TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – It’s not often that Florida State raids the Pacific time zone to sign some of the cornerstones of its annual signing classes.
Then again, it’s not often that Florida State has a coach with deep ties to some of the west coast’s top prospects.
One of the benefits of Coach Willie Taggart’s year at Oregon was that, when he arrived at FSU, he brought with him preexisting relationships with recruits from all over the nation.
Those relationships paid off on Wednesday, when Taggart and the Seminoles signed Seattle receiver Tre’Shaun Harrison and California tight end Camren McDonald. Another California native, safety Jaiden Woodbey, joined FSU during the early signing period in December.
“These young men came out here and they enjoyed the south,” Taggart said. “It’s hard not to enjoy Tallahassee. They enjoyed it, and they enjoyed our university. And our players, I thought, did an unbelievable job, too, once those guys got here, in spending time and getting to know them.”
Still, it’s one thing to recruit a player to Oregon from a few hundred miles away. Recruiting him across the length of the country is something else.
While that’s an obvious testament to Taggart’s prowess as a recruiter – Harrison had previously committed to Oregon under Taggart – the FSU coach instead believes it’s a testament to his new gig.
Leaving Seattle or southern California might seem drastic to some. Consider that, from 2002 to 2017, FSU signed only four high school players from the west coast.
But as far as Taggart is concerned, leaving those places for Florida State couldn’t be more obvious.
“It’s Florida State,” Taggart said, when asked how he pitches long-distance recruits. “There’s your argument. … ‘You’ve got a chance to play at Florida State.’
Beyond that, Taggart said he encouraged each player to consider all his options, and to remember that just because a school is far away from home doesn’t mean that it can’t be the best fit.
“Don’t ever just say no without looking,” he said.
Whatever the pitch, it worked.
Harrison was perhaps the biggest catch of the day, a solid (6-2, 190) but speedy receiver who had 1,102 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns on his way to state player of the year honors as a high school senior.
“This kid,” FSU receivers coach David Kelly said, “was the No. 1 player in the state of Washington and, in our estimation, the No. 1 athlete in the country.”
Same goes for Woodbey, a five-star safety and the top overall prospect in this year’s class. While Woodbey’s football pedigree is solid, Taggart was most impressed with just how much Woodbey wanted to play at Florida State – despite growing up thousands of miles from campus.
“This is a dream school for Jaiden,” Taggart said when Woodbey signed in December.
And McDonald might be a good indicator of what’s to come with Taggart’s Gulf Coast offense.
Tight ends coach Telly Lockette described McDonald as a “bigger receiver that will grow into a tight end,” but also noted that the 6-4, 210-pounder is a near-perfect fit for Taggart’s offense as he is.
“In the style that we love, to get vertical, he’s actually the correct size that we need right now,” Lockette said. “He attacks the ball at the highest point, he can be physical at times and he also plays well in space.”