When FSU hired Willie Taggart 12 days ago, the hope and belief in Tallahassee was that he would be bringing either one or both assistants Mario Cristobal and Jim Leavitt with him. Well, as you probably know by now, Cristobal received the permanent head coaching job. And, on Sunday night, Leavitt has agreed to stay in Eugene with him, as the Ducks defensive coordinator.
SI’s Bruce Feldman broke the story late Sunday night:
SOURCES: DC Jim Leavitt has signed a new deal tonight with #Oregon. The contract will take him thru the 2021 season & pay him an average of $1.7 million per year. Here is my report: https://t.co/bSmHMZF5pj
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) December 18, 2017
As Feldman reports, Leavitt will get a huge salary increase, and at $1.7 million will become one of the highest paid defensive coordinators in all of college football.
The Ducks were beaten Saturday in the Las Vegas Bowl by Boise State 38-38, and at that point, per his original contract with Oregon, he was free to potentially leave Eugene and join Taggart’s staff in the same role with the Noles.
This is obviously a massive “1-2 gut punch” to Florida State’s recruiting efforts, as Cristobal and Leavitt are long time fantastic recruiters in Florida. And, now, neither will be coming South.
Leavitt, like Taggart, is a former USF head coach and has made no secret that he desires to be a head coach in a big time program, again.
Clearly, what Oregon built this year defensively, their returning players and recruiting prospects appealed to Leavitt to stay, as much as the money.
Leavitt spent part of the the last 12 days also recruiting face to face with several prominent Ducks recruits in the West, as the brand new “early” national signing day is coming up this Wednesday.
Meanwhile, three time zones away, Taggart has gone about trying to salvage the Florida State recruiting class during that same time. The Noles had more than five premier recruits who de-committed from FSU, while head coach Jimbo Fisher left Florida State in limbo for the final week of the season.
Fisher eventually took the Texas A&M job and may end up with a some of those same recruits in College Station, TX.
This is not to say that Taggart won’t do well enough recruiting for the Noles, but it clearly is now going to be much harder this year and in subsequent years to get players, without Cristobal and now, Leavitt.
No, Florida State is not getting rid of Willie Taggart
As our headline clearly presents, we interrupt the chaos and fantasy of those anti-Willie Taggart Florida State fans, who believe that somehow, he is not going to be their coach for the next couple of seasons.
Yes, it is bad right now for Florida State for several reasons. As our Matt Zemek laid out after Saturday’s blowout loss at Syracuse, you can only blame Jimbo Fisher for so much of it. And, because Taggart is in charge, he now will have to bear the brunt of whatever else goes on the next few games and to the end of 2018.
On Monday, Taggart met with the media and read from a prepared statement trying to reassure Florida State fans that the Noles will be better, and soon. Sure, there were many looking at that press conference and saying he doesn’t know what to do. However, FSU is only 1-2 with a winnable game coming this Saturday.
And, fundamentally, one of the things holding them back are talented skill players that must be addressed immediately; the play of the offensive line. And as this article in the Tallahassee Democrat lays out, the Noles do not have a lot of options currently, in terms of new or better personnel.
Still, offensive line coach Greg Frey is very experienced at several other major programs and obviously, offensive coordinator Walt Bell has worked and called plays and had success in major college programs.
So, the belief that those two can improve the scheme and the blocking has to be there for the FSU faithful.
Now for the silliness that Taggart may only last one season.
That’s what it is, silliness.
He would be due over 21 million dollars in a contract buyout, if he was fired after this year, which Florida state would never pay at this stage.
Further complicating the situation, Florida State’s AD Stan Wilcox, who did the deal with Taggart last December to bring him from Oregon to Tallahassee, is leaving next month for a position with the NCAA. So, the Seminoles new athletic director, yet to be hired, will have to probably be given a season to evaluate Taggart and that is going to be 2019.
And it’s important to remember the Taggart had a 2 – 10 record his first year at USF, but eventually turned them into a 10-win and bowl game winning program before leaving for the Pac-12 two years ago.
Now, Taggart did win a couple of games early in the Oregon season last year to take the pressure off, but still finished just 7-5, leaving before the Ducks bowl game.
So, perhaps the FSU offense will imporve this week against Northern Illinois, at least enough for Florida State to try and salvage a five or six wins season.
But, if it does not, Willie Taggart is still not going anywhere.
FSU’s “Rag-tag” Taggart team tagged, flagged and bagged Saturday
Jimbo Fisher left behind a big mess. That’s what Week 1 taught the college football world about Florida State.
Week 2 against Samford, as bad as it was, nevertheless represented a game being played five days after the emotionally draining Virginia Tech opener. Young men — or old NFL veterans — are not supposed to play a violent sport twice in a span of roughly 120 hours. One can give FSU a full pass for that game. It contained very little real-world value in identifying what is right or wrong with this team.
But Week 3? On the road? With a full week of rest and relatively normal game-preparation circumstances? Against a Syracuse program which has struggled to play defense and struggled to win with any consistency over the past 15 years?
This was the time for Willie Taggart to show that, as much as Jimbo left him with a toxic cleanup site and insufficient hazmat gear, the Seminoles’ new coaching staff could manage a problematic situation and make necessary adjustments.
This was the week to show that damage control could define a season in which no one expected Florida State to be great. This project was all about the pursuit of competence and steadiness — not the dominance of old (that is a goal which always existed beyond this season’s capacities), but merely finding one’s footing as a program and setting the stage for 2019.
Instead, the Seminoles were “tagged” by Syracuse running for 231 yards, were “flagged” for 10 penalties, and the offense was “bagged,” by going a horrible 1-14 on third down, and being shutout deep into the fourth quarter.
Syracuse dominated Florida State 30-7. And, the blank stares from Taggart out onto the field shown on TV Saturday are only going to make Noles fans more venomous than they were before this one kicked off.
After this colossal failure in the Carrier Dome, Florida State has no footing.
It is sinking in quicksand… and its coach currently appears paralyzed in his attempt to do anything about it.
FSU likely looking at high scoring-“track meet” at Syracuse
In what is the most prominent game of the weekend involving state school teams, FSU limps into the Carrier Dome for a Saturday noon game with Syracuse.
With growing concern about Coach Willie Taggart just two games in, the Noles need some positive things to happen and try to find a way to come out of Western New York with a victory.
One thing is obvious, Florida State’s defense is in disarray and with Syracuse having a powerful dual-threat quarterback, the Seminoles will likely have to win in a high-scoring “track meet” type game.
Even though Florida State played better in the second half defensively in both of their home games with Virginia Tech and Samford last week, there’s still real cause for concern.
For example, short week or not, Samford quarterback Devlin Hodges threw for 475 yards on the FSU defense and receiver Kelvin McKnight had a career night at Doak Campbell with 14 catches, 215 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Yes, Florida State slowed the Bulldogs down in the second half holding them only to one field goal. And did register four interceptions of Hodges. Still the most Ardent FSU supporters have to be concerned that Florida State has given up an average of 422 yards and 25 points in their first two games.
As for the ‘Cuse, QB Eric Dungey (above) is probably a better runner than passer, and the Orange have gone over 450 yards in both of their opening games while scoring 107 points.
Now, the quality of competition was Wagner and Western Michigan, but still yards are yards and points are points.
New FSU defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett has got to find some answers for the read option and Dungey’s Mobility. Unfortunately, Florida State doesn’t have the usual talented physical and fast front seven that fans have been accustomed to in Tallahassee over the years.
So more than likely, quarterback Deondre Francois, running back Cam Akers and receiver Nyquan Murray are going to have to help put a lot of points up on the board, if Florida State hopes to get out of the Dome with a much-needed ACC win
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