The tumultuous and at times bizarre off-season at Florida State continued that trend on Friday afternoon. That’s when FSU head coach Willie Taggart announced that he had fired his offensive line coach, Greg Frey, after only one season together in Tallahassee.
Taggart released a statement early Friday afternoon confirming that he had informed Frey Friday morning that he was out:
— Curt Weiler (@CurtMWeiler) February 15, 2019
The move won’t come as a huge surprise, because Florida State’s offensive line specifically, was a disaster for much of last season. A season in which the Noles finished 5 and 7 for their first year under .500 since 1977. And, the offensive line continually struggled to pick up the new system of former offensive coordinator Walt Bell, and even more glaring, be able to do simple things like pass block regularly for quarterback, Deondre Francois.
Frey being scapegoated on Friday, and that’s an appropriate way to describe it, wraps up what has been constant almost soap opera involving the coaching staff and more, since the end of the year.
First, Bell left in December to take the UMass head coaching job. Taggart eventually and controversially, replaced him with Kendal Briles a former Florida Atlantic and Baylor assistant. Briles is the son of Art Briles who was fired amidst multiple sexual assault allegations against his players over an extended period of time earlier this decade.
The soap opera continued, when Francois was accused a couple of weeks ago by his girlfriend on social media of threatening domestic violence against her. This was the second straight off season with Francois being accused of this. Taggart dismissed Francois the next day after the social media posts by the girlfriend. Francois, started all but one game last year for FSU, and his departure left a void on the field.
Then more bumbling, as the Noles were unable to secure a top-flight high school quarterback, as North Carolina High School prospect Sam Howell reneged on his verbal commitment to Florida State. This was probably in part, because Bell had left, and Howell chose to go to the UNC Tar Heels and stay home.
The Noles also missed out on the other two quarterback prospects they were hoping to land and went for the second consecutive season without signing a star quarterback in their recruiting classes under Taggart. That last part, by the way, is almost unheard of for a major college powerhouse program to not be able to get a quality high school quarterback to come to your school for two straight years.
At the moment the only scholarship quarterback that Taggart and Briles have is 2017 starter, James Blackman.
Back to Frey. He came to Florida State after one season at Michigan as an offensive line coach. The previous six years he was at Indiana as their offensive line coach, as well.
It had been a homecoming for Frey to be hired by Taggart and Florida State, as he was a lineman for the Seminoles in the early 1990s, including on the 1993 National Championship team.
It’s also curious that Frey was let go a week after the Seminoles Signing Day class was secured, which does include a couple of prominent offensive lineman on it.
Still, Taggart is in charge and scrambling or not, and soap opera or not, he’s got to try to have Florida State improved in a hurry in 2019.
Or, Taggart may very well be out of a job himself.
Mixed comments from FSU coaches about 2019 O-Line
Florida State is one of the few remaining state schools that have yet to name their starting quarterback. There is currently a battle for the spot among three guys, with returner James Blackman seemingly leading the pack. But more importantly on Willie Taggart’s list of things to sort out before the start of the season, is how his eventual QB is going to be protected?
And there’s been a lot of talk recently about what to expect from the Seminoles struggling O-Line.
Taggart has already made a couple major moves, with both having having yet to be seen if they’ll pay off, in letting go of former OL coach Greg Frey and having to hire a new OC after Walt Bell took the UMass job after just one season with the Noles.
He’s replaced them with Randy Clements at OL and Kendal Briles at OC.
At an event on Tuesday, Taggart was asked about the state of his tattered O-Line, and he gave a response that fans can only hope will be proven true.
Willie Taggart here talking to the Tallahassee Quarterback Club. He says he would pick the offensive line as the most improved #FSU position group and gets an ovation of applause from the crowd.
— Curt Weiler (@CurtMWeiler) August 20, 2019
Briles and Clements could be the guys that resurrect a line that was far too unorganized and disjointed last season. In 2018, FSU ranked 114th in points per game, 129th in yards per play and 118th in sacks allowed, and only averaged 2.79 yards per carry.
At Houston, Clements and Briles produced an offensive line in 2018 that allowed the Cougars to average 43.9 points per game, ranking fifth in the nation, and 512.3 yards of total offense.
However, Briles also spoke to the media on Tuesday, and while still positive on the future of his offense, insinuated that the line might continue to be a weak spot for the Noles this season.
Even if the OL isn't great, this offense should do damage
"You can hide some weaknesses with tempo," FSU OC Kendal Briles said. “You know, if Marvin Wilson lines up and gets his cleats in the ground and blowing snot bubbles…" (watch to hear the rest.)https://t.co/7YT17nLsyN pic.twitter.com/ZCdkrpWFhJ
— Warchant.com (@Warchant) August 21, 2019
For fans, this could either be encouraging or worrisome.
But, there is potential in some new additions to the line.
As a part of the 19th ranked class in the Nation, the Noles signed several new offensive linemen in the hope of a turnaround at a spot that has hurt them over the past few seasons. The most heralded one is four star recruit, Dontae Lucas of IMG Academy in Bradenton, and there’s also JuCo three star left tackle, Jay Williams of Grossmont College in El Cajon, CA.
While it remains to be seen if any of them can be a “plug and play guy” to play immediately for 2019, Clements could be the guy to get the most out of the current group.
FSU visited by Dungy and Brooks in Bradenton
FSU has spent the week practicing at IMG in Bradenton. On Wednesday, head coach Willie Taggart invited former NFL head coach Tony Dungy and Seminole legend Derrick Brooks spend some time with the team and offer a few words of wisdom after practice.
Had a wonderful time visiting the @FSUFootball team today with @DBrooks55 We talked about developing a positive culture of excellence and unity. Derrick talked about how to be a well rounded student and teammate. Thanks Coach Taggart for giving us the opportunity. https://t.co/yrWsJUbMJK
— Tony Dungy (@TonyDungy) August 14, 2019
Taggart wanted the guys to give his payers some insight on what it takes to be a part of a turn around team.
The former Super Bowl winning head coach told the team team that, if they want to see success on the field, they’re going to have to come together to do it.
— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) August 15, 2019
He ended with what it really means to be a champion, and having that championship mentality goes far beyond what you can do for your school on the field.
“Being a champion isn’t just being the best you can be on the field. Thats part of it. But it’s being the best teammate you can be, its being the best student you can be, person you can be and impact everyone. We didn’t bring you to Florida State just to win a national champion ship…Be the best person you can be for this university, for your family for your teammates, and you’ll leave a legacy here at Florida State.
You guys wanted to come to Florida State because of what these guys did. There are kids now who are going to want to come to Florida State because of what guys do. And that’s the power, that’s the fun, that’s what you’re going to really remember.”
Brooks then joined him for an extended Q&A session and told the group of guys, including his son, sophomore DeCalon Brooks, about what goes into a championship culture.
“It doesn’t take talent to have a championship culture, right? It takes effort. It takes awesome. No excuses, no explanations.” And mirroring the sentiment of Dungy he added, “that championship culture has to extend itself off the field…and we have the ingredients to be a championship-culture program.”
Coach Dungy has had a relationship with the Seminoles for a while, as Bobby Bowden was one of his role models when he began his career in coaching. And, in his time in Tampa with the Bucs, he coached two FSU greats in Brooks and Warrick Dunn.
Dungy and Brooks were foundational pieces of turning the Buccaneer program around and instilling a championship culture in Tampa Bay.
There’s no doubt that Tallahassee is ready for the return of a championship culture.