Washington State.

Make no mistake, USF runs a Taggart-style offense, a direct descendent of the Stanford University/49ers system conceived by Jim Harbaugh.

But Wulff said game-planning and play-calling will be a shared responsibility. And his specialty, the offensive line, will require plenty of attention. Already, after an offseason with strength coach Hans Straub, the average offensive line size has increased from 290 pounds to 310.

“The biggest thing I notice right now is we’re not physically strong enough,” said Wulff, whose inherited unit returns five starters.

“I like the guys. If we can get them to play at a little higher level of intensity and aggression, that’s going to go a long way for our offense.”

After last season, Taggart fired offensive coordinator Walt Wells and quarterbacks coach Nick Sheridan, bringing aboard Wulff and receivers coach Ron Dugans, while shifting assistant David Reaves from receivers to quarterbacks.

Taggart said he’s pleased with the retooled staff and its ability to teach.

Another year in the USF system, he said, will mean improvement for everyone.

As bad as it looked at times in 2013, Wulff said he wouldn’t be shocked if the Bulls made a rapid ascent.

“Oh, I don’t think it’s very far (away),” Wulff said. “I think definitely we’re going to do some good things this year. I think there are some pieces here. I envision a drastic improvement.”

The most important pieces might be at quarterback, where sophomore Mike White, who started the final five games of 2013, is competing against Steven Bench, a transfer from Penn State who showed some flashes in the early season.

“A lot of times when you take over a program and you don’t have a quarterback, it’s hard to get that (successful) level,’’ Wulff said. “The fact that we have two players who now have a little bit of seasoning under their belt, we can take another step in that area, getting them more comfortable and into the right plays.”

As for Wulff, he said he feels he’s in the right place. The demanding NFL schedule took a toll on his family — he and his wife have two sons, ages 7 and 10, plus an 18-year-old daughter in college — and he’s looking forward to establishing roots in Tampa.

He’s hopeful that some stability can emerge with USF’s program. Since the 2009 season, the Bulls have had four different offensive coordinators and four different defensive coordinators, along with three head coaches.

“Whenever there’s change, it’s always going to disturb things from your players to your recruiting,’’ Wulff said. “Whenever you’re changing rapidly, it never moves forward. It’s rare that it does.

“If you look at all the programs that are successful on a consistent basis, they’re stable. … I know the potential of this school. It can be a lot better than it is. I felt I could help in that situation.’’

jjohnston@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7353

Twitter: @JJohnstonTBO

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