The year is 1976. FSU has just moved on from Darrell Mudra, and had hired a coach out of West Virginia – Bobby Bowden. Bowden inherits a roster with some nice pieces – Jimmy Jordan at quarterback, Larry Key at running back. But the FSU offense came out of the gate slow – 3 straight losses, including an Opening Day loss at Memphis State (who would later drop the “State” portion) and a 47-0 whipping at the hands of the Miami Hurricanes. FSU would only score 30 points once that season, and would give up at least that number 3 times. Not a good start. They would end up 5-6.
Am I saying that Willie Taggart is Bobby Bowden? Yeah, no.
However, the idea still has merit. The 1977 squad would start the bowl streak that (tenuously) still stands today.
Without some seriously improved play, I’ll give you that the bowl streak is probably over in 2018. You know who probably feels the worst about that? Willie Taggart. He’s never known an FSU team to be sub-.500, as he was a babe in that ’76 season.
There are things to like here, things to hang your hat on. They’re just harder to find. Come with me, and back off the ledge.
1. Recruiting Under Duress
Do you remember last February? Willie had been in for a few months, had ingratiated himself to the fanbase, and had pulled off an incredible Top 15 class on short notice. It seems so long ago, doesn’t it? Do you remember? Do you remember the warm fuzzies you had thinking about what Coach would do with a full year? Are we so short-sighted that we want to cut bait on someone who hasn’t had a chance to change the program? It’s hard to do a 180. We’ve made drastic changes on both sides of the ball. We’ve made drastic changes in team culture. But these things take time. It takes time to weed out the folks who don’t want to be there. It takes time to change every process. It takes time. Back off the ledge.
2. Coaching Changes
Do you remember the last guy? The guy who would take until 10 on the play clock to get a play in, then would call a timeout and yell at his players for not getting the play off on time? Do you remember his “Five-Year Plan”? The plan where he said he’d turn over playcalling duties? Yeah, it never materialized. We’re 3/4 of the way through season 1, and Willie has already started identifying places in his coaching that can change. He announced just this past week that he’s handed over playcalling duties to his Offensive Coordinator so that he can step back and be the CEO this team needs. Soak that up for a minute. One coach is inflexible. One is malleable. Which one do you want to have? It’s not even a question. Back off the ledge.
3. Coloring Outside the Lines
Do you know what happens to 5-win teams? The ones who have the best student-athletes still make bowl games. So you’re saying there’s a chance, you say. Nope. Nuh-uh. Do you know why? Because FSU has the worst APR score in the Power 5. The worst. I mean, come on, we’ve gotta have smarter players than the school down south. Nope. Sure don’t. And that raises the bar for us – we have to make 6 wins. But there’s hope. Our APR in the spring semester was the best in several years, and reports from teachers and staff note that there’s a difference in how they come to class. And outside the classroom, you’re not hearing about issues with arrests. Even in the team as a whole, there’s very minimal amounts of players giving up and quitting. What does happen is punished. There’s a discipline to this team, off the field, that is a drastic improvement. It remains to be seen if that discipline will make its way between the lines, but I think it will. It’s only a matter of time. Back off the ledge.
Tell me I’m wrong! Or, offer some support. Either way, let me know where ‘Nole Nation sits!
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