December 19, 2018 - by
Five Takeaways From Willie Taggart’s Early Signing Period Press Conference

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State coach Willie Taggart met with the media Wednesday to discuss the 14 newest Seminoles who signed letters of intent to play at Florida State on Wednesday, as well as take a lap around the football program.

Here are highlights from that conversation:

OL incoming: It’s no secret that Florida State needs to make some improvements up front, and the Seminoles took three big steps toward that improvement on Wednesday.

FSU signed three linemen, a group headlined by Dontae Lucas, a 6-3, 335-pound tackle from IMG Academy in Bradenton. He’ll be joined by JUCO tackle Jay Williams (6-6, 290) and Miami Central guard Maurice Smith (6-2, 287).

“I think we all understand how important the offensive line is for us,” Taggart said. “And that’s going to always be a priority for us. Not just this class but every class that we have moving forward that we recruit — not only just offensive line, but the offensive linemen that help us win ball games.”

Taggart began by talking about Williams – “a phenomenal young man that wants to be great at what he does” and Smith – “very physical at the point of attack” – then got a boost when Lucas announced his commitment midway through Taggart’s press conference.

“Another one!” Taggart said with a smile. “Another in the trenches.”

Lucas is a consensus four-star prospect and considered by Rivals.com to be the No. 3 overall guard prospect in the country.

Taggart, however, describes Lucas in more colorful terms:

“He’s a war daddy,” Taggart said. “He’s what I call a ‘people-mover.’ He moves people out of the way.

“He’s physical and he’s tough, the kind of mentality we want on our offensive line and a young man that will come here and help us tremendously.”

Miami pipeline remains open: From Marvin Jones to Dalvin Cook, some of Florida State’s greatest teams have been heavily built on talent from South Florida.

Which is why it’s encouraging to see that the pipeline between Tallahassee and Miami-Dade County remains wide open.

The Seminoles on Wednesday inked four players from Miami – DB Jarvis Brownlee and DL Malcom Ray, teammates at Miami Carol City, as well as Miami Central standout OL Maurice Smith and Lucas, a Miami native who transferred to IMG Academy from Miami Senior High.

And there could be more before the early signing period concludes later this week.

“We know there’s some really good football players down there, a big recruiting base for everyone,” Taggart said. “You look at Florida State in the past, we’ve been able to go down there and get some really good football players to come here and help our football program.”

Taggart credited his staff with having previous relationships in the Miami area that have helped the Seminoles maintain their in-roads. Tight ends coach Telly Lockette in particular has deep Miami ties, having previously coached at Miami Central and Miami Northwestern.

“I think it helped us in this recruiting class of getting guys down there and getting kids that we want in our program,” Taggart said. “And it helped us going down there this year.”

Woodie III stays put: Taggart has known assistant coach Raymond Woodie for more than 20 years, a relationship that dates back to when Woodie was the coach at Bayshore High in Bradenton. Which means Taggart has known Woodie’s son, Raymond Woodie III, for Woodie III’s entire life.

So Taggart couldn’t help but feel a little funny recruiting Woodie III – making in-home visits and hosting his family – over the last few months.

But that effort paid off Wednesday when Woodie, a four-star “athlete” who attended the Florida State University School as a senior, opted to sign with FSU.

“It was a little weird for me to sit in and have our one-on-one meeting and sit down with the family, and now Coach Woodie is sitting here with me,” Taggart said with a laugh. “I’m like, ‘What are we doing?’

“It was different.”

Woodie projects as a safety, and ESPN.com rates him as the No. 9 overall prospect at that position. A two-way player at Florida High, he made 45 tackles (two for loss) and four pass deflections while also adding 22 catches for 422 yards and three scores.

“I watched this young man grow,” Taggart said. “And to see where he’s at now, and see the type of young man that he is, not just on the football field but socially and just how he carries himself has been great. And I’m excited to be able to watch him grow and help him grow into the young man that he wants to be.”

Noles ‘will be fine’ at QB: Scanning the list of 14 signees shows three offensive linemen, four defensive linemen, three linebackers, three defensive backs and a receiver.

It doesn’t, however, show any quarterbacks.

The Seminoles didn’t sign a quarterback Wednesday, which, on the surface, leaves FSU in a potentially precarious position: two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster (more on that in a moment) and needing to find reinforcements between now and the start of the 2019 season.

But if Taggart is worried, he isn’t showing.

“Florida State will be fine,” he said. “We’ll get a QB in here that we all like and are excited about, and get someone in here that can help us win ball games.”

The Seminoles have options to bolster their ranks. There are, of course, still plenty of unsigned high school quarterbacks out there, several of which might be enticed by an opportunity to play at Florida State.

And Taggart said that pursuing a graduate transfer quarterback – there are expected to be several high-profile transfer QBs over the next few months – could be on the table, too.

“If it’s going to help our football team, absolutely,” Taggart said. “We’re going to be a part of it.”

Which is potentially good news, because …

Francois ‘weighing his options’: Florida State is no stranger to the transfer quarterback market – both giving and receiving – and the Seminoles could find themselves mixed up in the market again this year.

Quarterback Deondre Francois, who would be a fifth-year senior in 2019, recently graduated and, as a result, is eligible to transfer immediately without penalty.

He could also declare for the NFL draft.

“Deondre, he just graduated and I applaud him for that, for accomplishing one of his dreams,” Taggart said. “He’s weighing his options, whether to leave or not. We’re going to be supportive of him, whatever he decides.”

If Francois were to leave, James Blackman would almost certainly be in the drivers’ seat to be Florida State’s starter in 2019. Which is an idea that Taggart is plenty comfortable with.

“I have all the confidence in the world in James,” he said.

Bonus Takeaway — Noles ‘close’ in OC search: While Taggart preferred to keep the conversation focused on the newest Noles, he did allow that the Seminoles are “close” in their search to replace departed offensive coordinator Walt Bell.

Bell was named the head coach at Massachusetts a little more than two weeks ago.

“I think we’re close when it comes to our offensive coordinator, and you guys will hear about that,” Taggart said. “We’ll let you all know about that as soon as we’re done, and we’re moving right along.”

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