The “ACC Kickoff” got underway in Charlotte, NC, Wednesday, as teams from the Atlantic Division gave the media a preview of the quickly approaching 2019 season. And, FSU Head Coach Willie Taggart, is bringing some much needed optimism for what he’s hoping the Seminole offense can become.
Taggart spoke first in the main interview room and then, to the assembled media in a breakout room for another 15 minutes. There, Tampa Bay Times writer Joey Knight, asked about the tempo of his 2019 offense, and if it will be faster than the more successful teams he’s previously coached?
To which he responded, “Yes we will be.”
Here’s more of the answer:
— Joey Knight (@TBTimes_Bulls) July 17, 2019
“After a year of trying to do this our guys have a better understanding of what we’re trying to do and you’ve seen in back in South Florida, the first year we weren’t going as fast, they still were learning it too, and once they figured it out, then it was fast all the time. But I think the way Coach Briles is doing things will be a lot faster here.”
Taggart, known for his “Gulf Coast Offense” that led him to an 11-2 season at USF, said that with a year of this offensive style under their belt, this FSU team will be even faster than any other teams in the past.
Obviously, this season is a crucial one for Taggart, and he’s made many moves between seasons to get the Seminole’s offense back to what it has been known to be.
The past-paced style of play is certainly going to help, but none of that will matter without a solid leader directing the ball on the field. As we saw with Taggart’s time with the South Florida, a large factor into making his rushed offense work so well was having a guy like Quinton Flowers, who could execute it.
As we’ve recently reported, FSU is one of a multiple schools in the state struggling to find the right guy to fill their QB position. After the January dismissal of last year’s starter Deondre Francois, junior James Blackman will apparently be the quarterback for this season.
However, the pressure is on second year boss, Willie Taggart, and he secured left-handed Wisconsin graduate transfer Alex Hornibrook, who could become the guy very quickly, if Blackman falters or should get injured. However, Hornibrook has not been running a speed spread-out offense previously with the Badgers.
Taggart continued on the state of the QB competition in Tallahassee on Wednesday:
Taggart indicates QB James Blackmon will start out with 1st team when preseason camp commences, but definitely will have to compete (with Wisconsin transfer Alex Hornibrook, among others) to retain that spot. #FSU
— Joey Knight (@TBTimes_Bulls) July 17, 2019
We can assume that a main factor in winning the starting spot will be the guy that can speed up the offense and turn things around quickly in Tallahassee, just as Taggart did starting his second year in Tampa a few seasons back.
FAU hires former FSU coach Willie Taggart
The “coaching carousel” of college football continues to spin, and for Florida State fans, they have to be pleased, as it looks like Willie Taggart will immediately take another job and not even leave the state.
Florida Atlantic is nearing completion of a deal w/Willie Taggart, source told @Stadium. Taggart would be a huge get for FAU w/his recruiting ties in the state
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) December 11, 2019
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.
FAU made the hire official later on Wednesday night:
— FAU Football (@FAU_Football) December 11, 2019
Taggart went just 9-12 in his season and a half, 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. 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.
FAU enjoyed a resurgence under Kiffin and just won the C-USA Championship Game for the second time in three years. South Florida is obviously fertile ground for recruits and Taggart definitely has much experience recruiting the state for both the Seminoles, the Bulls and having also previously played High School football in Sarasota.
FSU coaching staff- who’s in and who’s out so far
Mike Norvell is wasting no time getting into his recruiting stride in Tallahassee, and he’s starting from the top down, with his coaching staff. So far, he’s secured two coaches that will be a part of the FSU staff in 2020.
With head coaching changes, traditionally comes a “clean sweep” of the previous coaches staff. However, Norvell’s first official hire was one of the programs most familiar faces, Odell Haggins. Norvell announced on Monday that Haggins will continue to run the Noles Defensive line and will be an associate head coach.
— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) December 9, 2019
In his announcement he said, “I’m extremely excited to announce that Coach Odell Haggins will be my first official assistant coach here at Florida State,” Norvell said. “He is an incredible representative of Florida State football, a tremendous leader and teacher and a wonderful man. His knowledge and understanding of the Nole Way will be critical in our pursuit of excellence for this football team on and off the field.”
Norvell’s next hire, announced Monday afternoon, is Auburn OC Kenny Dillingham in the same role with the Seminoles.
Source: Florida State is hiring Auburn OC Kenny Dillingham as the offensive coordinator. He worked under Mike Norvell at Memphis and Arizona State is considered one of the country's rising OC stars.
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) December 9, 2019
The news means that Kendal Briles is officially out, who likely won’t have a hard time landing somewhere else, as one of the nations most promising OC’s, despite the lackluster year with FSU’s struggling offense.
Dillingham was preciously an assistant to Norvell at Memphis for three seasons from 2016 to 2018, before taking his job at Auburn. In his final year at Memphis he was promoted to OC, and lead an offense that ranked fourth nationally in total offense (534.3 ypg), third in rushing offense (285.5 ypg) and seventh in scoring offense (43.6 ppg).
Now on to what may be the most import hire of Norvell’s new staff, a frontman for the FSU defense. Right now, it is rumored that his third hire could be a coordinator from another SEC powerhouse. There’s lots of chatter online about the potential of Norvell landing Georgia’s current DC, Dan Lanning. While nothing has been confirmed yet, the move seems likely due to the connection between Norvell and Lanning at both Arizona State in 2012 and again at Memphis in 2016. Many Seminole fans are speculating on his potential move to Tallahassee when they noticed Lanning following FSU players and media on Twitter Monday afternoon.
Why is uga dc Dan lanning following our players 🤫 pic.twitter.com/ign0sEK2qp
— COONIE (@CooN6GoTDouGH) December 9, 2019
As of right now, it is just talk, though he certainly would be an amazing hire for FSU. Much of what undid Willie Taggart was the failure to produce a solid defensive scheme. If an announcement about Lanning’s move is made in the next couple of days, it would be an excellent first week on the job for Norvell.