October 14, 2019 - by
Willie Taggart Press Conference: October 14

COACH TAGGART: We have an important week in front of us, traveling for the second straight week in our division against a really good Wake Forest football team — a football team that’s leading a conference in a lot of offensive categories and a team we saw last week scored 28 points, really, really fast.

So another challenge for our football team, a different kind of offense than we’ve been facing. I say that, but our team has been facing our team in practice from a tempo standpoint. But a really good football team. Another great challenge for our team, and we’re looking forward to going up and playing and competing against Wake Forest.

Q. When you have a game that goes sideways like it did on Saturday, how do you approach coming back from that Sunday? I know you correct mistakes, but how quickly do you move on or do you spend more time on a game —
COACH TAGGART: We kind of watched the first half of the Clemson game and just seeing the mistakes that we made, and then we bury that film and moved on to Wake Forest.

There’s a lot of mistakes we made in that game. And a lot of communication mistakes. And we let the game get away from us early and we didn’t recover from it. And it’s tough to do it in an environment like that against a football team like that.

Q. Going forward, will you still use the two-quarterback system? Or do you go away from that and go back to leaning on one guy with a short leash? How do you approach the quarterback situation?
COACH TAGGART: We evaluate what we did. We always evaluate what we’re doing and then make sure that we do what’s best for our football team. Again, we want someone that’s going to lead our team, and I think we’ve seen that both guys have executed our offense really well.

Last week we took the wrong week to have our worst offensive performance. And I thought just everybody, not just our quarterbacks, but everybody, just didn’t have a good game offensively.

Q. Last year, when you guys had a rough game against Clemson, it seemed like you came out flat the next couple of games, kind of hung over a little bit too long. What do you do? Do you think this team, first of all, is mature enough to get past this a lot quicker than last year’s group? And what will you do differently to mentally prepare the guys to move on to Wake Forest?
COACH TAGGART: I think our guys have moved on, just considering how practice was yesterday. And I think we have leaders on this team that won’t allow what happened last year to happen again. And, again, we saw that yesterday in practice. Just the way Marvin Wilson and James [Blackman] and those guys stepped up — Cory Durden, and things they were saying to their teammates, the things they wanted their teammates to do, and holding the guys accountable in practice was very encouraging for me to see that in practice, and how those guys are holding their teammates accountable and wanting extra punishment runs for doing things because we didn’t live up to a standard.

And to see a guy like Marvin Wilson, who we all see go out and give 100 percent every single game, stand up and challenge his teammates to play for that Seminole on their chest, that was great to see, and demanded that nobody go out there and not play for that Seminole head that’s on their chest.

Q. Through six games, overall how would you evaluate your team’s performance so far? What has stood out as some positives, and what are things you think they still need to work on?
COACH TAGGART: I think we’ve been up and down. I thought we started out the season — again, I guess overall we just hadn’t played probably but one game where we played a complete football game offensively, defensively and special teams.

It’s either been offense played well and defense didn’t play well or special teams played well — and so we just haven’t put it all together other than I thought the North Carolina State game. And then we go up and, again, I think that’s the first time all year where we probably played bad in two of the three areas. Usually it’s just one area that we played bad in, in the season, and it got us, but that’s the first time. Again, against defending national champions you can’t turn the ball over like that.

And from that standpoint — I thought we improved from where we were last year. I think our attitude is different from where we were last year. I think the production, especially on offense, is different than where we were last year.

And then before the Clemson game I thought we were getting better defensively, especially against the run, which that’s where it all starts.

And so we’ve been up and down. We’ve shown that we can play at a high level and we’ve just got to go out and execute that way all the time no matter who we’re playing. But we do understand that we can’t turn the ball over like we did and expect to win games. And I can go back to the (ULM) game we turned over the ball quite a bit almost lost that game.

It doesn’t matter who you are playing, you turn the ball over like that, you’re going to struggle.

Q. You mentioned Marvin [Wilson] yesterday was being vocal and seemed like even during the game he was trying to keep guys up on the sideline. We know what he can do on the field but how important is he to what you’re trying to accomplish here for him to be that guy?
COACH TAGGART: It’s very important. Goes back to what I said before that we’re not going to be the team that we want to be until we become a player-led football team. And just to see Marvin doing that on the sidelines, Marvin — Marvin made the team run yesterday for pouting, for having their head down on the sideline because that’s what we said we weren’t going to do. So, holding his teammates accountable to what we said we were going to do was big.

And guys, they did what he asked them to do. We’re going to run for this. I’m like, yes! Hell, I’ll run with you. And it’s good to see our guys doing that now.

Q. Looked like there were times when James [Blackman] got frustrated and maybe put his head down on the sideline. I know you value his emotion. Is that still a work in progress for him to channel that efficiently?
COACH TAGGART: I wouldn’t say necessarily it’s a work in progress because usually James is pretty good at it. I think he was frustrated. We weren’t doing anything offensively and he wasn’t playing well and we were getting beat.

And guys had a great week of practice, great attitude, and just felt like we were going to go play a lot better than what we did. So he was just frustrated. He wasn’t helping his football team. It was more that than anything.

There were a lot of guys frustrated. But I think I felt like James bounced back and toward the end of the game just his attitude just standing up and getting back to himself and he was great yesterday in practice. So I think he’ll be fine.

Q. On the offense as a whole we all focus so much on the quarterbacks. Were there breakdowns across the offense or how much do you think fell on the quarterbacks?
COACH TAGGART: Like I said earlier, I thought everybody took turns making mistakes. We just, whether it was running the wrong route or not getting open, when we did have protection or whether or not throwing to the guy that we were supposed to, or not leading the receiver when we had him open, we underthrew him — we just didn’t do a good job executing being out there.

I just felt like we started pressing when we got behind early really quick, and then things just didn’t — we didn’t stay within ourselves and run the offense like we had been running the offense.

So those guys, they know we can do it. Again, like I said, I think we picked the wrong game to have our worst offensive performance against the defending national champs.

Q. You’ve had a particularly rough stretch of injuries with these season-ending injuries. I know it’s always next-man-up, but emotionally and from a football standpoint how is the team responding to those injuries?
COACH TAGGART: They’re good. The guys haven’t — they’re looking out for their teammates and disappointed because not only are those guys good football players that we were counting on, but they were leaders on and off the field. And that’s always important when you are going through a stretch like this to have those guys around.

So that part’s always tough. But I know we say you always say the next man up, but that’s the reality of it. The next man gotta be up and gotta be ready. And nobody’s going to feel sorry for us or anything. We’ve just got to regroup and get the other guys ready, whether it’s freshmen or not, and get them ready to go.

Q. You mentioned the Wake offense earlier, how your team faces tempo every day in practice. How is their offense different from your offense? And what are the adjustments you have to make to that even with playing with the tempo?
COACH TAGGART: Their offense is different. They run the ball. They’re going to run the football. But the way they run the football is a little unorthodox compared to how everybody else is. It’s pretty unique in what they’re doing.

They’re running the zone read but it’s really slow. The tailback and the mesh with the tailback and 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.

And then — so they do a good job of that with tempo and going fast; you get somebody out of a gap, if you’re not lined up it can hurt you big time.

And then they have some stud receivers on the outside that’s done a great job for them catching the ball down the field. They do a good job throwing the ball down the field as well.

Q. Just to be clear, is the week going to decide who the starting quarterback is, the week of practice?
COACH TAGGART: I wouldn’t say the week is going to start. I’m going to decide.

Q. No decision yet or no decision announced yet?
COACH TAGGART: No decision announced yet.

Q. Also, Cole Minshew and Jauan [Williams] got in the game a little bit. What did you see from them? I know they were limited reps. And how big can they be moving forward for this offense?
COACH TAGGART: I think it’s going to be huge. It’s good to have some guys back with some experience. Those guys have to get themselves back to game shape. So we had to limit them on reps. And continue to get healthy and — but they can be huge for us as we go on the second half of the season, especially from a depth standpoint and having those guys back.

Q. I didn’t see Levonta Taylor play. If he did he didn’t play much this last Saturday. What’s going on with him and will he see more playing time coming this Saturday?
COACH TAGGART: He hurt his knee last week, actually North Carolina State game, and just wasn’t 100 percent to play last Saturday. But he practiced yesterday and we expect for him to play this week.

Q. Couple more injury things. I guess Keyshawn [Helton], you said the other night, it didn’t look good. If you could update him? And Cyrus Fagan, with him going down?
COACH TAGGART: Cyrus is day to day. See how that goes. And, like I say, Keyshawn, he’ll be out for the season. It’s unfortunate for that young. Great young man. Great football player.

Like I say, he’s one of those leaders that you’re going to miss being out there on the football field because he’s just about all the right things and he’s about everybody else being about the right things. And so you’re going to miss that and you’re going to miss his play, too, on the football field.

And I thought it was a pretty cool moment, he was leaving off the field and telling his teammates, he said: Don’t you boys quit.

I thought that was pretty neat. And sure enough, they didn’t quit on him.

Q. You said that the defense didn’t come out with as much energy against Clemson. Do you think not having Janarius Robinson for the first half attributed to that? And how much of a benefit will it be to have him back for Wake Forest?
COACH TAGGART: I don’t know if I said they didn’t come out with a lot of energy. I thought our guys had energy. I just didn’t think we executed out there. Part of lack of execution is because we didn’t communicate well to get things done, so we weren’t aligned right in some instances and they took advantage of it.

But you don’t have a starter out there, it always affects you out there. So having J-Rob out there in the first half could have helped us. But if we’re not communicating right, no matter who you have out there it probably wasn’t going to help you.

But I thought, me personally, I thought after the first 18 minutes of the game our defense settled down and started to play a lot better. But it helped having J-Rob back in the second half. We know what he can do for us as a football player. So it always helps to have him on. It would have been great to have him, but we didn’t, and we just didn’t execute.

Q. Speaking of J-Rob, four tackles for loss, forced fumble in the half. Seems like each week he progressively gets better. What’s changing about him?
COACH TAGGART: I think he’s just growing up. I think his maturity. And I think everybody develops differently. I know since I’ve been — we’ve all been wanting J-Rob to come along, just go. We see it. But I think each individual just, they develop differently and come along different.

I think that’s what we’re seeing now; he’s developing and maturing and comfortable with what we’re doing, and not only comfortable but he’s confident in what he’s doing. And the more confident he’s getting, the more plays he’s making for us.

Q. And then I forget which quarter, you guys had the goal-line stand, four downs. What does that mean in a game that’s out of hand for guys to still be competing like that?
COACH TAGGART: That was important, that we continue to fight. And again, that game wasn’t over. I think it was the second quarter there. And they could have scored again before the half.

And our guys, they bowed up and kept them out of the end zone. That was very impressive to see from our football team. And just the last couple of drives, they could’ve got points out of there.

That interception that Hamsah [Nasirildeen] made was big time. And then we didn’t do anything with that interception. They got the ball back, and then for our guys to step up and hold them there was huge.

Q. Seemed like starting right off the bat, the DBs would be in position to make plays, but not make the play. What has to happen there to — that next step?
COACH TAGGART: Gotta try to find a way to play the ball. Again I thought, that first play of the game, that was good coverage. It was a judgment call, what went down, but I thought he was in good position, and I thought the receivers made a hell of a catch. And sometimes those things happen.

But I thought for the most part we were in good coverage. We’ve just got to play the ball or get the ball out of his hand, especially when we’re playing man coverage.

Q. Tamorrion [Terry] is such a special kind of guy. I think he already has five touchdowns on 23 catches. Would you like to see him get the ball more? Moving forward that might be part of the game plan?
COACH TAGGART: I’d like to see a lot of guys get the ball more.

Q. Him especially, maybe?
COACH TAGGART: Him. Cam [Akers] too. Cam’s pretty good, too. But absolutely. We’ve got to find ways to do that. I mean, we’re not helping ourselves when we don’t do that. So that’s on us to find ways to get those guys the ball because they can help this offense.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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