Willie Taggart shaking things up at FSU

Willie TaggartWhat do you do if you’re Florida State coach Willie Taggart, and you go 5-7 in Year 1? You change stuff up, is what you do.

Taggart, on the hottest of hot seats, hired Kendal Briles away from Houston to be his offensive coordinator, to breathe life into a unit that produced just 21.9 points per game in 2018.

He’s also had defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett add some 3-4 elements to his schemes.

Unfathomably, FSU allowed 31.5 points per game in 2018, and surrendered 416.3 yards per game to opposing offenses.

This at a program that is … how many years removed from winning a national championship?

(The answer is six. Doesn’t seem like it was that long ago.)

First step is putting 2018 behind them.

“Only time we talk about it is when we are asked about it,” Taggart told reporters at last week’s ACC Kickoff. “It’s 2019. I don’t think it’s fair to our 2019 team to continue to talk about ’18’s team.

“We put that behind us. We learned from our mistakes, the things that cost us to be the way that we were. We’ve been working on it diligently since then to make sure we correct those things and don’t do the same things that we’ve done before.

“Again, ’18 is behind us. That’s part of our history. We’re going to keep it there, continue to focus on ’19.”

OK, then. Briles brings big-time credentials with him to Florida State. His offense at Houston scored 43.9 points per game in 2018, ranking fifth nationally, and his 2017 offense at Florida Atlantic was eighth nationally, scoring 40.6 points per game.

Taggart based what he calls his Gulf Coast offense in part on principles he picked up from picking the brain of Briles during a visit to Baylor when Briles was on staff there in 2015, so the adjustment to a new coordinator may be more streamlined than you would expect.

To Taggart, the bigger change for FSU offensive players came in Year 1, when the switch was made from a pro-style offense to the spread.

“To bring someone in here that understood what we’re trying to do, bring our football program, someone who has done it at a high level, it just made so much sense,” Taggart said. “This is a guy that went out and learned some ball when changing our offense at South Florida, and had an opportunity to hire him. I knew that a lot of things that I wanted with our program and how we teach our guys, he had a lot of it in himself.

“It’s paid off so far. Looking forward to training camp, seeing the work that our kids have put in this offseason to see how much we’ve gained from the spring.”

The move on defense to add some 3-4 looks is designed to “put our players in the best position to be successful,” Taggart said.

“I don’t think we’re changing a lot from what we did last year,” Taggart said. “We worked on some things in the spring, seeing what was good for our team, how we can continue to get better, how we can continue to put our players in the best position to make plays.

“I think you’re still going to see our guys playing an even front, though. I think you’ll see Coach Barnett continue to find different ways to put pressure on the quarterback.”

Story by Chris Graham


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