The first year of the Willie Taggart era at Florida State left much to be desired.
It’s true that Taggart inherited a team with serious cultural issues, an APR in the dumps and an offensive line that couldn’t block. None of that however, completely absolves him from FSU’s 5-7 campaign, but it did certainly complicate matters.
Taggart’s initial year in Tallahassee saw the Seminoles miss a bowl for the first time since 1981 and suffer through a losing season for the first time since 1976. Six of the seven losses came by at least 19 points.
The good news is that 2019 will almost certainly be better. How much better is anyone’s guess, but we’ll venture to say that this coming season will be one where Taggart garners the biggest victory of his head coaching career to this point.
Many have pointed out the fact that Taggart is just 52-57 for his career as a head coach, but the notion that Taggart is unaccomplished is nonsense. As a head coach, Taggart led Western Kentucky to its first bowl as an FBS program in 2012. Although he didn’t stick around for the bowl game, Taggart also coached South Florida to its first-ever top-25 finish in 2016.
While Taggart has been prolific turning programs around, there really isn’t a victory or victories that have defined his career to this point. Taggart has just three wins over AP ranked teams in his career and none of those came against an opponent ranked higher than No. 21.
Over Taggart’s career, he has also yet to win a division or conference title. In 2011 at Western Kentucky, the Hilltoppers finished 7-1 in the Sun Belt with the lone loss being a 26-22 defeat to Arkansas State. The Red Wolves scored the game-winning touchdown with 43 seconds remaining and would go on to finish undefeated in Sun Belt play.
In 2016 at South Florida, Taggart finished 7-1 in American Athletic Conference play, but the 46-30 defeat at eventual conference champion Temple would cost the Bulls the Eastern division. The year before, USF was the only team to beat the Owls in conference during the regular season, but losses to Memphis and at Navy in conference kept the Bulls from playing for the AAC crown.
After a dismal first season in Tallahassee, we assert that Taggart will notch the best victory of his head coaching career in 2019. What that looks like remains to be seen.
Few are predicting that the Seminoles will supplant reigning national champion Clemson atop the ACC and having to play at Florida also seems like a tall task, but it’s not hard to imagine FSU beating a top-15 or top-20 team at some point this coming season. It’s also not out of the question that FSU could bounce back with eight or nine wins and set itself up for a respectable bowl appearance and victory — something Taggart currently does not own.
Various preseason prognostications have placed FSU opponents such as Boise State, Virginia and Syracuse in the top 25 along with projected top-10 teams, Clemson and Florida. FSU’s other rival, Miami, is also considered a contender in the ACC Coastal. After a controversial 1-point loss last season in South Florida, the Hurricanes will have to travel to Tallahassee.
Trying to project how the season will play out or what a number of teams will do in July can be difficult given so many variables, but Florida State unquestionably upgraded its offensive coaching staff this year and will likely improve defensively given the losses of players such as Brett Rypien, Alexander Mattison, R.J. Proctor, Ryan Finley, Jakobi Meyers, Eric Dungey, Jamal Custis, Greg Dortch and more for FSU opponents. Where it comes remains to be seen, but when all is said and done in 2019, Taggart will walk away with the most impressive win of his still relatively young head coaching career.