On a day in which Florida State (3-3, 2-2 ACC) nearly had more punts than it did first downs in its 45-14 loss against the Clemson Tigers (6-0, 4-0 ACC), sophomore running back Khalan Laborn is a symbol of one promise that coach Willie Taggart has been able to deliver on: a culture change.
After last year’s equally as abysmal defeat at the hands of the Tigers, Taggart said, “This is the first time I’ve been here where I felt like we had some guys quit on our football team, and that cannot be tolerated.”
This time around, the Seminoles may have looked embarrassingly unprepared, but they did not quit. In addition to Laborn’s strong fourth quarter, wide receiver Keyshawn Helton pounded his chest and mouthed to his teammates, “Don’t quit!” while being carted off the field after receiving a knee injury that will likely sideline for the rest of the season. Although small, it’s an encouraging sign that the program is improving above the shoulders.
When asked if he felt the team was mature enough to handle a loss like the one they just suffered, Taggart said that this year’s team was mature enough and stated that he loved the way the team fought throughout the contest.
Khalan Laborn has been one of the great mysteries for the Florida State offense. For a player with such obvious talent, he has been restricted to just a few touches a game behind Cam Akers – who has had the lion’s share of work over the first six games. Akers has had a very strong season, yet the opportunity is there to better utilize Laborn and keep Akers fresher for the second half of 2019.
Laborn earned some key late-game touches on Saturday and made them count, rushing for 69 yards – including a 40-yard run that resulted in his first touchdown as a Seminole.
“He did a great job running,” Taggart said. “I think that started in this week of practice. He had a great week of practice – probably the best week of practice – and it paid off for him.”
Laborn was able to have a breakout performance in front of family at Clemson.
“It felt amazing, it was a big milestone for me,” Laborn said. “It was emotional for me because my grandma made it to one of my first games in college. She was finally able to come see me play.”
Opportunities have been rare in that respect. Laborn missed the majority of the 2018 season with a dislocated kneecap and was redshirted his freshman year.
With that being said, Laborn is a prime example of a changing culture inside Florida State football. Laborn has patiently waited for his opportunities after two years of personal setbacks and saw the fruits of his labor on Saturday – being able to score his first touchdown in front of family.
Although the Seminoles clearly have a long way to go on the field, Laborn’s commitment to the team shows that they have greatly improved above the shoulder pads.
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