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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.
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, 2019

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.
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.
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?