Saturday, February 24, 2018
Colleges

Expect a simpler, faster FSU game plan under Willie Taggart

TALLAHASSEE — New Florida State coach Willie Taggart established himself as one of the game’s rising stars through his ability to turn three programs around (Western Kentucky, USF and Oregon).

Whether he succeeds at his fourth stop hinges on how he attacks a different kind of challenge: Revitalizing a powerhouse program that has started to grow stale.

"This is not a rebuild," Taggart said after being formally introduced as the 10th full-time head coach in Seminoles history. "This is more of a realignment."

For that, Taggart has Jimbo Fisher to thank.

Although the Seminoles are still peeved at Fisher’s departure — FSU president John Thrasher made a dig at his expense Wednesday — Fisher left FSU better than he found it. Before bolting for Texas A&M, Fisher dragged the Seminoles into the college football arms race with a renovated locker room, a new indoor practice facility and the 63-foot high video board that welcomed Taggart to Doak Campbell Stadium on Wednesday.

While Fisher was fixated on modernizing facilities, his program stalled in other ways, which Taggart seems ready to address.

Fisher doesn’t use social media. The 41-year-old Taggart uses Twitter regularly to communicate with more than 68,000 followers.

While Fisher’s loyalty to his assistants was admirable, FSU’s staff became stagnant after three years without a change. Taggart will be able to evaluate current assistants during preparation for the Independence Bowl to see which ones belong in his regime.

RELATED: Willie Taggart’s FSU decision more emotional than avaricious

The most obvious change will be what happens when Taggart replaces Fisher’s pro-style system with his Gulf Coast Offense.

"How would I describe it?" Taggart asked. "Lethal simplicity."

No one would use those words to describe what Fisher ran. The Bucs cited Fisher’s complex offense as one reason they thought quarterback Jameis Winston was worthy of the No. 1 overall pick in 2015.

That system won Fisher a national title and 29 consecutive games with an NFL quarterback, but it faltered with true freshman James Blackman. The Seminoles’ offense was No. 78 in scoring (26.7 points per game) and 66th in yards per play (5.6) during this season’s 6-6 setback.

"We want to score fast on offense but be really simple in how we teach our players," Taggart said. "Not confusing them about what they need to do. Allow our guys to go out and play football and play fast."

Fisher’s Seminoles didn’t do that last part, either.

Despite the nationwide trend toward up-tempo offenses, Fisher’s Seminoles ranked in the bottom 10 nationally in plays per game (61.2) and plays per minute (2.02).

Expect Taggart to push those numbers up. His Ducks ran almost 12 more plays per game than FSU and played at a quicker tempo than Clemson, UCF, SMU and Baylor.

Taggart wants his defense to play fast, too, but he doesn’t have a specific 4-3 or 3-4 system in mind. That shows the same kind of adaptability he had at USF, when he saved his job in 2015 by opening up the offense to highlight quarterback Quinton Flowers’ strengths.

Fisher was much less flexible. He mostly stayed true to the defensive schemes that won the 2013 national title, even as production eroded the last two seasons.

RELATED: Former USF coach Willie Taggart taking over at FSU

Fisher had reasons to stick with his philosophies; he won an ACC-record 78 percent of his games. But his program was starting to slip after 11 seasons (three as coach-in-waiting, eight as head coach).

"It can’t be about what we’ve done in the past," Taggart said. "It’s got to be about where we’re going now."

And that means realigning the Seminoles to get them back where Fisher had them four years ago.

Contact Matt Baker at [email protected] Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

Quick hits

• Remember how Jimbo Fisher called leaving Florida State for Texas A&M a "no-brainer" on Monday? The Seminoles certainly do. When Willie Taggart suggested FSU was his dream job, school president John Thrasher interpreted his words this way: "It was kind of like a no-brainer to come to Florida State," Thrasher said. Shots fired.

• Taggart’s contract will pay him $5 million annually over six years. FSU will owe him 85 percent of the remainder of his deal if it fires him without cause; he will owe $5 million if he leaves before the term expires. The Seminoles will have $5.5 million available for assistants.

• Because the Fisher drama had been lingering, Thrasher had been preparing for a possible coaching search for "a while." He didn’t specify what that meant, but FSU contacted Taggart on Thursday — a day before Fisher resigned. FSU officials met with Taggart on Monday.

• While Taggart is the school’s first full-time African-American head football coach, he made sure to point out that he still came after interim coach Odell Haggins, who is also black. "I do understand my role," Taggart said. "I do understand a lot of people are counting on me to do well."

Comments
Louisville must vacate 2013 basketball title, NCAA denies appeal

Louisville must vacate 2013 basketball title, NCAA denies appeal

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville must vacate its 2013 men’s basketball title following an NCAA appeals panel’s decision to uphold sanctions against the men’s program in the sex scandal case. The Cardinals will have to vacate 123 victories including the c...
Published: 02/20/18
Center Molly Franson’s value to UT is easily quantifiable

Center Molly Franson’s value to UT is easily quantifiable

TAMPA — Coaches often point to "intangibles" — the subtle positive qualities that usually don’t show up in the boxscore — when praising their key players.But University of Tampa women’s basketball coach Tom Jessee has a different definition when desc...
Published: 02/13/18
FSU holds off rally in hard-fought win over Louisville

FSU holds off rally in hard-fought win over Louisville

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Terance Mann couldn’t mope over two missed free throws that could have sealed Florida State’s victory. There was still work to do on the other end to make sure Louisville didn’t take advantage. The junior guard quickly redeemed hims...
Updated one month ago
No. 23 Florida clobbered at home by Alabama

No. 23 Florida clobbered at home by Alabama

GAINESVILLE — Mike White hung his head.Florida’s coach scuffed his shoes against the hardwood, screamed into his hands and watched as his team let Saturday’s game slip away.With Alabama on a seven-point run 11 minutes into the second half, the Gators...
Updated one month ago

USF Bulls fall to Memphis

TAMPA — From its two-point home loss against UCF to its victory at Tulane, USF recently had provided its fan base encouragement in spurts. Similarly, its interior defense against Memphis on Wednesday night also came and went.With 6-foot-3 Tigers guar...
Updated one month ago
Florida’s shooting goes cold in road loss to Georgia

Florida’s shooting goes cold in road loss to Georgia

ATHENS, Ga. — The repeated misses were bad for No. 23 Florida. The failure to rebound them made the offensive struggles even more painful. Yante Maten scored 20 and Georgia recovered after blowing a halftime lead to beat the Gators 72-60 on Tuesday n...
Updated one month ago

Florida State beats Miami in OT despite 17 Hurricanes 3-pointers

TALLAHASSEE — Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton and Miami’s Jim Larranaga both have at least 33 years of college basketball coaching experience under their belts.Both might have experienced a first during their matchup Saturday.FSU and Miami needed a ...
Updated one month ago
Chris Chiozza scores 20 as No. 20 Florida routs Baylor

Chris Chiozza scores 20 as No. 20 Florida routs Baylor

GAINESVILLE — Florida point guard Chris Chiozza was feeling it, so he went with the flow.A pass-first point guard by nature, Chiozza decided to stay aggressive as a scorer and see what happened.The Gators were glad he did.Chiozza finished the 20th-ra...
Updated one month ago
Pro Bowl to honor UCF for undefeated season

Pro Bowl to honor UCF for undefeated season

ORLANDO — The NFL plans to recognize UCF’s 13-0 season during today’s Pro Bowl at Camping World Stadium.Players have been invited to walk out on the field for a celebration after the first quarter."When we thought about UCF and the amazing season the...
Updated one month ago
Michigan State athletic director retires in wake of scathing ESPN report

Michigan State athletic director retires in wake of scathing ESPN report

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis announced his retirement Friday, the day an explosive ESPN story detailing a number of allegations of sexual assault and violent attacks on women occurred with Spartan athletes.Hollis...
Updated one month ago