Willie Taggart focused on recruiting players, coaches to Florida State

New Florida State coach Willie Taggart says he is hoping to have an incoming class of 16 or 17 after the usual signing day in February.
AP

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Willie Taggart’s recruiting priorities during his first two weeks as Florida State’s football coach haven’t been limited to high school seniors and the early signing period.

“I’ve been recruiting my tail off. Recruiting newcomers, recruiting our current guys, recruiting coaches. I’ve just been recruiting, recruiting, recruiting,” he said.

Taggart’s primary aim since being named coach on Dec. 6 has been trying to salvage a recruiting class that saw plenty of departures when Jimbo Fisher left for Texas A&M.

Taggart has been able to keep most of the players who have made verbal commitments along with adding one of the top defensive prospects in this year’s class.

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The Seminoles have signed four players during the early signing period, including five-star safety Jaiden Woodbey. The Bellflower, California, native was not pursued by the previous coaching staff and did not receive an offer from FSU until last week. Woodbey, who is ranked 27th nationally in the 247Sports composite rankings, ended up choosing Florida State over Ohio State and USC.

“He was very, very excited that I reached out to him. He was so excited to get down here and see Tallahassee, see the university, and meet some of our people here,” Taggart said. “He just felt at home, and felt this was a place that he wanted to be.”

Even with Woodbey’s addition, Florida State is 44th in the 247Sports composite standings. It finished out of the top 10 just once during Fisher’s eight recruiting classes. The lowest the Seminoles have ever finished since the rankings began in 1999 was 20th in 2007.

Taggart says he is hoping to have an incoming class of 16 or 17 after the usual signing day in February.

Besides freshmen, Taggart has been trying to get to know his new team. He has attended a couple of practices as the Seminoles prepare for Wednesday’s Independence Bowl game against Southern Mississippi. Odell Haggins has served as interim coach since Fisher resigned on Dec. 1.

Taggart, though, has given a little bit of a preview of what practices under him might look like next season. Instead of the yelling of coaches from the practice field, there has been music playing, which has helped make the players more relaxed.

“It’s definitely more energetic. I think guys are trying to have more fun, coaches are trying to make it more fun for us. You can tell,” center Alec Eberle said. “I think a lot of the guys on this team needed change, I guess. I think a lot of guys are excited for a new way, a different style. I’m excited personally to see what happens.”

Taggart has filled three of the spots on his coaching staff and is hoping to get the remainder completed shortly after the bowl game. He said in the past he has been too quick in hiring a staff and is concentrating this time on finding what he thinks will be the right fits.

Florida State will arrive in Shreveport, Louisiana, on Saturday as reports about its bowl eligibility begin to surface. The Seminoles (6-6) needed to win their final three games to become bowl eligible, but a post on Reddit’s College Football site said the win over Delaware State should not count. A Football Championship Subdivision school must have at least 90 percent of their players on scholarship during a rolling two-year period for it to count toward bowl eligibility for an FBS team. The Reddit thread says Delaware State was at 87 percent.

Florida State had no comment on the report. Independence Bowl spokesman Stefan Nolet said in an email that the matter is between the NCAA, Florida State and Delaware State.

If the Reddit report is correct, Florida State is expected to ask the NCAA for a waiver of the rule in order to participate.