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Willie Taggart inherited a rough offensive line situation that has gotten even worse

Of the eight blue-chip offensive linemen Jimbo Fisher signed from 2014-17, only two have been fully healthy this season for the Seminoles.
Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois (12) gets pressured by the Virginia Tech Hokies defense during the fourth quarter at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Florida on Monday, September 3, 2018. (OCTAVIO JONES | Times)
Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois (12) gets pressured by the Virginia Tech Hokies defense during the fourth quarter at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Florida on Monday, September 3, 2018. (OCTAVIO JONES | Times)
Published Sep. 17, 2018

Take your pick of ugly stats or stories about how bad Florida State's offensive line is. Like how only three teams in the nation have allowed more tackles for a loss than FSU (27). Or how one of the most talented running back units in the country ranks No. 113 in rushing average.

But this response from first-year coach Willie Taggart about the possibility of benching quarterback Deondre Francois might be the most damning:

"So you want me to put someone else in there to get hit like that?" Taggart told reporters after Saturday's 23-point loss at Syracuse.

Ouch.

While Taggart deserves some of the blame for the line's struggles (and everything else), he inherited a rough situation that has contributed to his 1-2 start and will get worse Saturday against a Northern Illinois defense that ranks sixth nationally with 11 sacks.

In Jimbo Fisher's final four classes (2014-17), the Seminoles signed 17 offensive linemen who could still have eligibility remaining. Eight of them are gone, three others have missed at least one game due to injury and another will be out this week.

Zoom in on the top prospects, and the situation becomes bleaker. Of the eight blue-chip offensive linemen Fisher signed in those classes, only two have been fully healthy this season: Starting left tackle Jauan Williams and backup Baveon Johnson, whose experience consists of one game against a Division I-AA team.

Because few true freshman offensive linemen can start immediately in a power conference, Taggart must rely heavily on what Fisher left him. So to see part of why FSU is in this mess, here's a look at Fisher's 17 signees (including a shallow 2017 class that could hurt the Seminoles in the future, too):

2017

Three-star OT Brady Scott: Redshirt freshman has played in the last two games

2016

Four-star T Landon Dickerson: Limited to only 11 starts in the two previous years due to injuries. Missed the last two games with a hurt ankle

Four-star C Baveon Johnson: Missed last season with an injury. Has appeared in only one career game (Samford)

Four-star T Jauan Williams: Started every game at left tackle this season. Hadn't appeared in a game before 2018

Four-star T Josh Ball: Starting left tackle last year was removed from program in May after accusations of dating violence

Three-star T Mike Arnold: Starting right guard after appearing in four games the previous two seasons

Three-star G Andrew Boselli: Left the program in the offseason

2015

Four-star T Abdul Bello: Missed Samford game with an injury. Appeared in nine games (no starts) the previous three seasons

Three-star G David Robbins: Left the program in the offseason

Three-star G Cole Minshew: Missed the opener with an injury. Started against Syracuse at left guard

2014

Four-star T Roderick Johnson: Left early for the NFL. Fifth-round pick plays for the Texans

Four-star T Chad Mavety: Career ended because of a cardiac issue

Four-star G Corey Martinez: Left the program in August

Three-star C Alec Eberle: Has started 35 consecutive games at center

Three-star T Brock Ruble: Left for Toledo in the offseason as a grad transfer

Three-star T Derrick Kelly: Started at right tackle against Syracuse before leaving with an injury that will keep him sidelined this week

Three-star T Ethan Frith: Left the program in the offseason

Contact Matt Baker at mbaker@tampabay.com. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.