FSU went 5-7 in Willie Taggart’s first season, then changed offensive coordinators and now has dismissed starting quarterback Deondre Francois. How confident are you in Taggart’s future?
Matt Baker, State colleges reporter @MattBakerTBTimes: There are too many ifs in Tallahassee. The Seminoles can return to at least respectability … if the offensive line improves, and if they find some depth at quarterback,and if the controversial Kendal Briles hire works out. Maybe Briles can address some of Taggart’s perceived shortcomings with Xs and Os, but Taggart has a reputation as an excellent recruiter. His 2019 class is on track to be FSU’s second worst of the Rivals era. If Taggart closes well with this recruiting class (another if), my feelings will change slightly. But after a 5-7 season and this turbulent offseason, I don’t see many reasons to be optimistic about his long-term prospects.
No repeat resuscitation
Joey Knight, USF and colleges reporter @TBTimes_Bulls: It’s hard to envision Taggart somehow resuscitating his fibrillating tenure the way he did at USF in 2015, when he was one defeat from unemployment. His fortunes in Tampa turned on a dime when he finally unleashed QB Quinton Flowers, who became arguably the greatest player in program history. In Tallahassee, Taggart has no one to unleash at the moment. Former starter James Blackman, the only experienced guy on the roster, is respected by teammates but probably doesn’t possess the tools to transform an offense the way Flowers did. Toss in the offensive line’s shortcomings and myriad distractions (i.e. Kendal Briles’ baggage, pending lawsuits from Oregon players hospitalized on his watch), and a significant improvement from 5-7 doesn’t seem plausible.
Still has time for a turnaround
Ernest Hooper, columnist/assistant sports editor @hoop4you: Taggart may not want to buy any real estate in Leon County just yet, and he probably should keep that change of address form for the post office in his top drawer. Still, he has time to right the ship. The dismissal of Francois will either be a harbinger of more trouble or the first step to changing the program’s culture for the better. The next step will be maximizing the most out of Francois’ replacement, be it James Blackman or someone else, and then getting his players to exhibit more discipline — on and off the field.
Going, going …
Martin Fennelly, columnist @mjfennelly: Call me crazy, but I have been a Taggart believer since he hit and rescued USF. But this is bad. The 5-7 season was bad enough. Taggart’s buyout is embarrassingly massive, so FSU is cornered for one more season. But another loser won’t be tolerated. It’s a breakout season or bust for Willie. Bust is the current clubhouse leader. Hey, Coach Bowden, what are you up to these days?
Who the heck knows?
Mike Sherman, sports editor, @mikesherman: Florida State wanted Taggart so badly it agreed to a contract that will pay him 85 percent of whatever is left on his six-year deal if it fires him. It would be an abomination if FSU decided to pay him, say, $17 million not to coach after this year. But these are the same people who gave a guy with a 47-50 career record $5 million a season, so who the heck knows what they’ll do next.