Seminoles.com: Let’s start with being here at Florida State, the adjustment period, getting your family here – how has everything been going with getting to Florida State?
Kendal Briles: I’m settled down now. It’s been a whirlwind since I got here. I got here January 1 and was here for a couple weeks, meeting with Coach Taggart and the rest of the staff and getting prepared for recruiting. I just got my family here the weekend before signing day. I’ve got my two oldest in school, third grade and first grade. They’re going to Florida High. And I’ve got a younger three-year-old, so he’s not in school yet. But everybody’s settled. Tallahassee has been very welcoming. All the people here are really, really nice. And I’m excited about spring ball around the corner.
When Coach Taggart initially approached you about this offensive coordinator position, why was it attractive to you? Why was Florida State a place that you thought might work for you?
Well, I respect Coach Taggart first of all. I’ve followed him and had a chance to meet with him several years back. He came by Baylor and we had a chance to get to know each other a little bit there, and I’ve kind of kept up over the years. And obviously him being back here at Florida State and how big of a deal that is, him being a Florida native and just the respect that I have for him.
And then, obviously, Florida State. When I think of Florida State, I think of Deion Sanders high-kneeing into the end zone with his hand behind his head. All those players in the 90s and Coach Bowden and the teams that they fielded. So it’s just a big-time program. I think it’s a top-10 job and I feel like it’s headed in the right direction and I want to be part of it.
How would you describe your offensive system, and how does it mesh with what Coach Taggart has run previously?
Coach Taggart, I know, he wants to be spread. He wants to be able to go fast. And I think I’m going to be able to give him what he wants. Because that’s what we like to do offensively. The number one thing you want to be able to do on offense – you want to talk about scheme and all the other things – you want to produce. So I don’t care. If we run 100 plays and we don’t play well, that’s not good. We want to be able to produce on the field and give our guys the best opportunity to do that. So we’re going to spread, we’re going throw the ball down the field, we’re going to (run) tempo, we’re going to run the ball and we’re going to be very balanced in what we do. We’ll get guys playing at a high level.
You’ve had success in a lot of different ways. Is there something you specifically like from your players?
Well, guys that produce. I always go back to that. But it’s our job as coaches to put our guys in the best situations. I’ve kind of moved around a little bit, and I hope to be in one place for a while now. But the thing that we always look for is, ‘How do we fit our system around the players that we have and the personnel that we have?’ So that’s the first thing that you do. So going through ‘The Chase’ (offseason conditioning program) right now, seeing those guys move, you know there’s not any balls, but you get to see the way that they move, the guys that can compete. And I’m not going to come in and say, ‘This is the system. Learn it.’ We’re going to make sure that we fit it around our best personnel. That way, we get our best guys the ball. And that’s what we’ve done the last couple years, so I think that will have a chance to be productive.
Let’s discuss some current players, starting with the quarterback. James Blackman, the most experienced returner, what are your first impressions of him?
Really sharp kid. Really eager to learn. You can tell that he’s a guy that comes to work every single day. His consistency. And really with any Division I football player, that’s a big deal – being consistent. But especially in the quarterback room. That kid is consistent on a daily basis, every time that I’ve been around him. I think he’s a guy that is going to pull other people with him. It’s like how having a great point guard in basketball makes everybody else better, I feel like he’s going to have that same intangible on the field. So I’m excited to work with him, and I think he’s got some talent to go along with it.
What are your expectations for your quarterbacks, both on game days and throughout the week?
We expect those guys to play like they practice. Unless you’re doing everything right on a daily basis – from good habits to showing up to meetings on time to paying attention to what’s going on – then, obviously, practicing at a high level, all of that should work itself out. And, on game day, you go have fun. My expectation on game day is to just have fun and play the game. Because you’ve put in all the work and you know where you should be, and I know where they should be. So, at that point, it’s just going out there and playing. But definitely expectations are high, from on and off the field, daily living, from the quarterback position.
At running back, Cam Akers is the most experienced guy, but that room is full of talent. What do you see from them?
I love the way they look, just watching those guys out there at ‘The Chase.’ Cam, I think he brings the right kind of mentality that you want. And the other guys – ‘A.G.’ (Anthony Grant) and (Khalan) Laborn, those guys are really athletic. They’re thick. And I think they’ve got great lateral movement as well as having good size and good thickness to be able to be durable. And I think all those guys have ball skills. So I’m really excited to work with them.
With the wide receivers, you have Tamorrion Terry who had a breakout year, a big physical guy, as well as some of your smaller guys, a DJ Matthews, Keyshawn Helton, Tre’Shaun Harrison. What do you see from that room and those guys?
And ‘KG’ (Keith Gavin) being the only senior. I think that room is explosive. I’ve been around some really good receiver rooms, and I see a lot of guys, first of all, they have a chip on their shoulder, and that’s something I like about this entire team.
I think the way the program’s moving with Coach Taggart is these guys aren’t happy about where they’ve been. They aren’t excited about just walking around in a Florida State jersey or shirt. They want to win. They’re very eager to do that, they want to learn. And that receiver room in general, those guys have an edge to them and that’s want you want in that room. And the good thing is there are a lot of really good players, and you’re going to have a lot of stiff competition and those guys have to compete at a high level every single day. And they’ve got a lot of talent to back it up as well. So I’m very excited about where those guys are at.
For the tight ends, first off as an offensive coordinator how do you like to deploy your tight ends and second, guys like Tre’ McKitty and Cam McDonald, what do you see from them and how they fit?
Tre’ is the most experienced guy and, like I said earlier, we’ll make the tight end fit whatever fits his ability the best. But I see Tre’ being a guy that can be in the backfield, can put his hand in the dirt, can line up at receiver and do a bunch of different things. And I think Coach Taggart did that with him last year, but he’s got a great mentality. Talking to him one-on-one, he seems like a very smart kid and that’s good for our offense because guys have got to process things pretty fast. But he’s got some physicality about him. I think he’s 247 pounds right now, so I’m excited about Tre’ and his future and getting to work with him this spring.
The offensive line faced a lot of scrutiny last season. Coming in, what do you do with that group and what do you see from that group. There are obviously a lot of new faces, too, with that group from the recruiting class?
Last year was last year. It’s a clean slate. Everybody, for me and my perspective, is today and moving forward. It’s not what the past has been. All the focus in that room now is getting strong, getting mobile, making sure our body weights are where they should be. We’re getting into the part now where we can talk a little football and getting into that aspect of it, so when we do start spring ball those guys have a pretty good grasp of where we’re at and what we can do. Because it happens in a hurry for them. Our tempo is going to be high. They’re not going to have a whole lot of time to think and figure out what’s going on. We’re going to run plays pretty quick. I’m excited about those guys. I think the same thing, they’re ready to prove. Everybody talks about them not holding up their end last year, so those guys are ready to go out there and go to work.
What are your biggest priorities once spring ball starts as far as working with the offense? What do you want them to get out of these practices?
We want to make sure of our mechanics and what we’re trying to do from a mechanical standpoint. Getting the signals, getting the plays, making the calls. I think we’re going to have the athletes, so that part of it is going to come.
You want to develop that chemistry offensively, especially in the throw game and be making sure we fit our personnel that fits our schemes the best. Making sure we have the guys in the right position. We don’t want to put a guy in a position where he’s not comfortable or something that’s not the best thing for Florida State football. So we want to make sure we do a good job as coaches of playing up to our personnel and getting our guys in the right position to help us be successful. And we want to go out there and have fun and compete at a high level on a daily basis. You only get 15 of them, so you’ve got to make them count.
What’s it like coming to a school with tradition and history of Florida State? Is that exciting to you, to be a part of that and have a chance to make your mark at a school like Florida State?
Absolutely. And I don’t want to look at it as making my mark. I want to help Coach Taggart be the best head football coach in the country. And I want to help these players get to enjoy being successful because of all the hard work they’re putting in right now. And those guys have got a high load – socially, academically and playing the game and having to do all of the things that they do.
So it needs to be fun. And the way you make it fun is to win. So what I want to do is gain a lot of chemistry, offensively, within the staff and with our players so we’re really, really confident when we take the field. That way we can go be successful so we can enjoy the fruits of our labor.