BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — As far as Quinton Flowers was concerned, the possibility of playing for Will Muschamp ended at the prospect of a change in position.
South Carolina’s head coach recruited South Florida’s dynamic quarterback when the former was coaching at Florida. But Flowers said Wednesday he was determined to play quarterback, and the Gators seemed determined to move him somewhere else.
“The last thing I remember about coach Muschamp, he came into my coach’s office, first he asked me to play something else. I told him I didn't want to play (anything) else,” said Flowers, who will lead USF into Thursday’s Birmingham Bowl against the Gamecocks.
“The only thing I wanted to play was quarterback. That’s what I wanted to go to college to play. (Muschamp) started bringing coaches in, every coach I saw was either a skill position or they wanted me to play safety. I told him if you don’t want me to play quarterback, then you go get somebody else.”
Flowers, a junior from Miami, passed this season for 2,546 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushed for 1,425 yards and 15 scores. Muschamp was fired after four seasons at Florida, where he built strong defenses but struggled to find consistency on offense, and at the quarterback position in particular.
Asked about Flowers’ recruitment later Wednesday, Muschamp said, “We certainly would have given him an opportunity to play quarterback, that's for sure.”
Taggart’s move ‘stung’
Former USF head coach Willie Taggart was hired earlier this month for the same role at Oregon, a move that initially didn’t sit well with many Bulls players. USF is operating this week under interim head coach T.J. Weist, formerly the Bulls’ offensive coordinator, with Charlie Strong set to take over after the bowl game.
“It stung a little bit,” linebacker Auggie Sanchez said of Taggart’s departure. “... When he left, we were upset. We were sad. But me and Quinton actually talked to him a couple of days later, and he cared about us and just wanted the best for us. Once we got that clarity and were able to move on, we were able to go back to football.”
Weist said after Taggart informed the team he was leaving, he stuck around so anyone could meet with him individually in his office. “He did it right,” said Weist, who added that Taggart also left the USF staff basically intact for the bowl game.
“He’ll make his decisions about Oregon, and coach Strong will make his decision after the game,” said Weist, who added that Strong will be at the game. “That’s the best way to handle this thing. Other times guys have taken staffs ... and you’re left with a skeleton crew. But we haven’t.”
No respect for USF?
South Florida may be a 10-point favorite over USC entering the game, but the Bulls are still playing the disrespect card. USF, eyeing a program-best 11th victory, was also ranked No. 25 in the most recent AP Top 25 poll.
“We have 10 wins, but people don’t respect us,” Sanchez said. “And I think that just fuels our fire. When people don’t respect you, and we’ve put a body of work out there that speaks for itself, but when people still don’t respect that, that just lights a fire for us. ... People don’t respect us, and that’s driven us, and it’s still driving us to this day.”
USF finished tied with Temple in its division of the American Athletic Conference, but missed out on the title game due to a head-to-head loss. USC is 32-17 against programs now in the American, having won seven straight since its last loss — to Connecticut, in the Birmingham Bowl following the 2009 season.
USC interim offensive line coach John Latina joined the Gamecocks for practice Wednesday morning after missing the first two sessions in Birmingham due to a “prior engagement with his family,” Muschamp said, “something we knew two weeks ago when made a move there.”
Latina came aboard for the bowl game after Shawn Elliott left to take the head coaching job at Georgia State. Muschamp said his plan continues to be to have a permanent offensive line coach in place by the time recruiting resumes Jan. 12. Could Latina, who came out of retirement to work with USC, be a full-time option?
“We’ve had a couple of discussions here and there, more then anything about good offensive line coaches out there and who would be a good fit for us,” Muschamp said. “That’s been the extent of our conversations.”
— Muschamp on Wednesday again indicated that linebacker Skai Moore, who missed all of this season after having surgery to repair a herniated neck disc, will return next year. “I feel very comfortable about where we are,” Muschamp said of Moore, who is not in Birmingham. “He’s with his family right now. He was not cleared to participate in any contact, and he wanted to be with his family.”
— Weist on USC: “When you watch them play, and you watch the games that they’ve won, they’ve got players. No question about it. When they put it together, they can be a really great team. They’re a veteran coaching staff, they’re an aggressive coach staff, and we know we’re going to get their best.”
— Muschamp on players like LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey sitting out bowl games to protect their NFL futures: “That’s an individual’s choice and decision. I understand both sides of it. If a young man doesn’t want to play in the game, we’ve got to get ready without him. Moving forward, I certainly see this as a trend that will continue, and that’s part of it.”