Amidst most Florida State fans happiness with the hire of Willie Taggart on Tuesday, was the belief that he would be bringing his top assistants to Tallahassee with him. The key one of those is his defensive coordinator this past season in Eugene, and fellow former USF head coach, Jim Leavitt.
However, on Wednesday morning, it’s still uncertain on when and if Leavitt can and will join the new Noles coach. More on that in a bit.
First, the quick bio/update on the Ducks current defensive coordinator and his Florida background.
Leavitt, after all, not only built USF from nothing starting in 1997 into a Division one force 10 years later (they were ranked #2 in the AP), but is also very well known as a big time recruiter in the state. And, this goes back to the early 1990’s when he scored big time recruits while co-defensive coordinator for Bill Snyder at Kansas State.
Once he got the Bulls job, Leavitt built his roster almost entirely with players from the Tampa Bay area and Central Florida.
After being fired by USF with controversy over whether he struck a player in the locker room at halftime of a game. Leavitt went to the NFL as linebackers coach for the San Francisco 49ers from 2011-14. He was part of their run to the Super Bowl in 2012.
After Jim Harbaugh was dismissed in San Fran in 2014, Leavitt spent two years as the Colorado defensive coordinator, including 2015, where they went to the Pac-12 Title Game.
Then, he hooked up with Taggart, after a strong recommendation from Jim Harbaugh to stay in the Pac-12 and coach the defense at Oregon this past season.
So now, what’s his situation?
The belief is that Leavitt wants to join Taggart at FSU and resume the Florida recruiting trail but this time with the leverage and the talent to choose from that the Noles bring, as a power house program. And, there have been numerous reports in the last 48 hours that he would be leaving.
This includes a report in the Portland Oregonian yesterday afternoon that Leavitt would be joining Taggart.
Furher, another popular Tallahassee outlet flat out put it out there Tuesday evening:
Jim Leavitt following Willie Taggart to FSU to become defensive coordinator https://t.co/hRxjhY3vZn
— Tomahawk Nation (@Tomahawknation) December 5, 2017
But, in the words of former FSU assistant coach turned ESPN TV legend, Lee Corso, “not so fast, my friend.”
Oregon AD Rob Mullens made it clear in his news conference in Eugue Tuesday afternoon that Leavitt and the other assistants aren’t going anywhere, for now. In fact, he promoted Taggart’s offensive coordinator and former FIU head coach, Mario Cristobal, as the interim coach for the Ducks bowl game.
And further, Mullens informed everyone that every Ducks assistant, including Leavitt, has it in their contract that they cannot leave for any other assistant’s job until the Oregon season is over, including their bowl game.
That is the Las Vegas Bowl against Boise State on Saturday December 16th.
10 days from now.
As for Leavitt, he spent the weekend through Tuesday on the recruiting trail. In fact, even with rumors swirling everywhere that Taggart was negotiating with the Noles, Leavitt tweeted that he was flying all over the place Monday and Tuesday to visit Duck defensive recruits:
Had our awards banquet tonight. Really went well. Players had a good time. Heading out tomorrow. Oregon, Vegas, Denver and Ohio. Then back to get ready for Bowl Game. Go Ducks!
— Jim Leavitt (@CoachJimLeavitt) December 4, 2017
He followed through and visited face to face with high school players all way through Tuesday night. This was even with Taggart having been announced as the new FSU coach and having informed the current Ducks players in a meeting Tuesday afternoon.
Then, with the above reporting everywhere that it was a “given” Leavitt was guaranteed to be joining Taggart in the Florida panhandle coming up, Leavitt took to Twitter, again last night:
Always been honest. Never have I mislead. Have great passion for the Ducks! Want to be a HC someday again Lord willing. Flying back tomorrow but tonight with my girls.
— Jim Leavitt (@CoachJimLeavitt) December 5, 2017
We at F.F.I. take the “Never have I mislead” to mean: he’s not misleading the recruits that he was meeting with face to face, about Leavitt staying on at Oregon, while planning to be gone later in the month to FSU.
And you take into account that Leavitt cannot leave, anyway, for now, due to his deal with Oregon and the debate deepens.
Will the Ducks push hard for Cristobal to get the full time job? Probably.
Might Leavitt get consideration for head coach in Eugene, as he referenced? Perhaps, but a longer shot on that.
Might Mullens and Oregon pony up big money (they have it) to give Leavitt a new deal and keep him? Stronger maybe on that point.
Will Jim Leavitt be joining Willie Taggart and FSU to recruit in these next two weeks before the December 20th early signing day? Absolutely, not.
Is he waiting out the 10 days that he has to and is in fact misleading Oregon recruits about him going to FSU? Could be.
Now, we watch and wait.
New FSU coach Willie Taggart anxious to get Noles nationally relevant again
On Thursday morning new FSU coach Willie Taggart met with the ACC media signaling that Seminoles practice and September games won’t be far behind.
Interestingly, it was Taggart’s third different conference media kickoff with his third different school in three years. A year ago he was standing in Los Angeles, as Oregon’s coach at the Pac 12 media days and two years ago, was representing USF at the American Athletic Conference at their media kickoff in Newport, RI.
Nevertheless, Taggart has infused Florida State and their fan base and continued to share his vision for immediately improving them on and off the field. He spoke at length with the ACC Media:
— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) July 19, 2018
Taggart covered several interesting subjects, including lack of offensive productivity. He was asked whether it shocked him that FSU was ranked last in several ACC offensive categories:
“I think everything about last year shocked me…. That’s football. That’s life. That’s behind us, now. It’s on us to change those things, because it’s up to us to change those things… That’s the expectation for us: to be a whole lot better than what we did last year. So, I’m looking forward to our guys changing that narrative.”
He was then asked about his vision for the Seminoles program in the near future:
“My vision for this program s to win multiple championships in a first class manner…. That’s always going to be our vision. And, to me, that’s what Florida State is all about. That’s what I grew up (in Bradenton) watchin’, lovin’, when it came to Florida State football. Every year competing for a championship…Every year they were winning. That’s our goal. That’s our vision. That’s why you come to Florida State. To win championships.”
The ACC media waited until the end to ask about the competition at quarterback for this fall. Taggart was amused.
“This is the last question? And someone finally asked me about the quarterback position?… I am kinda like the rest of you all. I’m ready to see who’s going to be our quarterback, as well. I’m excited. This is the first time I’ve been in a position as a the head football coach where we have three guys that can play for you. I’m looking forward to training camp and these guys competing for the job… They understand when you come here, you’re going to have to compete. Nothing is going to be given to you…. Can’t wait to see who separates themselves, as we go into the season. As soon as they do that, we will let you all know.”
The Noles will return 2016 starting QB Deondre Francois, who was lost for the season in the opening game with Alabama, and also sophomore James Blackman who took over and played better, as the season wore on. He led FSU to wins over the Gators and in the Independence Bowl over Southern Miss.
It will be easier with battering ram running back Cam Akers to hand the ball off to, as well.
Finally, Taggart does have a lot to live up to after the Noles massive success of 35 plus years and counting. He’s a coach that is only 47-50 for his career at Western Kentucky, USF and last year at Oregon (7-5 a year ago) and Taggart knows that scrutiny will start with the Labor Day night opener at home with conference rival Virginia Tech and only grow from there.
Noles will open 2019 season in Jacksonville against Boise State
We knew that Florida State would be opening their 2019 season with Boise State, as part of a “home and home” agreement. However, we now know that the game will not be played at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, but rather, at the newly renamed TIAA Bank Stadium in Jacksonville.
Meanwhile, the Florida Times-Union website has more on the game:
JaxSports planned a big announcement on Wednesday about a big football game coming to the city. (But Boise State couldn't wait.)https://t.co/wUDIxULLnp
— Florida Times-Union (@jaxdotcom) May 15, 2018
As the article indicates, the Jacksonville Sports Council or “JaxSports” had intended to make the announcement on Wednesday about the game coming to North Florida, but they were scooped on their scoop by the Broncos.
This will be FSU’s first regular season appearance at the stadium, the 2008 season, when Bobby Bowden’s Noles defeated Colorado 39-21. Coincidentally, Bowden coached his final game of his career at Florida State in the “Gator Bowl” game in that stadium on New Year’s Day 2010, as the Seminoles defeated his former school, West Virginia.
FSU led by QB E.J. Manuel, won that day 33-21 over the Mountaineers, which finished Bowden’s career with 389 wins, the Division I all time record for coaches.
The 2019 opener will be part of the college football kickoff weekend and will be nationally televised by one of ESPN’s networks. This is part of a recent trend by the network to pay heavily to powerhouse programs to play each other that first weekend in “made for TV” match-ups.
Florida State played in such a game on Labor Day night last year in Atlanta, where Alabama defeated them in the “Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic” game at the new Mercedes Benz Stadium. Both preseaon top five teams, The Tide stuffed FSU 24-7, and the Noles lost QB Deondre Francois to a season ending knee injury in the fourth quarter.
Longtime Florida State fans have a negative memory in Jacksonville, as the Seminoles were shocked in the opening game of the 1989 season as the preseason #6 team. That opening day, a little known (at the time) QB by the name of Brett Favre led Southern Miss to a 30-26 upset that put him on the radar for the first time and he eventually went on to a Hall of Fame NFL career.
This 2019 game with Boise State is for now set for that Saturday, but could be moved to Sunday or Monday, if ESPN desires at a later date.
Boise is no stranger to opening weekend “made for TV” upsets, as they stunned Georgia in “home away from home” game Atlanta in September of 2011.
The Noles are scheduled to return the home game to the Broncos the following year (2020), but that could be negotiated to another location. This is especially, since FSU moved their game out of their home stadium.
Deondre Francois may be a slight weed head, but he’s no criminal
If you haven’t heard the recent story surrounding FSU QB Deondre Francois regarding his most recent brush up with the local law enforcement in Tallahassee you clearly have been living under a rock. Francois was recently cited for misdemeanor marijuana possession, but is going to have a clean record because he’s participating in a diversion program.
Deondre Francois became the subject of a two-month drug investigation after Tallahassee police received a tip and believed the Florida State quarterback possessed marijuana with the intent to sell, according to a search warrant obtained by the Orlando Sentinel on Tuesday.
The anonymous male tipster, who was inside Francois’s apartment in late February, said he saw a large paper grocery-type bag full of cannabis, which TPD estimated at about two pounds, present during a drug-related crime.
The tip led to an investigation in which TPD collected and examined the contents of Francois’ curbside garbage on four separate occasions.
But when TPD concluded its investigation of Francois last Thursday, an executed search warrant conducted at his apartment yielded just 17 grams of marijuana among other items.
To do some math for you: there’s 28 grams in an ounce of marijuana, for those who don’t know. That would mean 17 grams is slightly under 5/8th of an ounce. The local law enforcement spent tax payer money to run a surveillance program for two months to seize 5/8ths of weed.
I want folks to think about this for a second to see how ridiculous this is. Also, I also think people need to hold back their judgement about this situation, as well, unless they understand kind of how drug busts work.
Most of the intelligence police gather are from confidential informants or “CIs” for short. Usually, CIs are involved in some criminal activities themselves. Often times what happens is: confidential informants get caught themselves and are released without a record, as long as they help the police make a larger bust. Basically, you aren’t dealing with any church pastors, unless it’s the pastor doing dirt. These are the guys in the game.
So, yes, the man who gave the police a tip would be categorized as a snitch. My guess, and this is just speculation, is the person they local police used was someone who had previously got caught with marijuana and they scared that person.
So, he said he knew a big name to get him off the hook. It’s possible it’s another student. Who knows?
All evidence at this point makes it look like Francois and his girlfriend like to smoke some weed. Big deal! Weed is legal in several states now and the nation’s capital. Sure it’s not legal for recreation purposes in Florida, but it could be in a few years.
It’s good that Francois isn’t going to have any of this on his record. However, he isn’t going to escape the criticism from folks in the media that are going to make a bigger deal out of this than it really is. It’s strange how these football players can be prescribed opioids for pain management, but as soon as they smoke weed for the same reasons, they are a criminal.
Deondre Francois is guilty of being a weed head or hanging around weed heads. He’s not Nino Brown from New Jack City, like the local police department apparently treated him like.
The Tallahassee Police Department played themselves. As for folks in the media blasting Francois, they need to chill a little bit. Maybe, spark up a backwood or something and relax.
Let Francois live!.
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