USFNation.com recently had the opportunity to speak at length with the University of South Florida running backs coach, Telly Lockette. The Miami native talks about the depth in USF's backfield in 2014, as well as a host of other topics below.
Coach, you guys have a good stable of running backs to rely on for the next few years. How do you feel about the depth you guys have at running back for the upcoming season?
"We're blessed right now to have some young stallions in the stable. We have some guys that are already on campus that are going to compete, and we have two young guys coming in to compete. It's going to make the competition level a lot better than previous years because you got everyone wanting to play. These young guys want to make sure they stand out and are successful."
Where are you guys in terms of heath and injuries, coach? I know there was a few guys banged up during the spring.
"Darius (Tice) had a little surgery on his meniscus, but he should be okay. That didn't hurt us that much, so we should be ready to go in the fall. Some of them have a year under their belt right now. This year, they should be a little bit better than they were last year. They understand the college game and how fast it is, as well as learning the protections. They should be ready to go."
"Marlon Mack is a guy that's tremendous with the ball. He kind of reminds me of Dalvin Cook a little bit. He's tall, lanky, 6-foot-1, 190-pounds and very athletic. He can take it the distance and can catch it out of the backfield. D'Ernest is a little bit more of a power back that slashes between the tackles and can run behind the pad level. We're looking forward to those guys coming in and competing."
Coach, one guy that was consistent and impressed me throughout the spring was Michael Pierre. What's intriguing about his skill-set and what impressed you about his play this spring?
"Mike did a tremendous job this spring. He held it down while Darius (Tice) was out. We were riding him a little bit and he responded. He lived up to the billing and did some great things for us."
What would you say are the essential ingredients for a running back? Like, what are some of the things you look for in a running back?
"Well, what I look for in a guy is great toughness. You have a lot of guys that are speedy backs that just take off and run. You have to have that guy that's patient, runs behind his pad level, and that's able to catch the ball out of the backfield. Also, being able to protect the quarterback.
"A lot of kids don't know, but when you get to the college level, that protection is the main thing that will keep you off the field. If he can understand the protection, who his reads are, and who he has in protection, that's where it starts at. I think every running back should run the ball naturally. If they couldn't, they wouldn't be a Division I prospect. It's that special one that can protect and catch out of the backfield that makes a complete running back. Those are the type of guys that the University of South Florida is looking for."
What makes South Florida such an attractive destination to be both a student and an athlete?
"We can compete with anybody in the nation. At one time, the University of South Florida was No. 2 in the nation. They didn't have the recruiting base of all of the SEC schools, but they kept that South Florida talent at home. That's the main key that coach Taggart is trying to get back. We're trying to keep the local talent and we're hitting other spots in the state that are rich like how the previous coach (Jim Leavitt) built his dynasty.
"He hit the I-4 Corridor, the Miami's, the Broward's and West Palm Beach. Just like how Miami built their empire back in the 80's. They did it tri-county with Dade, Broward and West Palm Beach. That's the main thing there."
How did you initially come across coach Taggart's coaching radar when he was hired on by South Florida?
"We always had conversations when he came through (Miami Central High School). He said if he ever got an opportunity, he would one day give me a call. One day he gave me a call and everything else is now in the past!"