Taggart Embraces Florida State

Written by Manuel Deleon
Florida State Athletic Director Stan Wilcox set out on a mission.

“We’re going to find the best coach that we can possibly find.” Said Wilcox “We have to move as fast as we possibly can.”

Enter Willie Taggart; the former Oregon Head Coach returns to his home state of Florida to take over the same position at Florida State. Taggart becomes the first African-American head coach in program history. Boasting a 47-50 overall record as a head coach some may have wanted someone a bit more established, but Taggart is an established recruiter, established program builder, and established winner.

“It goes without saying that coach Taggart is among the most highly respected and successful coaches in the country,” Said Wilcox. “And of course, he already has a rich athletic legacy in the state of Florida and college football.”

Taggart, a former quarterback for the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, led his alma mater to back to back winning seasons in 2011-2012 after going 2-10 in 2010, his first year at the helm. My brother Alex Deleon, who played tight end for Florida Atlantic from 2011-14, told me during his time there that if it was any offense he would love to play in it was Taggart’s at WKU.

In 2012 Taggart accepted the head coaching job at South Florida. All my brother said about the hire was “Just watch.”

And, watch I did.

During his tenure with the Bulls, South Florida improved year after year. Prior to the arrival of Taggart USF went 8-16 from 2011-12 and was looking for stability at the top. His first two years were far from being a success as the Bulls finished 6-18. With a few coaching changes, Taggart implemented his “Gulf Coast” offense, and the rest is history.

Current Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack, who played at USF from 2014-16, is the all-time leading rusher in program history. Bulls quarterback Quinton Flowers is third all-time in passing yards and has a chance to eclipse Mack for the rushing record. In his final two years, Taggart led the Bulls to a 19-7 record and finished ranked #19 in 2016 before leaving for Oregon.

How would Taggart describe his offense?

“Lethal simplicity we want to score fast and often but be really simple when teaching our players.” Said Taggart

Known primarily as a great offensive mind, Taggart did not inherit a weak offense at Oregon; it was the defense that was lacking. Before Taggart got there, the Ducks were giving up just over 518 yards per game. In only one season the Ducks dropped that average to just 359 yards per game.

Now coach Taggart returns home where he made his mark as an excellent recruiter. The high school talent in Florida is the best in the nation hands down, and no disrespect to Oregon but it is hard to get top rated recruits to commit there [Insert Joakim Noah quote about Clevland here]. Taggart brings a charismatic swagger to the FSU sideline, something the ‘Noles have been missing for some time.

“The best football in the country here in the state Florida. We’re located here so we have to put a fence around the state of Florida and try to keep our best football players here.” Said Taggart about recruiting in Florida.

No matter the task at hand Taggart gets it done. They say the devil is in the details and given time Taggart can turn a program around and into a contender.

“To work, work, work at everything we do and we got to make sure this time next year we’re not on the outside looking in when it comes to the ACC championship, we’re not on the outside looking in when it comes to playing in the College Football Playoff.” Said Taggart on his plan for the team.

“That’s on each and every last one of our players, coaches and anyone that touches our football team to make sure we’re living our lives each and every single day to make sure we accomplish those things. I know those are lofty goals buts that’s the expectation at FSU and we embrace it; we embrace those expectations.”

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