Florida State’s search to replace Jimbo Fisher lasted less than a week, as Willie Taggart was hired from Oregon as the program’s next head coach. Taggart is a Florida native, and considering he grew up a fan of the Seminoles, coaching at Florida State is his dream job. Additionally, he’s been a successful coach at WKU, USF and Oregon. All signs point to this being a standout hire for the Seminoles for 2018 and beyond.
For every new coach, the to-do list after the initial press conference is pretty standard. The head coach has to recruit, implement scheme changes, build a staff of quality assistants and coordinators, discuss potential NFL Draft impact with juniors and work on any facility or support staff requests. Needless to say, that’s a lot.
While every coach has those goals in mind, it’s never too early to look at some of the personnel concerns surrounding a program and a new coach for the upcoming year.
Here’s an early look at three personnel question marks for Taggart to address in 2018:
3 Priorities for New Florida State Coach Willie Taggart in 2018
1. Go Fast
During his initial press conference at Florida State, Taggart made his goals on offense clear: Lethal Simplicity. Taggart has meshed his pro-style, run-first background with the up-tempo/spread attack known as the Gulf Coast Offense to create a high-powered scheme. While Florida State ranked inside of the top five in the ACC in scoring every year from 2010-16, this offense could use a little creativity and tempo. The Seminoles averaged 61.1 plays a game in 2016, which was the lowest mark among ACC teams. At Oregon, Taggart ran 72.9 plays per contest. Mixing in more tempo and finding new ways to get the ball in the hands of running back Cam Akers and receivers Nyqwan Murray, Auden Tate and Keith Gavin will only make this offense more dangerous in 2017.
2. The Quarterbacks
Taggart is inheriting a talented quarterback room for 2017. Deondre Francois returns after suffering a season-ending leg injury against Alabama in the opener. Francois threw for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman in 2016. True freshman James Blackman was pressed into duty once Francois was lost for the year, and as expected, had his share of ups and downs. But there were plenty of positives for Blackman to build upon for 2018. He completed 57.2 percent of his throws for 1,997 yards and 15 touchdowns. Additionally, four-star prospect Bailey Hockman is in the mix after taking a redshirt year in 2017.
3. Take it Up a Notch on Defense
The numbers on Florida State’s 2017 defense weren’t awful. The Seminoles allowed 21.9 points a game and 4.8 yards per play. However, this unit surrendered 5.1 yards per snap in ACC play, forced only 14 turnovers and struggled to get off the field on third downs. Considering Florida State has averaged a finish of 5.2 in the national recruiting rankings, this defense has the talent to take it up a notch. Standout safety Derwin James is off to the NFL, but defensive ends Brian Burns and Joshua Kaindoh are two building blocks in the trenches. Additionally, defensive backs Stanford Samuels III, Levonta Taylor, Cyrus Fagan and Hamsah Nasirildeen provide a strong start in the secondary. If Jim Leavitt follows Taggart to Florida State, that’s a home-run hire and a coach capable of getting this defense on track right away in 2018.