FSU coach Willie Taggart speaks to the media after FSU’s 41-14 loss to Florida.
What will Willie Taggart tell visiting recruits this weekend about his coaching staff?
Taggart, whose first year as Florida State’s head football coach feels like it has been a race against time, is rolling out the red carpet for recruits and making a final impression before the early signing period begins Wednesday.
It’s an important class for Taggart as he closes in on his first full recruiting cycle. Yet, as is the nature of the biz, every offseason is filled with coaching moves.
Taggart’s staff is in flux with the recent departure of offensive coordinator Walt Bell, who was named the head coach at the University of Massachusetts on Dec. 3.
Where does Taggart turn?
It’s strangely quiet at FSU.
Or is it?
Current Seminoles have privately acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding the coaching staff. Is the wait by mutual consent, as a few tucked away smiles may indicate? A similar scenario unfolded last year during Jimbo Fisher’s prickly departure from FSU to Texas A&M.
Taggart arrived and promised recruits and their families that coaching changes can be a slow process. Trust me, he said, you will like the hires.
Trust is such a critical component between coaches and players despite the lack of stability in coaching.
Players – like four-star quarterback commitment Sam Howell – want to know who will be coaching and developing them. While Howell isn’t visiting FSU this weekend (he’s playing in the Shrine Bowl), Howell has indicated he intends to sign with FSU and enroll in January.
Still, the uncertainty surrounding FSU’s coaching staff creates anxiety among fans. Slow-footing the process also creates uncertainty surrounding Taggart’s vision; one that will clear once an announcement is made.
If FSU has reached an agreement with a new offensive coordinator, it probably has a logical reason that makes perfect sense why it has delayed sharing the news.
That leads us to our next question.
Is Kendal Briles the answer?
All signs continue to point to Taggart bringing in Briles, 36, as his next offensive coordinator.
Those same signs continue to suggest that Briles – currently the associate head football coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Houston – will bring at least one assistant coach with him.
If that happens, current FSU coaches – some of whom have been on the road actively recruiting – will be impacted.
It happens everywhere.
At the moment, Briles is busy finalizing the Cougars’ early-signing period and preparing Houston for its bowl game against Army on Dec. 22. He also recently received a new three-year deal worth $2.1 million, as reported by the Houston Chronicle.
Briles’ offense at Houston ranked among the nation’s most explosive in his first season. Taggart has familiarity with Briles’ system and philosophies which would make for an easy transition among FSU players if he lands here.
Of course, there are FSU fans who believe Briles is a risky hire.
Though not implicated in the scandal, he was part of his father’s Baylor football staff when the program was rocked by a sexual assault scandal in 2016. Art Briles was fired. Kendal also received an NCAA sanction for recruiting violations during the 2015 season at Baylor and was suspended for one game.
Some people may have made up their minds about the Briles name.
Last spring, however, the Waco-Herald Tribune reported that in a private letter written May 23, 2017 by general counsel Christopher Holmes, Baylor University quietly acknowledged it had fired Art Briles a year earlier without justifiable cause.
The letter also said the university paid Briles a $15 million severance fee – a payment that was not necessary if there were reason to fire him, the newspaper reported.
You better believe FSU administrators have done their due diligence on Kendal Briles, vetting him aggressively and focusing on accountability. Lane Kiffin believes in Kendal Briles, who coached at FAU in 2017.
“(He’s) brilliant,” Kiffin said during an interview with Sports Radio WNML in Knoxville, Tennessee. “He did an unbelievable job wherever he’s been … Like I’ve said to the people involved in this, if you want to score a lot of Saturday and win games, he’s a really good fit. I think that’s the object.”
The wait continues.
Again, what does Taggart tell recruits this weekend about his coaching staff?