FSU coach Willie Taggart addressed the media during his weekly press conference prior to the N.C. State game.
Wayne McGahee III, Tallahassee Democrat
After unleashing comments about members of his team quitting in Saturday’s 59-10 home loss to No. 2 Clemson, Florida State head football coach Willie Taggart was peppered with questions on the subject at his weekly press conference Monday.
Eight questions from media members focused on the players that quit, how that was dealt with or the changes to the starting lineup that Taggart mentioned might come in this week’s trip to North Carolina State.
In the immediate wake of the loss, Taggart said he would have to go back and consult the film to see which players quit.
He didn’t name names Monday, but he said it’s been dealt with internally.
“We’re going to make sure that we continue to build a culture and a program the way that we want to, the way that I know how, and we’re going to make sure we have individuals in here that are going to live up to those standards,” Taggart said.
“It’s going to always be that way, and we’re not going to make any excuses about it. That’s how it’s going to be, and that’s what we expect out of our guys every time they line up to play.”
The most obvious examples of players not living up to FSU standards were wide receiver Nyqwan Murray and linebacker Zaquandre White, both of whom were ejected for punching Clemson players.
Taggart said Monday they will both miss the first half of the N.C. State game as an additional punishment.
While the film confirmed to Taggart and the FSU staff that some players quit, it was just a small number of players outnumbered by those who gave it their all even well after the outcome had been determined..
“We had the majority of our guys doing the things we want to. It was a handful of guys, and it only takes a handful that can mess up the whole thing that’s going on,” Taggart said.
“We’ve got to address those things and make sure those things don’t continue to happen with this football team, as part of the change of the culture.”
Even those players accused of quitting who may not miss time this weekend were reprimanded.
Taggart sat down with each of them and each also had their shortcomings pointed out to the rest of the team in a meeting.
“Our entire football team needs to understand exactly what we mean about quitting, what we mean about competing and what the standard is here at Florida State when we go out there on the football field and play,” Taggart said.
“It’s going to be that way, no ifs, ands, or buts about it, and we’re going to hold everyone accountable, players and coaches, to live up to that standard.
“You meet with those individuals and tell them, again, your thoughts and how we’re going to respond to it, but more importantly, you’ve got to make sure you’re educating your entire football team on things that we want to do and things that we’re not going to accept.”
Asked about the possibility of some substitutions to this week’s starting lineup hinted at in Taggart’s post-game press conference Saturday, he said he expects it without directly stating which players it might affect.
“I’m sure after evaluating the film, we’re going to, again, make sure we put the right guys on the field in the right position to help us win,” Taggart said.
“Guys that are going to compete every single day in practice and being ready for the game, showing us that in practice.”
That doesn’t mean it will be a youth movement for the sake of a youth movement over FSU’s final four games.
“I think we’re going to play the guys that we feel like are ready to play in the game. We’ve been doing that throughout the season now,” Taggart said.
“We’re not going to play them just to play guys. They’ve got to be ready.
“We’re going to make sure we’re playing the right guys that are going to execute at a high level, that’s going to compete at a high level and give us all something to be proud of.”
This culture of quitting is not something new to Tallahassee.
In 2016, FSU’s coaching staff made its players sign promise letters that they would give maximum effort and not loaf after multiple players were busted for exactly that.
Last season, the locker room splintered apart as FSU opened its season 2-5 and narrowly kept its bowl streak alive.
Taggart has been candid about the culture change being a process, but in the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s loss, he says he saw progress from things said in the locker room.
“It needed to be said and it needed to be said by some of the guys that said it, the things that they did. Now you just hope they continue to say it and guys react to it in a positive way like they needed to,” Taggart said.
“I applaud those guys for stepping up and saying what they did. That ultimately is how it’s going to change, holding each other accountable and letting each other know when they’re not holding up to a standard.
“I wish it could happen just day one, but those things don’t happen overnight. Changing the culture don’t happen overnight. It’s a process. But as long as there’s progress within that, you’ll get to where we want to go.”