September 23, 2019 - by
Five Takeaways From Willie Taggart’s NC State Press Conference

WATCH: Willie Taggart press conference, Sept. 23

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State coach Willie Taggart met with the media Monday to further discuss the Seminoles’ win over Louisville and look ahead to Saturday’s home contest against North Carolina State (7:30 p.m., ACC Network). Here are highlights from that conversation.

Injury updates for Lars-Woodbey, Blackman: Taggart confirmed that sophomore linebacker Jaiden Lars-Woodbey will miss the remainder of the season after suffering an injury on Saturday.

Lars-Woodbey was carted off midway through the Louisville game and was later seen on the sideline in a wheelchair.

The news, however, was more encouraging for quarterback James Blackman, who Taggart described as “day-to-day.”

Taggart said that both players have “lower-body” injuries, and declined to elaborate further when asked about the nature of those ailments.

Elsewhere, Taggart said that he hopes to have left tackle Jauan Williams back in practice this week, but that Abdul Bello has continued to play well in Williams’ absence. Williams has missed the last two-plus games with an apparent ankle injury.

More praise for Hornibrook: With a 26-6 record and an Orange Bowl victory during his time at Wisconsin, Alex Hornibrook is far more than just a one-year insurance policy.

But, given Blackman’s status, Taggart and the Seminoles are as glad as they’ve ever been that the fifth-year senior transfer chose to play his final collegiate season in Tallahassee.

Not only did Hornibrook steady the offense following Blackman’s injury, he also led two touchdown drives after the Seminoles fell behind in the fourth quarter.

Taggart reiterated after Saturday’s game that Blackman is FSU’s starting quarterback. But if Blackman misses time, the Seminoles are more than confident in Hornibrook’s ability to keep the offense on track.

“I don’t think anyone on our staff or our players felt like we had to worry about anything, because we know that Alex was going to be prepared,” Taggart said. “That’s for sure. He’s going to know exactly what to do.”

If Hornibrook does indeed start on Saturday, Jordan Travis would serve as the Seminoles’ backup.

Competition at kicker: Taggart didn’t mince words when asked about his kicking game, which saw senior Ricky Aguayo miss three field goals against Louisville.

Seeing the way things played out – and seeing the Seminoles trail in the fourth quarter – made the misses that much more glaring.

“Ricky understands that we need him to be better,” Taggart said. “He’s got to make those. And he can make those. … We can’t leave nine points out on the football field.”

Taggart alluded to a competition at the kicker spot on Saturday, and on Monday said specifically that reserves Parker Grothaus and Ryan Fitzgerald have done a good job with their field goals in practice.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence, then, that Taggart said Aguayo had a good practice on Sunday, too.

“The competition, I think it makes all of us better,” Taggart said. “We all lock in and stay focused on our job.”

Taggart in favor of student-athlete/likeness reform: Taggart is in favor of a rules change that would allow student-athletes to profit from their likeness (think jersey sales or photo opportunities) with one major caveat:

“They should get (the money) when they graduate,” he said.

Taggart was asked about the topic in response to a piece of legislation recently approved in California that allows student-athletes to be compensated for the use of their names, image and likenesses for marketing purposes.

The NCAA of course opposes the idea, but Taggart believes it has merit.

“It’s a new time,” he said. “We don’t live where we used to live. … Times are different. You always hear people talk about doing what’s best for the student-athlete. … I think them profiting from their likeness is good.”

And, in Taggart’s mind, withholding that compensation until graduation is attractive for a few reasons. One, it might encourage a student-athlete to stay in school – “the goal is to graduate and get these young men a degree” – and, two, it could provide them with a nice financial boost once they leave the university.

That might not sound like a big deal for those signing professional contracts. But for those striking out on their own, or looking to join the workforce, it could be a big help.

“That’s when they it the most,” Taggart said, “when they don’t have our university to help them anymore and when they get ready to get into the real world.”

Another run-heavy team on the horizon: Florida State on Saturday will face a North Carolina State team that averages more than 200 rushing yards per game.

The Wolfpack, 3-1 after last week’s win over Ball State, have a new starting quarterback and a new offensive coordinator, but they’ve been able to find success on the ground.

“A team that loves to run the football,” Taggart said. “They have some skills. I know they have a running back by committee, all those guys are pretty good.”

The Seminoles, however, have been pretty good against the run lately. They held run-heavy Louisville to more than 100 yards beneath its season rushing average on Saturday, and, aside from some quarterback scrambles and broken plays, did a nice job keeping Virginia’s rushing attack under wraps, too.

“I think it has a lot to do with our guys getting comfortable with what we’re doing defensively,” Taggart said, “and now they’re able to play at a higher level than what they were before, because they’re not thinking as much.”

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