Now that Willie Taggart has finalized his coaching staff and is zeroing in on recruiting, there are a few other things he must focus on to get FSU back to its usual dominant ways.
I’ve come up with six talking points; they’re lethally simplistic, reminiscent of what Taggart plans to do this fall with the Gulf Coast Offense.
1. Get everyone in the Moore Center on the same page – his. That includes players, support staff and the administration. The first thing is offseason conditioning, with new strength coach Irele Oderinde getting folks in shape. Reports are that players are experiencing some of the hardest workouts they’ve had. Oderinde is commanding toughness and I like that. I’m hoping he brings back mat drills.
Taggart needs to get players to buy into his idea of “lethal simplicity.” Important on each day for a new coach in his first year is getting the guys he didn’t recruit to buy into his way of thinking. Up-tempo, fast and aggressive must be woven into the very fabric of FSU. His assistants must be extensions of Taggart and the players, in turn, must be extensions of the coaches.
Taggart also must make players feel that he is in it for the long haul. One of the negatives with the drama associated with Jimbo Fisher’s departure and Taggart’s arrival is that the players don’t know what to believe. They lived through a heavy dose of the business side of sports, and folks can’t forget that they are young, impressionable and amateurs. Taggart needs things to change so he can be comfortable, but he also needs to make things as normal as possible until complete buy-in happens.
2. Familiarize Seminole Nation with his nationwide recruiting approach. FSU boosters have been itching for this to happen; at least that’s the vibe I’ve gotten from the times I’ve talked to Seminole clubs. They want to know what is needed and how they can help. That’s why Taggart’s spring speaking tour is important. Folks are way more willing to give to someone who embraces them and converses. Fisher didn’t play golf; Taggart does, and I’ve talked to some boosters who are willing to pay for that opportunity.
Taggart needs to embrace the football alumni. I don’t mean invite guys out to a barbecue for the spring game or just talk to the famous alums. I mean truly continue the vision of the late Monk Bonasorte. Things that have helped rivals recruit in the past is the willingness to have former players around.
A concept I’d love to see fleshed out is something akin to what the Jacksonville Jaguars do with “Jaguar Ambassadors.” Former players get tickets and are there to sign autographs and stop by boxes to meet and greet fans. Imagine having former FSU players do something like that, and think what it could do for the university in terms of raising funds, alumni morale and even recruiting.
In addition, lean on the former players in recruiting. Numerous ex-Seminoles are in coaching and/or are affiliated with top athletes in recruiting hotbeds such as Atlanta, Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando and Miami. They would love to provide coaches and recruiting staffers with the lay of the land. Recruiting is about intel; FSU has friendlies all around, and they could help win some recruiting battles. The former players could essentially be younger, hipper versions of Bobby Bowden, who was more of an innovator than he is given credit for being.
3. Find the pieces and fixtures that resonate with fans. There are three guys who almost every Seminoles fan knows or is familiar with, and would love the opportunity to interact with – Mickey Andrews, Jim Gladden and Clint Purvis.
Andrews represents all the things that folks remember about some of the toughest players in FSU history. In my opinion, he’s as important as Bowden to keep around the program.
Gladden is a Seminoles historian and as important for similar reasons as Andrews. When I first arrived at FSU, Gladden recently had retired, but I still remember his stories of past teams.
Purvis is important for the spiritual side as well as his connection to the past. He has performed the marriages of many former Seminoles and is just as important as the coaches in the lives of many former players. I remember every prayer of thanks with him after a touchdown. I also remember how often he has been there for players; for instance, he was at both of my surgeries and served as a calming influence.
These guys bleed garnet and gold, and you cannot have enough of those kind of guys around.
4. Continue to develop the “front office.” Taggart needs to continue to bring in established talent evaluators who have relationships in the key recruiting areas.
I already mentioned using alums who live in hotbeds, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have more formal representation in the form of analysts and staff assistants. Having a guy like John Herron on the staff would help in not allowing Miami to put up a fence around south Florida prospects. Cory Moore and Jayson Roberts are guys who are well-respected in the Tampa Bay area and can help lock down that part of the I-4 corridor. Those are just some examples.
Taggart also needs to revamp the career office to help set up futures off the field. Something I was told by the father of a prospect who left the state of Florida to go to Penn State that stuck with me was his belief about what Penn State could do for his son off the field. He said Penn State sold not only football success but success in the corporate world as well.
Something that I’ve always felt FSU could do better is leveraging relationships with boosters, former players and other notable alumni. Almost every major city has a well-established Seminole Booster club or alumni network. This should be driven home to prospects and players.
5. Make FSU fun again. It seems as if Taggart made his feelings felt on this subject during bowl prep. He seems to have a Pete Carroll approach to practice: Practice hard but have fun.
Playing music at practice was something that would’ve been unheard of when I played a decade ago, but I think it is cool. I remember Kenny Chesney coming to practice once, but only like five players knew who he was beforehand. If rappers Plies or Kodak Black were at practice, I’m sure more than five players would know who they were. I mentioned Pete Carroll because when he was at USC, he had Snoop Dogg, Will Ferrell and other celebrities liven up practice.
There is talk of Taggart having open practices, but I’m not sure how well that would fly in Tallahassee. I’m sure a lot of fans would think it’s cool, though.
“Seminole Showtime Camp” was something that was done during Bowden’s tenure to compete with Florida’s “Friday Night Lights” during the Urban Meyer era. That was an excellent idea. Former players came in, hung out and had fun. There are former FSU greats at every position. The coaches still do the work, but I’d love my son to go to camp and do fullback drills with William Floyd and running back drills with Leon Washington.
6. Go across the tracks. Taggart, his staff and the athletic department must figure out how to have a mutually beneficial relationship with FAMU. There is another young coach named Willie (Simmons) over there. Maybe allow FAMU access at an FSU camp; whatever is done, there must be a way to make all this work.
My most important years of development were the late ’90s and early ’00s, while I was in high school and before I left for college. FAMU and FSU were jumping then. The city was fun, and it was crazy with FAMU competing for MEAC titles and FSU competing for national titles.
Bonus: Win the city. Be visible and let those in Tallahassee get to know you. Oh, and go to Olean’s Cafe. Tell Ms. Olean that the Avon lady’s son sent you. If you need me to, I’ll take you around, coach. I’m a true local boy.
Most important, of course, is to win. Forget finding those inches and find hardware. Make folks forget about the past by enjoying the future.
Other than that? Well, maybe get some new tweets, coach.
Article Originally Appeared on Gridiron Now: http://gridironnow.com/6-point-plan-willie-taggart-fsu-dominance/