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Willie Taggart: ‘Pretty cool’ to be back in Tampa as FSU coach

Before the first-year Seminoles coach talked football, he started with the other big thing going on locally: "Go Lightning."
Florida State coach Willie Taggart speaks to reporters before his booster tour stop in Tampa. [ MATT BAKER | TIMES ]
Florida State coach Willie Taggart speaks to reporters before his booster tour stop in Tampa. [ MATT BAKER | TIMES ]
Published May 20, 2018
Updated May 21, 2018

TAMPA – After spending four years as USF's football coach, Willie Taggart knows what to expect this time of year in the area, so it's no surprise how he began a chat with reporters Sunday before a booster stop at Armature Works.

"Go Lightning," he said.

Even though Taggart is a known commodity in the area, he said coming back with the Seminoles logo on his chest is different.

"Pretty cool," he said. "You know how special it is here in Tampa Bay. We have such a great alumni base here in Tampa, and me being so familiar with the place, it's always special to come back here in general, but to come back as the head football coach at Florida State is special."

It's also what Taggart always wanted.

Growing up in Manatee County, Taggart was a big FSU fan, which is why he agreed to leave Oregon after only one season.

Five and a half months into his dream job, Taggart said the position is what he envisioned.

"High expectations," Taggart, 41, said. "A lot of excitement. Some talented football players. Fired-up community in Tallahassee and, as I've seen now, really fired up alumni and fan base.

"Expectations are high, like they're supposed to be."

Taggart hit on a few other topics before his latest stop on his spring booster tour:

·  Taggart said quarterback Deondre Francois is recovering well from the knee injury that sidelined him for the final 12 games of last season. The coach spotted Francois playing pingpong recently and noticed how well he seemed to be doing. "He was moving around pretty good doing that," said Taggart, who would prefer Francois stick to playing Madden during his rehab.

Taggart also said Francois is "doing well" with his leadership and being around his teammates more. Taggart was critical of Francois for that after he was cited by police on a complaint of marijuana possession last month.

·  Taggart has high expectations for receiver George Campbell, an East Lake High alumnus who has been sidelined for most of the past two seasons with a core muscle injury. "This summer's going to be big for him," Taggart said. "If he's healthy, we know the type of player he can be. It's very beneficial for our football team to have him healthy, so he's right on course."

·  Expect the Seminoles' trend of scheduling marquee season openers to continue. FSU opens this year at home against Virginia Tech on Labor Day, against Boise State in Jacksonville in 2019, and against West Virginia in Atlanta in 2020. "You've got to play those game the way the College Football Playoff works now," Taggart said.

·  Taggart didn't list any must-haves for a football complex, which is still in the idea stages. Possibilities include building a stand-alone facility or renovating the Moore Athletic Center.