White returns to lead USF

Mike White was picked over Steven Bench to start at quarterback for USF
NCAA Football: South Florida at Rutgers

Dec 7, 2013; Piscataway, NJ, USA; South Florida Bulls quarterback Mike White (14) passes before being tackled by Rutgers Scarlet Knights defensive lineman Darius Hamilton (91) in the first half at High Points Solutions Stadium. (Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports)

(C+P) — It wasn’t a big surprise that USF second-year head coach Willie Taggart named sophomore Mike White as the Bulls’ starter for the season opener, Aug. 30, against visiting Western Carolina. White started the final five games of a 2-10 season. And though all five were losses, it seems Taggart is sticking with his guy.

Is it the right decision or simply a foregone conclusion that Penn State transfer Steven Bench would play a backup role to White?

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Miami Hurricanes linebacker Thurston Armbrister (34) tackles South Florida Bulls quarterback Steven Bench (2) during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. ( Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

White wasn’t exactly chopped liver, either, throwing for 174 yards in a 20-for-34 Spring Game performance. Some would argue that Bench had the better offensive line to protect him and a better receiving corps to throw to. Others would argue that White had the better spring. And they would be right. It really was his job to lose.

NCAA Football: South Florida at Houston
South Florida Bulls quarterback Mike White (14) passes against the Houston Cougars during the second half at Reliant Stadium. Houston won 35-23. (Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports)

In his first start as a freshman last season, White shredded the Houston Cougars’ soft zone defense to the tune of 311 yards and two touchdowns. The final four games, however, against tighter defenses that mixed its coverages, weren’t anywhere near as memorable.

Although he finished the season with a team-high 1,083 passing yards, a combined eight interceptions versus just one touchdown pass over those last four games were a bleak reminder that the 6’4”, 211-pound youngster from Fort Lauderdale still has some growing to do, both physically as well as mentally.

He bulked up by 30 pounds in the offseason and has become the definitive student of the game, learning defenses and maturing at his craft.

But White is fully aware that being named the starting quarterback doesn’t hold any guarantees. White was one of four USF starting QBs in 2013 and Bench has already proven to be capable, either as a backup or in a starting role of his own.

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