WATCH: Willie Taggart press conference, Oct. 7
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State coach Willie Taggart met with the media Monday to recap the Seminoles’ bye week and look ahead to Saturday’s visit to No. 2 Clemson. Here are highlights from that conversation.
Blackman will start, Hornibrook will play: Taggart didn’t take long to reveal his plans at quarterback. James Blackman, who missed the NC State game two weeks ago with a lower body injury, is available and will start at Clemson.
However, Alex Hornibrook, who guided the Seminoles to a win in that NC State game, is part of this week’s plan and will also play.
“They (each) bring something different,” Taggart said. “James brings James, and Alex brings Alex. … They both understand our offense. They both have done a great job of executing our offense. They both have done a good job of taking care of the football, which is always important.
“So, really like what both have done for us, and hoping they continue to do a great job for us.”
Taggart’s decision shouldn’t come as a surprise. He named Blackman the starter following a lengthy quarterback race in fall camp, and he continued to insist that Blackman’s place on the depth chart is secure – as long as he is healthy.
Hornibrook, though, has done enough in his two appearances to earn a place in the offense. Between his start against NC State and some relief duty against Louisville, the Wisconsin graduate transfer has completed 73.3 percent of his passes (44 of 60), thrown for 571 yards, five touchdowns and has yet to turn the ball over.
Taggart didn’t share how exactly he plans to implement the two quarterbacks on Saturday, only that he’ll do whatever gives FSU its best chance to upset the Tigers.
“You just work them in however you see fit to help you win a ball game,” he said. “…We’ll have a plan for both of them and want them to go out and execute like they’ve been executing, and we’ll be happy.”
Williams trending up: Fifth-year senior left tackle Jauan Williams injured his ankle in Week 2 against ULM and hasn’t played since. But, for the first time since Williams left the lineup, Taggart sounded somewhat optimistic about Williams’ status.
“He’s coming along,” Taggart said. “He’s working his way back in there and practiced a little more (Sunday).”
Williams was spotted with the first-team offense during practice last Monday, another sign that he’s headed in the right direction.
How he performs this week – and how his ankle feels after four more practices – will likely determine his status for Saturday.
Having a full complement of offensive linemen will likely be important, as the Tigers’ pass rush averages 3.8 sacks per game. That’s the ninth-most in the country.
“That’s one of those things we’ll see how the week goes,” Taggart said. “He practiced in full pads with the team, and I think that will be one of those decisions we make later on in the week, depending on how he practices.”
Senior punter Tyler no longer with team: Taggart confirmed that Logan Tyler, a senior punter and three-year starter, is no longer with the program.
“No, he’s not,” Taggart said when asked about Tyler’s status.
Tyler had handled punting and kickoff duties since arriving as a freshman in 2016, but he was suspended for the ULM game due to a violation of team rules and did not play again.
In his absence, a pair of walk-ons – punter Tommy Martin and kicker Parker Grothaus – have filled in admirably. Martin averages more than 41 yards per punt and has booted three of at least 50 yards, while Grothaus has consistently put his kickoffs through the end zone for touchbacks.
Tyler finishes his FSU career having punted 209 times and with an average of 42.7 yards per punt. His 82 punts in 2018 were the most in a single season in school history.
With Robinson out, opportunity awaits for other pass-rushers: Janarius Robinson, whose 3.5 tackles for loss are second-most on the team, will miss the first half at Clemson due to a targeting infraction in the second half against NC State.
Robinson will return for the second half, but the Seminoles can’t wait until then to put pressure on Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Which means that someone else – Josh Brown and Adonis Thomas were candidates mentioned on Monday – will have to fill Robinson’s shoes for the first 30 minutes.
The Tigers have done a great job keeping their quarterback clean this season, having allowed just four total sacks in five games.
“Those guys have got to step up and do a good job, and, again, we count on them to do a good job,” Taggart said. “That’s why they came here – to play in games like this. And what an unbelievable opportunity for them.”
It wasn’t the only time Taggart used that phrase.
Clemson presents ‘unbelievable opportunity’: It seems obvious, but it’s true: There’s only one defending national champion, which means only 12 teams in a given regular season have an opportunity to knock them from their perch.
The Seminoles have such an opportunity on Saturday, when they face a Clemson team that has won 20 straight games, been to four consecutive College Football Playoffs and won championships in 2016 and 2018.
If FSU wants to show the college football world that it’s arrived, there’s no better way to do it than by toppling the Tigers. On the road, and during a national broadcast, no less.
The Seminoles are 1-12 all-time against NCAA-recognized national champions, with their lone win coming over Miami in 1984.
“Really excited,” Taggart said. “Another opportunity to get on the field and compete, and not only get to compete, we get to compete against the defending national champions this week. Go to their place, and (it’s) one unbelievable opportunity for our football team. I know our guys are practicing hard, practicing well, and getting ready to take on a great challenge.”
Taggart then channeled his inner pro wrestler when he said, “To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.
“Ric Flair (said that), right? Clemson is the man, and again, we understand the challenge but we look forward to it.”