TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The end of spring practice means the unofficial start of countdown season, and, as of Tuesday night, which marked the first stop on Willie Taggart’s 12-date spring booster tour, there were only 137 days until Florida State opens its 2019 campaign against Boise State at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville.
So, in that case, Jacksonville made for a perfect place to start the tour.
Florida State’s second-year head coach did just that on Tuesday, taking in a round of golf before heading over to the city’s TopGolf attraction (think a driving range mixed with a bowling alley) for a meet-and-greet with supporters.
Holding the event at TopGolf made a for a departure from years past, when Taggart and previous FSU coaches would spend the afternoon and evening at a more traditional golf course.
“It’s pretty cool,” Taggart told reporters at the event. “Doing something different, not always just doing the same old thing. And just changing it up.”
Also different? Taggart brought reinforcements.
As part of an ongoing effort to get current Seminoles more engaged with their fans, Taggart plans to bring a selection of local players to each tour stop, when possible.
First up was receiver D.J. Matthews, a Jacksonville native and a former standout at area prep power Trinity Christian.
“It feels good being back home in Jacksonville, Florida,” Matthews said, while noting that he played a handful of games at TIAA Bank Field in high school. “Representing Duval County.”
“He might be a little nervous,” Taggart added with a smile, “but I know he’s going to be excited.”
Taggart’s tour will continue Thursday night in Panama City, with defensive end Janarius Robinson (from Panama City) and receiver Keyshawn Helton (Pensacola) both expected to be in attendance.
Taggart’s comments in Jacksonville were his first since the Seminoles completed their Garnet and Gold spring game two weeks ago, and he provided reporters with a lap around where things stand with the program.
Among the highlights:
“I thought we get better in areas that we struggled with last year,” he said.
“We’re done with ’18,” he said. “We don’t remember that year.”
That said, Taggart was quick to remind that this year’s Seminoles are, in fact, different than their predecessors. There are three new offensive coaches, there will be dozens of new faces, and there are plenty of familiar faces with new roles.“It’s not like last year,” Taggart said. “It’s some different players, some of the same players but they’re more experienced and doing some things a little different than what we did last year. But I think the confidence in our players in what they’re doing is totally different than what we were last year.”
Yes, as the only FSU quarterback with significant in-game experience, Blackman has the inside track to be the Seminoles’ starter. But that status hasn’t slowed Blackman’s work ethic or his commitment to being a strong leader.
“The thing I like about him, he’s holding his teammates accountable,” Taggart said. “To catching footballs, to lining up right, to doing all the things that they need to. And that’s a great sign.”
That’s because both Landon Dickerson and Cole Minshew, a pair of veterans who have combined for 36 career starts, are still on the mend from injuries. Both, however, are expected to be back in time for fall camp.
Taggart said that Dickerson spent most of the spring doing individual work after suffering a painful ankle injury early last season. But, “considering what he went through last fall, we wanted to make sure he was healthy and got through spring ball healthy and got the work in that he needed to.”Taggart also shared that Minshew is recovering from offseason neck surgery, but that he’s recovering “really well” and is expected to be ready for the regular season.
Finally, Taggart said that he’s looking forward to getting back to Jacksonville and getting the 2019 season underway. As Deckerhoff, himself a Jacksonville native, often likes to note, the city has been very kind to FSU over the years.
The Seminoles are 6-0-1 in bowl games in Jacksonville – including Bobby Bowden’s finale in the 2009 Gator Bowl – and are 4-1 during the regular season.
Their only loss came to Brett Favre-led Southern Mississippi in 1989.
“It’s going to be fun,” Taggart. We’re all looking forward to coming here to Jacksonville and playing Boise State, a good ball game against a good football team.
“I know our guys are excited. We’ve been working almost every day in the spring on something with Boise. We want to make sure we’re prepared for them. We know we’re going to have a lot of Noles here.”