SHREVEPORT, La. – Willie Taggart is in a hurry, but he’s not going to rush.
More than two weeks into his tenure as Florida State’s head coach, Taggart has described his experience so far as “go, go, go” – both on the recruiting trail and in his quest to fill his coaching staff.
The former is off to a strong start. Taggart signed seven prospects during the recently concluded early signing period, a group headlined by blue-chip safety Jaiden Woodbey.
The latter, however, hasn’t progressed quite as quickly. Taggart officially has hired one assistant – tight ends coach Telly Lockette – and reportedly has zeroed in on a few others, but he still appears to have openings for an offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and several other position coaches.
Yes, Taggart is aware of it – especially when talking to recruits who would prefer to know who their position coaches will be before deciding where to spend the next four years. But Taggart is quick to remind that his hires will carry implications for several years. Not just the next few weeks leading up to National Signing Day on Feb. 7.
So, he wants to take his time and make sure that each coach is the right coach.
“I’m not going to rush to get a coaching staff here to try to establish a recruiting class midway through (the cycle),” Taggart said. “I’m going to get the right guys in here to help build this football program.
“There are a lot of coaches that want to be here. It’s just about getting the right guys.”
Taggart admits that’s a lesson he’s had to learn over his eight-year career as a head coach.
During previous stints at Western Kentucky, South Florida and Oregon, Taggart sometimes felt pressure to fill his staff in an effort to project stability.
The reality, though, is that after making an impulse purchase, he ended up with buyer’s remorse.
“I think now, doing it the fourth time, you live and learn,” Taggart said. “In my head coaching career, I was probably too fast to hire a staff and didn’t necessarily have the right fit for what we were doing. … I think the fit is more important than the guys and what they know. Because they can know a lot, (but then) they don’t fit and it just messes everything up.
“So this is a big-time job for me, and I’ve got to make sure I get the right fit here, and passionate people that want to be here. But (people that) also understand the Florida State way of doing things. That’s really important to me.”
It’s an honest, insightful approach. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, Taggart’s message has resonated in living rooms around the country.
See the way Taggart pulled Woodbey, a California native who had been verbally committed to Ohio State, in the span of about a week. Or the way Taggart calmed the nerves of previous FSU commitments in the wake of uncertainty surrounding the program last month.
“You go in and be honest with them,” Taggart said. “I told them I’m going to get the very best coaches for Florida State University. It’s very important that I get the right fit and get coaches that are not only great coaches, but are great mentors to our players.
“So I don’t think it was necessarily difficult. It was just, again, explain to them the vision and what we’re trying to do. They understood I just got here.”
Taggart might not have his full staff in place just yet, but he does know exactly what he wants.
It’s a simple, yet demanding criteria: He believes that any coach at Florida State will be adept at strategy and tactics, so Taggart has placed an emphasis on finding coaches that form a cohesive unit with the rest of the staff while serving as strong mentors to the players.
“There are plenty of coaches out there that know Xs and Os,” he said. “But if we’re not touching the hearts and minds of our players and getting them to play hard, those Xs and Os aren’t going to matter at all. But it’s got to be the right fit. If not, it’s not going to work. If we’re not a tight group as a staff, we can’t expect our players to be a tight group. It’s got to be that way.”