WATCH: Willie Taggart press conference, Oct. 14
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State head coach Willie Taggart met with the media Monday to further discuss last week’s loss at No. 2 Clemson and look ahead to Saturday’s visit to Wake Forest (7:30 p.m., ACC Network). Here are highlights from that conversation.
QB plan under wraps: Who will start at quarterback Saturday? And can James Blackman and Alex Hornibrook both expect to play, as has been the case recently? Taggart isn’t saying yet.
Admitting only that he and his staff were continuing to evaluate the position, Taggart said Monday he would “make sure that we do what’s best for our football team.”
Both Blackman and Hornibrook have gotten extensive action this season, although neither was especially effective against Clemson last week.
Taggart, though, believes that was a symptom and not a cause. No one on offense had a very good day.
“We took the wrong week to have our worst offensive performance,” he said. “Everybody. Not just our quarterbacks, but everybody.”
Pressed for further details, Taggart hinted that he might already know his plans for Saturday, but he’s not ready to share them with the world – or at least not with Wake Forest.
“No decision announced yet,” he said.
Helton out, other injuries announced: Taggart confirmed what he thought on Saturday, which was that sophomore receiver Keyshawn Helton will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury sustained at Clemson.
Helton’s loss will come as a big blow for the Seminoles. Not only did he have the second-most receiving yards and touchdowns on the team, but Helton had also emerged as one of the team’s best examples for doing things the right way.
“He’s one of those leaders that you’re going to miss being out there on the football field,” Taggart said. “Because he’s just about all the right things and he’s about everybody else being about the right things. So you’re going to miss that, and you’re going to miss his play, too.”
Helton is the third major contributor to be lost to a season-ending injury, joining defensive end Joshua Kaindoh and linebacker Jaiden Lars-Woodbey.
The Seminoles did get some better injury news, too.
Safety Cyrus Fagan, who left midway through the Clemson game and did not return, is “day-to-day” with an unspecified injury, and fellow safety Levonta Taylor is set to return to the lineup after sitting out with a knee injury.
‘Huge’ for Williams and Minshew to return: Not often can a team add a pair of veteran offensive linemen in the middle of the season, but the Seminoles did just that on Saturday. And Taggart believes it could have a big impact for FSU moving forward.
Both Jauan Williams and Cole Minshew played limited snaps on Saturday after missing extended time with injuries and, after apparently feeling no ill effect after the game, could be important pieces up front over the second half of the season.
“I think it’s going to be huge,” Taggart said. “It’s good to have some guys back with some experience.”
Williams entered the season as FSU’s starting left tackle, but injured his ankle during the Seminoles’ win over ULM on Sept. 7 and missed the next three games.
And Minshew, a 23-game starter at various spots on the line, made a surprise return after missing eight consecutive games dating back to last season.
Taggart said that both players will need to continue to work their way back into game shape, but that he’s glad to have them back in the mix.
“We had to limit them on reps, and (they need) to continue to get healthy,” he said. “But they can be huge for us as we go on this second half of the season, especially from a depth standpoint.”
Noles ‘buried’ Clemson film: Upon returning home, the Seminoles gathered to watch film from their loss at Clemson – focusing more on the first half, in which the Tigers’ starters got all the snaps – and identified the mistakes that they made.
After that, Taggart said that they “buried” that film and turned their attention to Wake Forest.
Taggart said that there were lots of miscues and missteps in the game, particularly with the team’s communication. On another day, against another opponent, the Seminoles might have been able to survive those mistakes.
But on the road, against a team like Clemson, those types of things aren’t within the margin of error.
“We let the game get away from us early,” he said. “And we didn’t recover from it.”
Wake presents a ‘different’ challenge: After a strong few weeks, FSU’s run defense took a step backward Saturday by allowing Clemson to rush for 320 yards on 53 attempts.
And the Seminoles will have to regroup quickly as they get set to face a Wake Forest team that averages more than 209 yards per game on the ground.
The Demon Deacons not only love to run the ball, as their 47.2 attempts per game suggest, but Taggart said they also do it in a unique fashion.
“The way they run the football is a little unorthodox compared to how everybody else is,” he said. “It’s pretty unique in what they’re doing.
“They’re running the zone read, but it’s really slow. The mesh with the tailback and the quarterback is really slow in how they do it. And you’ve got to be disciplined. If you get out of a gap, the running back’s going to crease you or the quarterback will take off and run.”