TAMPA — The difference between Willie Taggart’s first offseason as Florida State’s coach and his second was obvious Sunday during his local stop on the Seminole Boosters’ spring tour.
A year ago, he spoke at a packed crowd that welcomed him to Armature Works with the war chant. On Sunday, he addressed a group of less than 100 at Topgolf.
That’s what a 5-7 inaugural season will do for the public perception surrounding a program. The end of FSU’s NCAA-record bowl streak also leads to questions like this one from a fan in the front row:
What happened last year?
“We didn’t deal with adversity well,” said Taggart, who also mentioned a young roster and a lack of trust in the locker room. “That’s a big part of being a winner. You’ve got to deal with tough times. They’re going to happen. We had a lot of that last year.”
But Taggart is optimistic FSU will handle the adversity (and everything else) better, starting with the Seminoles’ Aug. 31 opener against Boise State in Jacksonville.
Some excerpts from Taggart’s question-and-answer sessions with reporters and fans:
On the state of FSU: “It’s going well. We’re undefeated. I think we’ve got the offseason ahead of us. Our players have been working really hard. Our team’s been coming together the way we want it to. Really excited about this summer.”
On what gives him confidence his team will improve from 5-7: “We don’t talk about last year. I just don’t think it’s fair to gauge this team on last year’s team. It’s a totally different team. These guys have been working. They understand and are really helping build a culture that has won here. Going to Year 2, we always talk about you’re getting better, or you’re getting worse. You don’t stay the same. I think we’re getting better in every aspect.”
On Wisconsin grad transfer quarterback Alex Hornibrook: “A guy that’s won at the highest level. Really good to have Alex here competing. We’re excited to have him.”
On whether he’s concerned that the NCAA hasn’t yet granted Louisville transfer quarterback Jordan Travis immediate eligibility: “I’m focused on the things we can control. We’ve been doing that from the time we got here. We’ll get the answer. We’ll continue to move forward.”
On what he still carries with him from his time at Manatee High: “I think that’s when I first learned how to win. Won at Manatee High, playing under Joe Kinnan, really understanding what winning that consistently and playing at a high level and competing at a high level, there at Manatee High School…When we were there, you had to compete with the best if you want to play.”
On recruiting coordinator David Kelly, who no longer has an on-field position group to coach but still counts as one of FSU’s 10 assistants: “It’s a role that he’s been in for a while. It’s just now he doesn’t have the football part of it to where he can really dive into the recruiting and help our football team out. He’s done a great job in organizing and putting a plan together for our coaches to go out and execute. (He’s) building a relationship with the kids that we need to, doing a great job of making sure we’re getting the kind of guy that we want at Florida State and holding guys accountable to doing that.”
Contact Matt Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.