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At USF, new coach Charlie Strong will face new challenges

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He needs change. He also needs consistency.

He needs to keep his recruits. He needs to find some more.

He needs to hang onto his school’s momentum. And he needs to make things better.

Yeah, that’s all Charlie Strong has to do. He has to keep the parts of the USF program that are special. And he needs to patch up the things that are not. He needs to bring top talent into the state’s fourth-best program. He needs to be solid on defense. And he needs to sizzle on offense.

It didn’t take USF long to target, and deliver, Strong as their new head coach. What school officials hope is that Strong can hang onto the Rampaging Bulls’ offense, while shoring up a defense that headache central. They hope he can recruit despite the presence of Florida, FSU and Miami. They hope he can keep the good times rolling and build toward some better ones. They hope he can keep the recruits that have pledged to USF while finding better alternatives for the ones he cannot.

Just that.

What Strong needs to do, of course, is reflected in what Willie Taggart did before him. Taggart improved the speed of his team, made it one of the nation’s more electric offenses and wo 10 games. All of that is good. Keep that. But Taggart’s teams struggled on defense, and they couldn’t quite bring home the American Conference title. Improve that.

As wonderful a season as USF has had, the Bulls remain an incomplete team. The defense — Strong’s specialty — must get better. Ah, but that offense. It needs to stay the same.

Is Strong a good hire. Yes. Yes, he is. If you remember his days at Louisville, Strong was an excellent coach who built a solid program. He had only three years at Texas, which isn’t really time for recruits to grow up. But his resume suggests that Strong will recruit well and he’ll be solid on the sidelines.

Will be be special? That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? Success is such a fragile thing in college football.

One thing he inherits from Taggart are expectations. The last two years have seen to that.

It will be interesting to see the staff that Strong brings with him. It will be interesting to see what changes he makes in the offense and the defense. It will be interesting to see if USF can continue its recent bowl run and whether Quinton Flowers flourishes.

Taggart made 2016 fun.

Can Strong do the same for 2017?

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit

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