CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Florida State’s Willie Taggart was the first coach to speak at ACC Kickoff in Charlotte on Wednesday. Coach Taggart spoke on a variety of subjects including his expectations heading into his second season in Tallahassee and the Seminoles’ quarterback situation.
“I think year two, myself, a lot more confident in our football team, our coaches, administration, everything,” began Taggart. “You go through year one, there is learning, a learning experience throughout the whole thing. Now going into year two, you’re with everything.”
Taggart also believes his team his more confident entering the 2019 campaign, which begins with the first practice of preseason camp on Aug. 2.
“Our players are more comfortable with us, we’re more comfortable with our players,” said Taggart. “Things just seem to be much smoother. I think a lot of it is just everybody understanding what we’re trying to get out of it now, knowing we have to do the right things in order to correct what we did wrong (last season).”
He also believes the familiarity between players, coaches and FSU’s offensive and defensive systems will allow his team to play with more of an edge.
“I want us to be an aggressive football team offensively, defensively and special teams,” said Taggart. “See a football team that’s fast in every aspect and explosive on both sides of the ball. You do that by knowing what you are doing. You do it by executing. I thought our players have done a great job this off-season working amongst themselves to make sure they go out and execute at a high level. Our identity is to be aggressive, to be explosive, and have fun and win.”
The one position group that will have the biggest impact on FSU’s ability to be aggressive on offense is quarterback. James Blackman will enter fall practice first on the depth chart but could face a challenge from Wisconsin graduate transfer Alex Hornibrook. Louisville transfer Jordan Travis could join the competition if his eligibility waiver is approved before the start of fall camp.
“It’s a competition,” said Taggart of FSU’s quarterback situation. “He (James Blackman) is the starting quarterback, he was the starting quarterback in the spring, and he will go in (to fall camp) No. 1. But these guys are going to compete and get the reps and the best man will win the job.”
Blackman has made strides in all areas this offseason according to FSU’s head coach.
“He is ahead of where he was last year,” said Taggart. “I think James has grown up. He has always been a great leader, but I think he has taken another step in terms of leadership. He is working his tail off and I have seen him around the office more than ever and he is learning, and he is going over football. I think it was beneficial for him to be on the sideline last year and see the game from a different angle.”
Taggart believes there is some room for improvement in Blackman’s understanding of the game.
“I just want James to understand the game better,” said Taggart. “He is a great leader and the players love him, just understand the game better and understand the things we are doing. But he has put the work in to be able to do that. Like I said, he is up there (in the office) every day. He is taking pride in being a better quarterback, but I also think he understands that he had to work at becoming a better quarterback.”
One of the many things Taggart likes about Hornibrook is his experience under the bright lights of big games.
“Well, Alex, I think the one thing he brings to our football team is experience, not just experience playing football, but experience playing in big bowl games, too, games that he played in and won,” began Taggart. “You can’t overlook that from an experience standpoint at that position.”
Hornibrook’s new coach also likes how the graduate transfer has blended in with his new teammates.
“One thing I’ve been really impressed with Alex is he’s coming to our football program and it seems like he’s been there for years, just how he’s been relating to his teammates. It’s almost every day I see him with someone different, getting to know those guys. Just to hear his teammates talk about him says a lot about the work he is putting in building those relationships, understanding that was something he needed to do coming here with one year left. Been really impressed with the young man, how he’s working, and more importantly how he’s fit with his teammates.”
Taggart is also hoping that Jordan Travis gets a chance to compete for the starting job this season.
“I think the grad transfer, the waiver, whatever it is, first of all, Jordan, the process is still going. Again, you don’t know how it’s going to work out,” said Taggart of Travis’ 2019 eligibility, which is still pending NCAA approval. “It’s one of those deals, I mean, you see it around the country now, some get waivers, some don’t. Going in (to camp), we’re going to go in the way we are. Jordan is apart of our football team, a heck of a football player. It will be great to have him. If we don’t get him, it’s going to be great to see him develop and be ready to go next year, and for us to continue to get ready for this season.”
Please check back in daily for more on FSU football as we head towards the start of fall camp.