TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State coach Willie Taggart took one last look at his recently completed spring camp during an ACC teleconference on Thursday morning. Topics included the celebration at last Saturday’s Garnet and Gold Game, his track record with Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente and a brief update on quarterback Deondre Francois. Here are highlights from the teleconference:
Taggart, Fuente are ‘AAC brethren’: Virginia Tech’s visit to Doak Campbell Stadium this fall will be the Hokies first since 2008, and only the third meeting between the two programs since 2010.
Taggart and Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente, however, are quite familiar with each other. Not only did the two coach against each other while Taggart was at South Florida (2013-16) and Fuente at Memphis (2012-15), but they also lined up on opposite sidelines as members of their respective alma maters, Taggart at Western Kentucky and Fuente at rival Murray State.
“Been knowing each other for a while,” Taggart said. “Great dude and great coach.”
Both coaches played quarterback and were finalists for the Walter Payton Award (Taggart in 1997 and 98, Fuente in 99), which is presented annually to the top offensive player in Division I-AA.
The two split their series as players, with Fuente’s Racers winning, 36-31, in 1998 and Taggart’s Hilltoppers claiming a 21-15 victory a year later. As coaches, Fuente’s Memphis teams owned a 3-0 record against Taggart’s Bulls, although USF topped Memphis in 2016 on the way to an 11-2 season.
“We both are AAC (American Athletic Conference) brethren,” Taggart said. “We both came from that conference and faced each other.”
ACC, SEC both ‘elite’:The ACC-or-SEC debate seems to be a topic of discussion every year, with each league combining to win four of the last five national titles. Taggart, for his part, didn’t seem particularly interested in weighing the merits of one league over the other, and instead pointed out the obvious:
Both are really good.
“I think both conferences are elite,” he said. “They’re both in the south, which gives them both an advantage. Again, they both produce NFL players and have good coaches and good players. I’m excited to be a part of it and being able to have all those things that everybody else has.”
Hearing crowd cheer for Bowden a thrill: Florida State’s spring game served as part-scrimmage, part-family reunion for the Seminoles, with Taggart serving as the patriarch to bring together hundreds of former players, a handful of former coaches and more than 60,000 fans.
And, of course, when it comes to FSU patriarchs, there is none more revered than Bobby Bowden, the legendary coach who guided the Seminoles to more than 300 wins and a pair of national titles from 1976-2009.
Appearances at Doak Campbell Stadium have been rare for the 88-year-old Bowden since his retirement, but he was present on Saturday and drew one of the day’s biggest cheers when he walked onto the field that bears his name for the first time in five years.
For Taggart, who grew up watching Florida State’s dominant teams of the 1980s and 90s, seeing the crowd express their appreciation for Bowden was a particular thrill.
“Having Coach Bowden back and hearing the crowd cheer for him was really awesome for me personally,” he said, while adding that he tried to implement some of Bowden’s philosophies upon his arrival in Tallahassee.
“It was just coming and trying to do what I thought Florida State was from afar,” he said. “I’m just trying to live up to that. I always thought it was about family and football and faith, which Coach Bowden believed in.”
No one position group more challenging than another: Ask five coaches which position is the hardest to develop, and they might give five different answers.
Then again, they might all give the same answer, and it might sound similar to the one that Taggart offered when asked on Thursday:
“I think all of them,” he said. “I think they all are unique. Quarterback is different than O-line, O-line is different from receiver. But they’re all difficult because of all the distractions and everything else that comes with playing big-time college football.”
Taggart confident in Francois: For the second time this week, Taggart fielded a question about redshirt junior quarterback Deondre Francois, who made news last week for an off-field issue.
And for the second time in a week, Taggart expressed confidence that Francois would meet expectations.
“Deondre knows he needs to be better at decision-making, and he knows he needs to do a great job at who he’s around and what he’s around.
“He understands the expectation, and I think he’ll live up to it.”