As FSU enters their second week of trying to solve their coaching vacancy situation, the best immediate solution maybe staring right at them in interim coach, Odell Haggins.
Haggins oversaw Florida State’s dramatic 38-31 win at Boston College Saturday, which coupled with his two victories as interim coach at the end of the 2017 season has already demonstrated, in a small sample, that he has promise as a head coach. FSU will play FCS Alabama State Saturday and will likely win easily and assure themselves of a bowl game, too.
As for the search, there are three important factors in the Seminoles interviewing for the replacement for Willie Taggart.
One, the leadership in Tallahassee needs to bring stability to the program. The departure of Jimbo Fisher to take a more lucrative job in the SEC with Texas A&M and then with the dismal results from Taggart, who had only coached in a Power 5 situation for one year at Oregon, have the Noles in turmoil.
Florida State needs someone who can calm and reassure players, potential recruits, boosters and anyone else, that they’re going to get back to their winning ways. Preferably, someone who’s been there.
Two, FSU has to be concerned in the short-term with recruits “bailing on them” due to the uncertainty the coaching situation. The early signing period is coming in the second week in December. And, Florida State, right now, has one of the top 5 recruiting classes for next year in the country. But that could evaporate over the course of the next 21 days, if they are not reassured.
And finally, what can the Seminoles actually afford? With Taggart’s massive buyout, believed to be $17 million or so and the fact that FSU will have to likely buyout an established head coach for more significant money, and then, pay their salary, money is definitely a concern in the short-term.
So when you analyze Haggins, who’s been an assistant coach or a player at Florida State for 30 years, he is a solid “yes” on all three of those, above.
He would clearly bring stability, as he is Florida State through and through, including being part of Bobby Bowden and Jimbo Fisher’s National Championship staffs/teams.
Two, Haggins has been intimately involved in FSU recruiting for the last two decades. He helped hold the recruiting class together two years ago in December, when Fisher left. And, he has been instrumental in talking to recruits right now during the transition period for the next coach.
And finally, the money concerns could be alleviated, at least on a short-term basis, with hiring Haggins as the coach. He will cost significantly less to promote than the names like Mark Stoops, Mike Norvell, etc. would cost.
FSU could explore even a one or two-year option on a deal with their longtime defensive line assistant, and Haggins would probably be willing to do it for all of the reasons above. This would also be a good short term option in keeping the staff together, like offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, and potentially, elevating Jim Leavitt to defensive coordinator, if they/Haggins would like.
Again, Florida State may be able to land a proven head coach coming up and afford their buyout.
But, if they are not able to do that in short order, Odell Haggins appears to be an excellent option to continue to bring short-term stability and success that’s affordable.
And those are three “wins” that FSU needs right now, too.
FSU RB Akers announced Saturday he’s turning pro
FSU running back Cam Akers has played his final game for the Noles. The talented junior running back announced on social media Saturday afternoon that he will not play in the upcoming Sun Bowl matchup with Arizona State. He will instead prepare starting now for the NFL Draft:
Thank you Florida State 🌹 pic.twitter.com/KnS1TeNwuf
— Cam akers (@thereal_cam3) December 14, 2019
“These last three years have been incredible, and I am so appreciative that the FSU family welcomed a kid from Mississippi with open arms….. I have decided to enter the 2020 NFL draft and will not play in the Sun Bowl,” Akers post stated, in part.
Florida State was back on the practice field Saturday afternoon in Tallahassee after exam week concluded. Interim coach Odell Haggins is still overseeing the practice with newly hired head coach Mike Norvell out recruiting throughout the South.
Back to Akers, he came to the Seminoles of the highly-touted running back out of Clinton, MS, who ran for 8,000 yards in his career. However he suffered behind poor offensive line play each of the last two seasons, but still Acres finished 2019 with just over 1,100 yards rushing 14 TDs. A year ago those numbers were worse at just over 700 yards and six scores.
Originally recruited by Jimbo Fisher staff, Akers endured three offensive coordinators in three seasons, when new coach Willie Taggart took over for 2018 and hired Walt Bell for the 2018 campaign. Then Bell left to be the head coach at UMass after last season and Taggart hired Kendal Briles for this season.
The offense sputtered throughout the early season and Taggart was fired on November 3rd with three games remaining. Had Akers chosen to stay for Norvell, he’s already hired Kenny Dillingham (his former Memphis OC), which would have been a fourth coordinator.
It’s believed that Akers would likely be a possible second round pick, but he may slip to the third round or beyond because of the shaky productivity of FSU’s offense the last couple of years.
Taggart’s FAU contract details released
Former FSU head coach Willie Taggart was officially introduced as Florida Atlantic University’s new head coach on Thursday afternoon. Along with the announcement, were the details to his new contract with the Owls.
According to USA Today and the Associated Press, Taggart is receiving $750,000 a year in base pay for five years with a $3 million buyout if Taggart leaves before December of 2022.
Willie Taggart contract with FAU is for 5 years at $750,000 basic pay annually, plus $25,000 annual retention payment, so $775,000 total, per document from school
— Steve Berkowitz (@ByBerkowitz) December 12, 2019
— Taggart will make $750,000 per year for five years. For comparison, FAU’s last head coach, Lane Kiffin, made a $950,000 base salary per year. Kiffin’s earnings went over $1 million when a home loan, given to him by FAU, was factored in.
— Taggart owes FAU $3 million if he leaves the school or is fired before Dec. 1, 2022. The buyout drops to $1 million if he leaves before Dec. 1, 2023 and $500,000 between Dec. 2, 2023-Dec. 31, 2024.
— Taggart will receive a $25,000 retention bonus every Jan. 15.
— Incentives for Taggart include $100,000 for making a New Year’s Six Bowl or a top-10 finish. Taggart earns $50,000 for a Top 25 finish or for being named the National Coach of the Year.
— Taggart receives $20,000 for making the Conference USA Championship Game and $40,000 for winning it. FAU has won two league titles in the past three years.
— Taggart earns an extra $30,000 for making a bowl game. Winning the national championship nets Taggart $500,000.
— Taggart’s buyout is offset by his base salary at FAU. FSU will save around $3 million on Taggart’s $18 million buyout.
In addition to his salary, the University is offering perks such as a car allowance, a membership at the Boca Raton Resort and Club, and the option for family to travel on team charter.
Taggart, who was fired in November, halfway into his second season at Florida State, will be replacing Lane Kiffin, who departed for Ole Miss after Saturday’s Conference USA championship game win over UAB.
The reason Florida State fans have to be so enthusiastic is the Taggart was reportedly owed over $17 million on his buyout with four years left on his deal. However, that amount has to be lessened some, if not significantly, since he’s going to immediately take another head coaching job. It’s still not clear how much FSU will still be paying Taggart.
Taggart went just 9-12 in his season and a half with the Noles, which included Florida State suffering their first losing season in over forty years in 2018, when they went 5 – 7. When 2019 began with a collapsing loss at home to Boise State and then a near loss-OT victory over UL-Monroe, it seemed the handwriting was on the wall.
The final blow in Tallahassee came when Taggart’s team looked lifeless and undisciplined in their 27-10 loss to ACC instate rival Miami Novemeber 2nd. He was dismissed the next afternoon.
Taggart came to FSU from Oregon, where he spent one year and went 7-5 before jumping, again, in December of 2017 to take the Noles job. He previously was the coach at USF for four seasons, where after starting 2-10 year one, he reversed that number in his final year (2016) to 10 – 2.
Now that his contract is signed, he’ll be fully a go to pick up recruiting in the state where he’s well known in from his previous tenures in state programs.
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