When Willie Taggart filled in for Tommie Frazier at Manatee High

No, the future Florida State coach was not nervous about replacing the quarterback who would become one of the best in college football history.
Published June 12, 2018|Updated June 12, 2018

It would have been easy — expected, even — for Willie Taggart to be nervous when he started in place of the injured Tommie Frazier as Manatee High's starting quarterback in 1991.

Nope. Taggart wasn't, even though he was the first sophomore ever to start for legendary coach Joe Kinnan, and he was filling in for a quarterback who would become one of the best in college football history.

"I think just going against the talent we had at practice every day, knowing that if you just go do what you do, you'll be okay," the Florida State coach said Monday evening before his speech to Seminoles boosters from Sarasota/Manatee. "But we had a lot of talent around us, so I think that helped where I didn't have to try to be the guy, I just had to make sure I don't mess it up for everyone else around us."

Joey Knight and I included some memories from that game in our story in today's Tampa Bay Times, but our archives have plenty more.

"I'm just a baby Frazier," Taggart told the Tampa Tribune.

RELATED: FSU football coach Willie Taggart gets local hero's welcome

Here's the Oct. 5, 1991 game story from our archives (written by Dan Klepal):

With quarterback Tommie Frazier sidelined because of a sprained knee Friday night at Hawkins Stadium, Manatee coach Joe Kinnan did something completely out of character _ he started a sophomore at quarterback. Willie Taggart took the helm of the Hurricanes' offense, marking the first time under Kinnan that a sophomore has started at quarterback, and led his team to a 44-0 blanking of Brandon in a Class 5A, District 7 game.

Taggart completed 10 of 16 passes for 100 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown bomb to Henry Smalls, and ran for an additional 54 yards in his debut.

"You mean Frazier wasn't out there?" Brandon coach Larry Bass asked jokingly after the game. "Taggart did a great job and, oh boy, he's only a sophomore. We saw a typical Manatee team tonight."

The Hurricanes (3-1, 1-0), ranked No. 2 in the Class 5A state poll, did the job on defense as well. Brandon (1-2, 0-2) only managed three first downs the entire game, and two of those came on penalties. In all, Manatee limited the Eagles to 61 total yards of offense.

"They saw that we were young and inexperienced on the offensive line and they just teed off on us," Bass said. "We did make some adjustments when we saw that Taggart was in, trying not to let him get outside on us."

The adjustments didn't work. On Manatee's first possession, Taggart capped a 12-play, 64-yard drive when he faked a toss to tailback Tyrone Williams and kept the ball for a 14-yard touchdown run around the right side.

When Taggart wasn't running, Terrace Dunbar, who was the game's leading rusher with 97 yards on 18 carries, was.

On Manatee's second possession, Williams burst through the line, cut to the right sideline scored from 23-yards out to give the Hurricanes all the cushion they would need.