New FSU coach Willie Taggart, who oversees his first spring practice with the Seminoles this morning, spent roughly 35 minutes with reporters Tuesday. Here are some excerpts from that news conference.
How much can you install offensively and defensively in these three or four weeks to get a feel for what exactly you have?
"You can install it all, I don't know if you can get outta there necessarily knowing what you're really good at. For us, we want to teach our guys our schemes and why we do things, what's the foundation to it and how we can get to other things from there. That's our hope for this spring. When spring ball's over with, whether it's offense, defense or special teams, we want to be able say we're good at something. And then we can build off of that."
How did you first hear of (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach) Walt Bell? What's your relationship with him like, and how instrumental will he be in offensive installation and play calling?
"I first heard Coach Bell's name when he got hired at Maryland by Coach (D.J.) Durkin. D.J. and I worked out at Stanford and built a relationship, and when I saw where D.J. hired him out (at Maryland), that's when I first heard Walt's name. Then I started to hear more about what he did at Arkansas State (as offensive coordinator), and I remember watching those guys play against Texas the year when he had some healthy quarterbacks. They did a good job against Texas, probably one of the few teams that did that well against Texas' defense. So I studied him a little bit, drew a lot of similarities (in offensive schemes), so I thought he'd be a good fit for our football program and he'll be good for our quarterbacks in helping them grow in being what we need them to be at the quarterback position. Coach Bell, along with the rest of our offensive staff, they'll put the game plan together and we'll all watch practice film together. … He'll shoot me some advice on game days." (Taggart indicated he'll call the plays.)
What will QB Deondre Francois (still rehabbing a surgically repaired knee) be able to do this spring?
"Right now, he's gonna be able to encourage his teammates, be a great leader and keep rehabbing and get himself better so he can be out there competing. I don't see him doing a lot this spring, but one thing he can do is continue to work on being a great leader and win his teammates over and (keep) rehabbing, making sure that he's in the best physical shape so that he can compete when he comes back out there, and get a lot of mental reps while he's out there. He's got a lot of work to do even though he's not out there on the football field."
What have you seen from QB James Blackman during (winter conditioning) as far as leadership, and what do you want to see from him this spring?
"I saw that he's picked up about 12 pounds. You're starting to see a little cut…curves in his body now. He's working in the right direction, but I think with any quarterback, leadership is always gonna be first and foremost. You've got to be able to lead the football team. And I'm not just saying for the offense, I'm saying the football team. I think when you see great football teams or a team that wins championships, it's one thing you see — the team rallies behind its quarterback. And I think that comes with time, I think that comes with relationship-building with him and our entire football team. He's been doing a good job with that, but he's got to continue to get better at that, then learn the offense and the scheme…and just go out and compete your best every single day."
You signed a big recruiting class, but most aren't gonna be here 'til the summer. How do you manage having (four) scholarship wide receivers in the spring?
"We've got some guys at tight end. I think that's the beauty of our offense, we can get into different personnel schemes and still be able to execute like we want to. So I think from the tight end position and how we move guys around…we'll be able from a personnel standpoint to mix it in so we're not just wearing out our receivers."
What are the expectations for redshirt freshman QB Bailey Hockman this spring?
"Compete. One thing all of our guys have to understand is, they're gonna get an opportunity to compete. If you wanna be the guy, that's gonna be on you to go out and make that happen; you're gonna have those opportunities so you can take advantage of 'em. So my expectation is for him to go out…learn the offense, compete, win his teammates over and work on winning the job…and not just be on the team. I know Hockman has had a great winter conditioning and I can see it in him that he wants it too."
The roster currently has no player wearing a single digit. What is the process for those guys to earn those numbers back?
"They've got to do something to get 'em back. I know when I was growing up, getting a single digit, it went to the dudes. You had to be a dude in order to get the single digits. … And being a dude is being the best football player you can be, being the best student you can be and having the best character you can have. So those are things we'll evaluate our guys on daily, and I'm gonna make sure the guys that are in those single digits handle their business in all three areas."
Does RB Cam Akers remind you of anybody you've coached before?
"Nah, he's a little different. He's a sharp kid, too. He's all about business and getting things done, and he's a pretty good football player, too. I think all of our guys have been different where I've coached before. I would say Toby Gerhart (at Stanford) and Royce Freeman (at Oregon) are very similar in stature and running style, where (USF's) Marlon Mack and D'Ernest Johnson and (Western Kentucky's) Bobby Rainey, those guys were totally different; they weren't as big as those guys. Big Cam, he's kind of like a prototype. … Right height, right speed. … You even talk to the kid, it's like, 'Man, why can't all of 'em just be like this?' I'm really excited to coach and watch him run this spring. I think it's gonna be fun to watch him in this offense."