It’s a huge day for the college football on Wednesday as the annual event known as National Recruiting Day takes place. Let’s run down what we can expect from the various Florida Schools.
Florida State Seminoles
Here’s a shocking revelation, the Seminoles are expected to have yet another huge recruiting class. Jimbo Fisher is at it again. All signs are pointing to a top 5 class for the Noles, which seems to be some kind of a trend under the Fisher regime. The prize for the Noles is star running back Cam Aikers a 5’11 213lb running back from Clinton, MS. He’s the #2 player in the country, according to 247Sports.com
After his first season as head coach Mark Richt is looking to have another strong recruiting class. He has a few things in his favor. First off the team finished with a five game winning streak, and won their bowl game handily, which was their first bowl victory in a decade. Clearly the program is on an upswing and Richt proved in his first year to be the man for the job. Another factor that will help them on Wednesday is the fact that they played true freshman in key positions this season, mostly on defense. What this does is show recruits that there is no hierarchy based on which class you are in. If you are ready to play, you will get a shot. Right now 247Sports has then at #16 where ESPN has them at #14. If they get higher than 14, the aforementioned factors played a role.
Despite winning back to back SEC East titles, Jim McElwain has been roasted in the state for sub par recruiting results. There’s not doubt the man can coach, it’s just right now his recruiting resume at Florida needs a lot of improvement. Will this be the year he finally cracks the Sunshine State code? Right now 247Sports has them at #21 recruiting class and ESPN at #20. With Florida State and Miami ahead of Florida this year and potentially for years to come, McElwain’s coaching chops will have to elevate because #20 is not good enough for the Gator faithful year in and year out. They will get restless.
UCF Golden Knights
Of course recruiting at UCF is going to be a challenge because of the high level and middle level college programs you are competing against. Right now 247Sports has UCF as the #66 recruiting class in the country. Which isn’t earth shattering, but it isn’t moving the needle much. A school like UCF is much more about player development than recruiting. Though they rely on finding overlooked guys, so it usually takes three years to measure these recruiting classes.
Florida International Panthers
The master recruiter himself is back in the state ready to cause some serious disruptions. Butch Davis is back coaching football in Miami-Dade County, but now for the FIU Panthers. And look how quick of an impact he’s making, this commuter school is ranked 76th in the country in recruiting. Nice work Butch!
Florida Atlantic Owls
The fighting Lane Kiffins come into their head coach’s first recruiting class at #79 according to 247Sports. He took a pretty substantial pay cut to be the head coach at FAU, and he’s going to have to make it work. Kiffin is a high profile name, but also a strong recruiter. That said this program is going not only rely on recruiting young men out of high school, but also master the transfer game. It will be interesting to see if Kiffin has any surprises on Wednesday.
South Florida Bulls
Ranked last out of all the Florida schools is USF, which comes in ranked as the #118 recruiting class in the country. That’s really really bad for a program that is coming off it’s best year in school history. We have to wait and see what new head coach Charlie Strong will be able to do recruiting wise next season. This season the bottom fell out as several top recruits de-committed once Willie Taggart took the job at Oregon. This includes three very high level recruits who are following Taggart to Eugene. This pretty much destroyed the recruiting class, which would have been ranked much higher had there not been any defections. Luckily for Strong he inherits a solid team and should be able to recuperate any recruiting losses next season.
FSU and Deondre Francois- both “back from the dead”
Saturday’s game between Florida State and Louisville was a bottom-line moment for both teams. The bad losses and poor performances from these teams in the first four weeks of the season were not going to lead to a Mona Lisa oil painting of excellence on Saturday. No one expected that. However, victory was essential for either team in its attempt to merely make a bowl game.
Just two years ago, Florida State and Louisville met for high stakes. The two teams were in contention for an Orange Bowl bid, which swung to FSU at the very end of the regular season. This was a distinctly different game played for survival and the right to save face.
Winning was the only priority.
Late in the fourth quarter, Florida State’s offense had finally become the well-oiled machine its fans had every right to expect it would be before the season began. The Seminoles had not become a juggernaut, but they had become an offense which, while spotty due to its offensive line, could occasionally hit big plays and strike fear into opposing defenses. That’s what the Noles always had the ability to become on offense in 2018. They had arrived at that modest but reasonable standard.
They just needed another chance… but it didn’t seem likely that they were going to get it.
Down 24-21, Florida State watched Louisville march down the field, continuing to make big pass plays against a Seminole secondary which was constantly out of position. Louisville used the pass to get to gain considerable leverage, but with 1:56 and facing first and 10 deep in FSU territory, the Cardinals had to run the ball. Everyone in the stadium knew Louisville needed to run…
.. except the two people who mattered most: quarterback Jawon Pass and head coach Bobby Petrino.
Florida State had only two timeouts, meaning that with two running plays, Louisville could have exhausted FSU’s supply of timeouts. If the Cardinals needed to convert a third down, then they could have passed. On first and 10, however, they needed to see if they could run for four or more yards and squeeze the FSU defense.
Pass threw a first-down toss which was intercepted.
Deondre Francois had his extra chance. Nyqwan Murray knew he also had a chance to transform the way this day — and this season — would be remembered
They found the piece of magic they were looking for.
Francois, who dropped dimes throughout the second half, hit Murray on a short-intermediate pass in the middle third of the field. He fought off the first would-be tackler, found the running lane he needed, turned on the jets downfield, then darted to his right and wound his way into the end zone. A dazzling 58 yard play which married strength, field sense, and skill sent the Florida State sideline into a state of euphoria.
After surviving Samford and turning in a workmanlike but unremarkable effort in a win over Northern Illinois, this was the surge of adrenaline and ecstasy FSU’s season had been lacking.
The team struggled throughout the game, but Francois finally returned to being the kind of quarterback he had been before injuries got in the way:
Deondre Francois' final line for the second half: 11/15, 218 passing yards, three touchdowns, no turnovers
— Curt Weiler (@CurtMWeiler) September 29, 2018
The reemergence of Francois is the engine Florida State hopes will power this team through tough upcoming games. No one can know for sure how much this win will mean in time, but plenty of in-season turnarounds have been launched by this kind of victory, the deathbed revival which once seemed utterly lost, but — thanks to Louisville and Deondre Francois and Nyqwan Murray — was blessedly found on a late September afternoon.
Florida State still has a lot of work to do in order to merely get back to a bowl game, but the odds now look a lot better than they did before Bobby Petrino’s pass play with 1:56 left in the fourth quarter. The Noles are still not a good team, but now they have a better chance of becoming one.
Inspiration mixed with elation can be tonics for the football soul.
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.
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