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Should FSU hire Odell Haggins full time? His players think so

It was hard to ignore the love for the Seminoles’ interim coach after Saturday’s win.
Florida State interim head coach Odell Haggins celebrates his team's 49-12 victory over Alabama State in Tallahassee. [MARK WALLHEISER  |  AP]
Florida State interim head coach Odell Haggins celebrates his team's 49-12 victory over Alabama State in Tallahassee. [MARK WALLHEISER | AP]
Published Nov. 16

TALLAHASSEE — When longtime assistant Odell Haggins took over as Florida State’s interim coach after Willie Taggart’s firing, he wanted everything to be about the team, not him.

But as his Seminoles wrapped up their win on Saturday, everything was about Haggins.

FSU flashed his face on the videoboard with the word Bowl-Dell. Not as catchy as 4-Odell, but it works.

Then linebacker Jaleel McRae gave him a celebratory shower with a bottle of Powerade. Fans in every corner of Doak Campbell Stadium chanted O-DELL before he tipped his visor to the crowd.

“That’s awesome, that pride,” Haggins said. “As I said before, we are a family at Florida State. I’ll say that ‘till the day I die. We are a family.”

The unanswered question: Is he the one to keep leading this family past the bowl game and into 2020?

RELATED: An open letter to FSU’s next coach from Seminoles’ win over Alabama State

More than a dozen of his players think so, which is why they tweeted their support for his permanent promotion during the week.

“I just feel like it’s a no-brainer,” defensive tackle Cory Durden said. “Coach Odell has a legacy… He is Florida State.”

That’s why Hagigns was chosen to help the Seminoles heal after two different tough situations, Jimbo Fisher’s defection and Taggart’s dismissal. Both times, he has guided FSU to 2-0 records (with a trip to Gainesville still coming in two weeks).

Any external coach would lead to more upheaval for a program that needs stability. Not Haggins, who played for Bobby Bowden and has been on FSU’s staff since 1994.

Florida State interim head coach Odell Haggins shouts direction in a game against Alabama State in the second half. [MARK WALLHEISER | AP]

“I feel like it wouldn’t be as much of a coaching change,” Durden said.

Haggins’ love of the program is already changing expectations. The pregame Swag Surfin’ pump-up ritual is gone. Why?

“I told our kids you must earn certain things at Florida State University,” Haggins said.

Haggins was happy, of course, that the Seminoles are restarting their bowl streak and insists they’ll build on it. But he also made it clear that FSU should be aiming higher than the Gator Bowl.

“That’s the expectation at Florida State — in the top five and winning national championships,” Haggins said. “Nothing less.”

RELATED: Seminoles interim coach Odell Haggins is Florida State

So Haggins clearly understands what it means to be the coach here. But does he understand what must be done to live up to them?

Although he’s an accomplished defensive line coach and recruiter, he has never been a coordinator, let alone a full-time head coach, let alone at a big-time program like FSU. Even for the best coaches, the jump is big. Ed Orgeron made a similar move from USC assistant and bombed at Ole Miss before reviving his career at LSU.

But Haggins also has a lot on his side, which could make him an option as the search enters its post-Bob Stoops phase.

Florida State interim coach Odell Haggins hugs school president John Thrasher after a win over Alabama State. [MATT BAKER | Matt Baker | Times]

Haggins would salvage a top-20 recruiting class and the coaching staff. He would be cheaper than most other candidates, which is a major selling point for a cash-strapped athletic department. He’d be a stable bridge until FSU’s administrative turnover ends.

Durden only sees one drawback to a potential Haggins promotion:

“He wouldn’t be my position coach anymore.”

RELATED: Kirk Herbstreit has three criteria for FSU’s next coach. Who checks those boxes?

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. New FAU coach Willie Taggart faces one of his old teams, USF, on Sept. 26, 2020 in Boca Raton. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times] [JONES, OCTAVIO  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    He moves to his fourth program in the past 36 months. Adding intrigue to the hire, FAU hosts USF in 2020.
  2. LSU players celebrate after the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game against Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Atlanta. LSU won 37-10. [JOHN BAZEMORE  |  AP]
    “Members of Congress care about college sports. They recognize how important it is to American society."
  3. Florida State Seminoles fans cheer during player intros before the Florida State Seminoles game against the Boise State Broncos at Doak Campbell Stadium on August 31, 2019 in Tallahassee, Florida.  [MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    The four-star recruit would be a big loss for the Seminoles’ 2020 recruiting class.
  4. Florida State head football coach Mike Norvell speaks at a news conference Sunday. [PHIL SEARS  |  AP]
    His Seminoles demands will keep him from leading the Tigers in the Cotton Bowl.
  5. Florida State football coach Mike Norvell speaks at a news conference Sunday in Tallahassee. Norvell is Florida State's new coach, taking over a Seminoles program that has struggled while he was helping to build Memphis into a Group of Five power. [PHIL SEARS  |  AP]
    Athletic director David Coburn said he thought the midseason move would give FSU a significant advantage. He was right.
  6. Florida State guard Sammie Puisis, seen in a game against LSU last month, has 17 points against Clemson. [TYLER KAUFMAN  |  AP]
    The Seminoles are 9-0 for the second time in three seasons.
  7. Florida State's Nathaniel Jack, center, and teammates flash 3s late in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Clemson in Tallahassee, Fla., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. Florida State defeated Clemson 72-53. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser) [MARK WALLHEISER  |  AP]
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  8. FSU interim coach Odell Haggins said Sunday he'll lead the 'Noles through the Dec. 31 Sun Bowl, with new coach Mike Norvell alongside him. (AP Photo/John Raoux) [JOHN RAOUX  |  AP]
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  9. Running back DeeJay Dallas (13) and Miami will spend bowl season in Shreveport, La., for the Independence Bowl. [MARK WALLHEISER  |  AP]
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  10. Florida State new head football coach Mike Norvell, wife Maria and 5-year-old daughter Mila are introduced during a timeout in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Clemson in Tallahassee on Sunday. [MARK WALLHEISER  |  AP]
    Florida State’s new coach has a lot in common with its old one, but the differences will be vital to the Seminoles’ success.
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