Taggart talks QBs, DEs, GPAs
By Tim Linafelt
AMELIA ISLAND – The quarterback bus has stopped in Tallahassee.
So said Florida State’s Willie Taggart recently, following a lengthy session with his fellow head coaches at the ACC spring meetings.
Taggart confirmed that graduate transfer Alex Hornibrook (Wisconsin) and Western Michigan transfer Wyatt Rector are both on Florida State’s campus, which means that what once was a sparse quarterbacks room is suddenly starting to feel more crowded.
FSU entered the spring with just one eligible scholarship quarterback – redshirt sophomore James Blackman – and a promising walk-on in Nolan McDonald.
Hornibrook and Rector should bolster the position significantly, and if Louisville transfer Jordan Travis is granted an eligibility waiver from the NCAA – Taggart remains hopeful that he will – then the Seminoles could suddenly be flush with options under center come August.
“We went from not having any to a busload of them now, huh?” Taggart said. “Crazy how life works.”
Making his first public comments about Rector, Taggart said that the 6-foot-4, 231-pound Florida native is a “very athletic quarterback” who “has done some good things at his old school.”
Like Travis, Rector would need an NCAA hardship waiver to be eligible this fall.
“He’s good-looking athlete,” Taggart said. “Brings some more depth to our quarterback position and I’m looking forward to seeing him compete.”
The quarterbacks aren’t the only new faces, either.
Taggart also said that Ryan Roberts, a graduate transfer offensive lineman, and freshman defensive end Quashon Fuller have arrived on campus.
The rest of FSU’s freshman class will make its way to Tallahassee later this summer.
Taggart gives a “shout-out” for academic performers: In the wake of Florida State’s 2017-18 APR score recently released, Taggart took it upon himself to provide some extra context.
FSU’s coach tweeted at 24 individual players to congratulate them for their academic achievements, and then he revealed that 29 different Seminoles reached all-time high GPAs in the most recent term.
“I was proud of our guys,” Taggart said. “We put an emphasis on it. It’s one of those things, when you put an emphasis, you want to show them some love … for the work that they put in, and (them) showing them that they can do it.
“You get 29 guys with their personal best, that says a lot.”
Even better, Taggart said that a change in academic fortunes in his previous stops at Western Kentucky and South Florida led directly to improvements on the field the following fall.
“That always says a lot for me,” he said. “In places I’ve been in the past, once that’s gotten correct, everything else started to roll for us.”
Taggart remains confident in DEs despite attrition: Replacing first-round pass-rusher Brian Burns was always going to be a challenge.
And it got just a little bit tougher recently when redshirt freshman Xavier Peters told a reporter that he intended to transfer after one year at FSU.
A former four-star prospect, Peters appeared in two games a year ago. He reportedly intends to play closer to his hometown of Cincinnati.
Although Peters likely figured into FSU’s future plans, the Seminoles do have a pair of experienced ends in Joshua Kaindoh and Janarius Robinson. And defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett in the spring experimented with mixed fronts designed to create pressure from a variety of areas.
If Taggart is at all concerned about his pass rush, he isn’t showing.
“Very confident in where we’re at with our football team and the players on our team,” he said, when asked about his defensive ends. “I’m very confident we have guys on our team that will get the job done.”