TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State coach Willie Taggart met with the media Monday to look back at last week’s loss at North Carolina State and to preview Saturday’s visit to Notre Dame. Here are highlights from that conversation.
Bell to continue calling plays: In an effort to better focus on his entire team, Taggart handed play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Walt Bell for Saturday’s game in Raleigh.
He gave Bell a positive review after the game, and liked the job Bell did enough to let him continue calling plays this week at Notre Dame.
“I thought Walt did a good job of calling plays,” Taggart said. “I’m sure there’s some plays – like every play-caller – there’s always some plays you would like to take back. But I thought he did well.
“I know, for myself, being able to see the game a little better and also interject and help out along the way, I thought that helped us on the offensive side of the ball.”
The decision is something of a departure for Taggart, an offensive-minded coach who earlier this year insisted that he’d be calling plays. But with the Seminoles’ offense at times slow to get going, Taggart said he’s willing to do anything that might help reverse course.
“I’m not a big ego guy,” he said. “I’m going to always do what’s best for our program. And just because I give up play(calling) doesn’t mean I’m not involved in it. I’m still going to be involved in everything and make suggestions when I need to.
“But I felt like this is what our football team needed.”
QB at ND? ‘We’ll see’: Florida State might just have another quarterback competition on the practice fields this week. After throwing for more than 400 yards and four touchdowns, and earning ACC quarterback of the week honors, James Blackman has made a strong case for more playing time.
But throughout the season, Taggart has always insisted that, given time to make reads and throw, usual starter Deondre Francois has given the Seminoles everything they need.
Francois missed Saturday’s game at NC State with an injury, although he was in uniform.
As for who will lead the huddle on Saturday in South Bend? Taggart isn’t yet saying.
“We’ll see on Saturday,” he said. “We’ve got to get through the week and see how Deondre is doing and see how those guys are practicing throughout the week. … We’ll make that decision later in the week.”
Taggart said that the criteria to earn the starting job is more or less the same as it was during FSU’s spring and fall camps:
“Have a great week of practice, run the offense, and (have) the offense get executed and go. Pretty simple.”
OL injury updates: Redshirt junior guard Cole Minshew left the first half of Saturday’s game with an injury and did not return. Taggart said Monday that he is “day-to-day.”
A Georgia native, Minshew has battled injuries for much of his career, but is riding a streak of seven consecutive starts. Redshirt sophomore Mike Arnold took over in Minshew’s absence.
Elsewhere, Taggart said that Landon Dickerson is still recovering from the ankle injury that’s had him sidelined for the last four games.
Dickerson first suffered the injury in the opener against Virginia Tech. He returned to play at Louisville but hasn’t been in the lineup since.
“Landon, he’s not ready,” Taggart said. “I wish he was.”
‘Fragile’ team heads to tough environment: Taggart referred to his team as “fragile,” after Saturday’s loss, the product of a program in transition and an unforgiving schedule. It’s part of the reason he ceded play-calling duties to Bell.
And the Seminoles are in for another difficult test on Saturday, when they visit No. 3 Notre Dame in a game that could feature freezing temperatures and snow.
Not exactly ideal conditions for a team still trying to find itself. But Taggart believes that the way forward will come from within, and that the Seminoles need to keep fighting their way through tough times.
“You find it through each other,” Taggart said. “That’s where it comes from, whether you’re fragile or not. You play for each other. And those guys, they train every day together, they go out there and fight every day together. And they’ve got to lean on each other. That’s what it’s going to take.”
Yet another challenging QB: After facing Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and NC State’s Ryan Finley in consecutive weeks, there will be no reprieve for Florida State’s secondary.
Notre Dame junior Ian Book leads the nation in completion percentage (74.5), has thrown 15 touchdowns to just four interceptions and has a higher passer rating (169.95) than either Lawrence or Finley.
While most pundits might consider 2018 a “down” year for quarterbacks in the ACC, the Seminoles might beg to differ.
“He throws seeds,” Taggart said about Book, who began the season as a reserve before taking over in late September. “I think he is very similar to the kid at Clemson when it comes to accuracy. … He’s a winner. He’s a gamer. He gets in the game, you can tell when he plays, he’s having fun. And guys feed off him.
“We’ve got to find ways to get pressure on him and not let him be comfortable throwing the football.”
Indeed, despite racking up 25 sacks this season – good for 21st in the country – the Seminoles don’t have any sacks in either of their last two games.