TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Nyqwan Murray has to wait another nine months before taking his first snap in Willie Taggart’s offense.
But Murray has spent plenty of time watching and learning the ins and outs of Taggart’s scheme, and the junior receiver likes what he sees.
“Coach is ready to light the scoreboard up,” Murray said. “He told me he’s ready to do big things – score in three plays, put 50 points up on people, not be on the field too long.
“I love hearing that. We’re going deep.”
That’s welcome news for a Florida State passing attack that ranked 92nd nationally in 2017. While losing quarterback Deondre Francois accounts for much of those struggles, the Seminoles still toiled through bouts of frustration during what turned out to be a difficult regular season.
So the thought of something new – as well as the thought of something simple and easy to learn, which is Taggart’s stated goal for his offense – has the Seminoles excited for what lies ahead.
“I really like it,” Murray said. “It’s spread around. Everybody touches the ball in the offense – that’s what I like – and we go vertical a lot.”
Indeed, five Oregon receivers caught at least 20 passes and had at least 250 receiving yards in their only season with Taggart. Three Seminoles did the same this season.
FSU running back Jacques Patrick, meanwhile, did some extra reconnaissance when looking into Taggart’s offense, going so far as to reach out to Ducks running back Royce Freeman for insight about what to expect.
Freeman offers a particularly compelling perspective: A year ago, he was a junior who had to decide between leaving early for the NFL or staying in school and spending only one year in a new offense.
That’s the decision Patrick faces now. And while Patrick said he’ll wait until after the Independence Bowl to settle on his future, Freeman’s results under Taggart are awfully encouraging. He ran for 1,503 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2017, and added another 164 yards through the air.
“(Freeman) had nothing but good things to say about the offense and Coach Taggart,” Patrick said.
Noles welcome potential cold spell: They might not have a white Christmas, but the Seminoles could be in for wintry temperatures when they meet Southern Mississippi next week in Shreveport, La.
The current weather forecast for Shreveport on Dec. 27 calls for rain and temperatures as low as 30 degrees.
That’s a far cry from perhaps the most memorable Independence Bowl – the infamous “Snow Bowl” between Mississippi State and Texas A&M in 2000 – but it still suits the Seminoles just fine.
Most of them, anyway.
“A lot of these guys from Florida are going to struggle with that,” center Alec Eberle said with a laugh.
But Eberle, a Virginia native, said he likes the cold. He recalled that he played his final high school football game in sub-freezing temperatures (no, he didn’t wear long sleeves), and that chilly weather often has a way of revealing which is the tougher team.
“It’s going to hurt a little more to get hit,” he said. “… But once you put those pads on and get running around, you can’t even tell.”
Patrick, who hails from Orlando, said he’s looking forward to the chance to lower his shoulder in a colder climate.
“Guys don’t like to tackle in the cold,” Patrick said. “So, for a running back, that’s exciting. I’m going to run hard regardless of what the weather is, but in the cold it’s going to be a lot harder to tackle.”
Lots of FSU ties on Southern Miss staff: For much of the Southern Mississippi coaching staff, the road to Hattiesburg, Miss., ran through Tallahassee.
There are at least five FSU connections on the Southern Miss staff: Co-defensive coordinator Tony Pecoraro (FSU student assistant), offensive line coach Erik Losey (FSU graduate assistant), cornerbacks coach Dan Disich (FSU graduate), defensive line coach Derek Nicholson (FSU linebacker, 2005-08) and offensive graduate assistant Bryan Stork (FSU center, 2009-13).
USM receiver Isaiah Jones also began his career at FSU in 2013 before transferring to East Mississippi Community College in 2015 and Southern Miss in 2016.
“I know Stork pretty well,” Eberle said. “He’s come back a couple times and given me some pointers along the way. … I definitely can’t wait to see him after the game.”
Noles happy to see Sanders become a head coach: East Tennessee State announced earlier this week that Randy Sanders, an FSU offensive assistant since 2013, had agreed to become the Buccaneers’ next head coach.
Sanders will coach the Seminoles through the Independence Bowl before departing for his first head coaching job in Johnson City, Tenn.
“Coach Sanders works so hard. I think that this is a big opportunity for him,” Eberle said. “He’s been an offensive coordinator for a long time. it’s huge for him. He deserves it, and I’m real excited for him.”
Sanders has deep ties to the area. He’s originally from Morristown, Tenn., and played and coached at the University of Tennessee. He counts UT stars Tee Martin and Jamal Lewis among his proteges, and was highly praised for his work with Jameis Winston during FSU’s run to the national championship in 2013.