TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Having grown up in Houston, Texas, Marvin Wilson is no stranger to hurricanes.
Hurricane Ike hit the Houston area in 2008, causing Wilson, then in the fourth grade, to miss more than a month of school.
Nine years later, Wilson watched from Tallahassee as Hurricane Harvey caused more than $100 billion in damage to his hometown.
“I don’t like Hurricanes, period,” Wilson said Tuesday morning.
Which is why Wilson isn’t hanging around Tallahassee as Hurricane Michael approaches the Florida panhandle.
Wilson, along with FSU linebacker and fellow Houston native Dontavious Jackson, loaded up the car after Tuesday morning’s practice and headed home.
They weren’t the only ones.
On his talk show Monday night, coach Willie Taggart said he believed that all but two members of the FSU football team were evacuating. And those two were only staying because their families already live near Tallahassee.
“Everyone else will be gone and come back on Saturday for practice,” Taggart said.
Michael isn’t expected to make landfall until Wednesday, but Florida State reacted quickly to the storm’s pending arrival.
On Monday, the university announced that it would be closed through Friday and cancelled several athletics events that were due to take place on campus.
The football team, while on a bye this week, originally planned to practice Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but Taggart decided to cancel Wednesday’s practice.
Following Tuesday’s session, the players were released to go home while the coaching staff hit the recruiting trail.
That was good news for the Seminoles hitting the highways – Jackson and Wilson had a long drive ahead. (No word, though, on who would drive and who would control the music.)
Wilson and Jackson have known each other since playing basketball for rival middle schools.
“He dominated our seventh-grade team, and we dominated his eighth-grade team,” Jackson said with a smile. “… It feels good, just knowing people from our environment, we’re doing something positive.”
Defense holds same standard no matter the situation: Given the circumstances, no reasonable fan or analyst would pin Miami’s second-half rally on the Seminoles’ defense.
One turnover gave the Hurricanes the ball on the FSU 20-yard line. Another gave it to them at the Seminoles’ 17. Spotting any offense a short field is asking for trouble, even more so when it happens multiple times against the No. 17 team in the country.
But don’t tell that to FSU defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett, who said that his group’s job is the same regardless of the situation.
“Obviously we have to ‘bow up ‘in the red zone, plus-20, plus-17, and get it done,” Barnett said. “Get them to fourth down, and then we have to win out the whole series. So, still working on the finishing part.”
FSU’s defense actually started well enough.
After seeing the Hurricanes take over at their 20-yard line following a fumble, the Seminoles survived a pass-interference penalty and seemed to have survived the worst of it after freshman Asante Samuel broke up a third-down pass in the end zone.
The Hurricanes, however, kept their offense on the field, threw Samuel’s way again and, this time, completed the touchdown pass.
“(It’s) just finishing,” Barnett said. “We got them to fourth down, let’s finish the thing off.
“You watch the film, the guys were excited. Nobody walked out there with their heads down. They made a play, they were pumping fists, they were slapping five. Everybody was into it like we always preach going into those situations. Now, just finish the situation. They had the right mindset. They had the right attitude. They played with the right intentions the first three downs. Gotta finish it off.”
Gainer working his way back: After emerging as one of the bright young stars of spring, freshman early-enrollee Amari Gainer saw a promising first season derailed by a foot injury sustained on the first day of fall camp.
The linebacker and Tallahassee native has since returned to practice but has so far only appeared in one game – with the kick coverage unit at Syracuse.
Barnett, though, said he still has big plans for Gainer, even if they’re coming along more slowly than originally thought.
“Amari is going to be a really good football player for us,” Barnett said. “He’s a physical kid that can run. Has some toughness. And so, it’s just a matter of battling through and trying to play catch-up through some guys like DeCalon Brooks, Adonis Thomas, Emmett (Rice).
“They’re all kind of ahead of him because of the time that he missed. But he’s going to be a really good football player for us.”
Hitting the trail: Florida State’s coaching staff won’t be riding out the storm in Tallahassee. Instead, Willie Taggart and Co. will use the bye week to get on the road and visit recruits around the state and region.
“Got to go get the players,” Taggart said on his talk show.
With his team sporting a 3-3 record at the midway point of the season – a record he described as “not good enough” – Taggart was asked if FSU’s uneven start to the campaign has had any impact on the Seminoles’ recruiting efforts.
He doesn’t believe that it is. After all, if there’s room for improvement, then that also means there’s room for new players to come in and make a difference sooner rather than later.
“Our recruits that we’re recruiting, they see,” Taggart said. “They know where we’re at and what’s going on. We’re going to get out and work and see guys and continue to find some really good players to come in here and help us out.”