WATCH: Willie Taggart, Nov. 8
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – While Florida State coach Willie Taggart continues to ponder his starting quarterback for Saturday’s visit to Notre Dame, there emerged on Thursday morning some quarterback intrigue from the Fighting Irish camp.
Moments before Taggart and the Seminoles made their way to the practice fields, reports surfaced that Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book, the team’s starter for the last six games, will miss Saturday’s contest with an injury.
Notre Dame has yet to confirm the reports. Irish coach Brian Kelly is scheduled to have a press conference Thursday afternoon.
Book’s absence would be significant. Although the junior began the season as a reserve, the Fighting Irish offense found an extra gear with him in the lineup, and he ascended to the top of the depth chart after three games.
His 74.5 completion percentage is the best in the country, and his passer rating (169.95) is higher than that of both Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and North Carolina State’s Ryan Finley.
If Book is unavailable, Notre Dame will likely turn to previous starter Brandon Wimbush, a senior who has thrown one touchdown and four interceptions this season.
While the news comes as a bit of a curveball, Taggart said it won’t affect the Seminoles much. They’ve studied all of Notre Dame’s previous games this season, which includes plenty of film on Wimbush. And besides, with kickoff in a little more than 48 hours, there’s not much time to alter the game plan, even if Taggart wanted to.
“A lot of the work is in the books now,” Taggart said. “I don’t think the (Notre Dame) offense is going to change much. They have a capable backup that’s played a lot for them and won some games for them, too.”
As for his own quarterbacks, Taggart said that he’s “getting close” to deciding between Deondre Francois and James Blackman, and that he’d wait to make the final call until after Friday’s practice.
Told of Francois’ comments earlier this week, in which Francois asserted he’s still the No. 1 quarterback, Taggart just shrugged and said, “I hope all our quarterbacks feel that way.”
Taggart was also asked about the possibility of a redshirt for Blackman, who is still eligible for one – although just barely.
New NCAA rules allow for players to appear in up to four games throughout the season and still be able to count the year as a redshirt. Blackman’s start at NC State was his fourth appearance.
“We don’t talk much about redshirting around here,” Taggart said. “We kind of let that go. We’ll always do what’s best for our players and the program.”
Two starters to miss ND: Taggart said Thursday that he expects junior guard Cole Minshew and junior cornerback Levonta Taylor to both miss Saturday’s game at Notre Dame with injuries.
Taylor left midway through the Clemson game two weeks ago and didn’t play against NC State. Minshew started in Raleigh but was injured during the first quarter.
“Those guys haven’t practiced much this week,” Taggart said. “And it’s going to be tough for them to play on Saturday.”
Samuels back at CB: After spending much of the season at safety, sophomore Stanford Samuels III moved to cornerback against NC State. And with Taylor still sidelined, he’s not likely to move back any time soon.
Samuels, a former five-star prospect, began his career at cornerback and played there in the spring, but coach Harlon Barnett moved him to safety during fall camp in an effort to field a better overall lineup.
While cornerback might be his more natural position, Samuels has said previously that the positions are surprisingly similar in Barnett’s scheme, and that he’s happy to contribute however he can.
“I just love to play the game,” Samuels said. “Just having the chance to go out there and make plays is all I ask for.”
Noles play it cool about the cold: Weather forecasts for South Bend on Saturday include a high temperature of 32 degrees, morning snow showers and 20-mile-per-hour winds.
And with kickoff set for 7:30, there’s a good chance that the thermometer will be leaning more closely to the projected low of 25 degrees.
Since 1997, Florida State has played in just two games with 30-degree temperatures at kickoff: The ACC Championship Game in Charlotte in December 2010, and at Maryland in November 2008.
No current Seminole has played in those types of conditions since arriving at Florida State, although some have at least come close: It was 41 degrees in Shreveport, La., when the Seminoles kicked off last season’s Independence Bowl.
So it will be a different experience several Seminoles, many of whom hail from the south.
“No, I never played in a game like this,” said sophomore defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, a Houston native. “Especially coming from Texas.”
At least a handful of Seminoles have experience in cold-weather environments. Center Alec Eberle, from Mechanicsville, Va., said that it was eight degrees during his final high school game.
Defensive end Walvenski Aime, meanwhile, played junior-college football in Hutchinson, Kan., where he said it got “real cold.”
No matter the weather, there’s nothing the Seminoles can do about it. So they’re choosing to think of it as an opportunity.
“I’m actually looking forward to it,” said linebacker Dontavious Jackson, another Houston native. “People think we’re not because we’re southern boys, but I’m actually looking forward to it. Always dreamed of playing in snow.”