Willie Taggart has brought with him to Tallahassee what has worked for him at each stop of his coaching career. The culmination of the summer recruiting cycle going into fall camp was FSU’s “Saturday Night Live” elite camp held this past weekend.
It was a big, ballsy event to match UF’s “Friday Night Lights,” Miami’s “Paradise Camp,” Alabama’s summer cookout and other similar events meant to attract the commitments of the top of the top athletes who were invited.
We found out that even after a 7-6 season, FSU is still a draw. Across the board, FSU clearly had higher rated prospects coming in from all over the nation. There were just over 100 athletes who attended, receiving a chance to be coached-up on a more personal level by Taggart and staff.
Much was made of what it was or wasn’t going to be, but my overall assessment of it was a smashing success that will get better with time.
Parent of a kid that went to both FNL at #UF and #SNL at #FSU and this was the review…" FSU was off the chain, the Florida camp was trash". #UhOh #StinksToHear
— Denny Thompson (@denny_thompson) July 29, 2018
FSU was able to evaluate talent and replicate a game day atmosphere that gave recruits an idea of what to expect if they line it up inside of Doak on Saturdays. It wasn’t as well-attended by fans as was hoped, but I’ll address that and my critiques of the event in a minute. Still, almost every athlete who left the actual football portion of the event raved about how different it was than other camps they’ve attended.
This was more than an opportunity to compete with other top athletes. It was an opportunity to see how FSU is trying to brand the family concept and really push how FSU can impact the student athlete from an all-around standpoint.
Something lost in FSU’s athletic success is how well it’s student athletes have done both on and off the field. I personally know two Rhodes scholars in All-American track athlete Garret Johnson and former Tennessee Titan Myron Rolle. Former starting center David Castillo is one of many who are very successful in a number of professions. They were able to be great athletes and amazing students.
These are among the benefits of Florida State that stand out to top prospects like Nakobe Dean. His mom pretty much gushed over the event stating that, at this point, if it were up to her, he’d sign to FSU.
Which brings me to the next major key to the Taggart recruiting strategy: involving the entire family in recruiting process.
After “Saturday Night Live,” Taggart hosted a dinner for coaches, recruits families and guests that allowed players to talk with coaches along with their families. Coaches wives attended. This reminded me of how on FSU official visits back in the day recruits got Mrs. Anne Bowden’s banana pudding.
It felt like a southern family gathering. Taggart even broke out the cards and played spades. Now, this is something that every school can’t do as spades is serious business. You can lose friends if you can’t play it right, so I’d imagine the stakes are even higher in recruiting.
Of course, FSU’s biggest recruiting advantage was in full effect: Honey Fried Chicken.
The only critiques of the event can be explained by wanting to make sure every athlete was taken care of. The event started a little later than hoped because some recruits’ travel was delayed. Once it started, it was very efficient.
The problem with fan attendance is that 4:00 PM in Tallahassee is a bit much for fans to bear. I’m sure next year’s event will be held later in the evening. By 6:30 PM it was nice. A later start time and more organized activities for fans should make the event more fan friendly, but that’s not the priority. The event was about the athlete
Important to note was how the current commits did recruiting for the Tribe 19 class. Several former Noles who are now coaches attended including Kyler Hall, Bradley “Monster” Jennings, Peter Warrick, Charlie Ward and a few others.
Non-Noles in attendance included Florida rapper Plies coming in to hype up recruits as well as former Gator and WWE superstar Thaddeus Bullard a.k.a. Titus O’Neil who even put on some garnet and gold. Willie Simmons, FAMU’s new head football coach, came through as he got a chance to host the No. 1 prospect in the country this past weekend along with FSU.
Many of the parents spoke to talked about coming back in the fall and many of the prospects shared the same sentiments.
Recruiting hasn’t been a problem at FSU, but the vibe is definitely different with Taggart. If he’s able to capitalize with a winning season along with this recruiting momentum, you might see one of the better classes that FSU has put together. Maybe foundational pieces to a new version of the dynasty days of old?
We shall see. Taggart, however, has definitely won the summer in comparison to the other Big 3 schools in state.
The fruits of the weekend’s labor have already begun to be seen with two commitments already in from Brendan Gant and Charles Cross. I have good feelings about Kalen Deloach, Tyler Davis, Nick Cross and am beginning to feel like FSU has a good shot at Nick Cross and big Kardell Thomas, who stated that his first visit under Jimbo Fisher was boring, but now has FSU as a 50-50 for his commitment with LSU.
RELATED: My favorite FSU football traditions.
Article Originally Appeared on Gridiron Now: http://gridironnow.com/florida-states-weekend-recruiting-showcase-a-big-success/