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FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 7, 2018
WILLIE TAGGART: What a great day to be a Nole. Really excited about our recruiting class. Really, really excited about the guys we had sign with us. I think our coaches have done a great job in a short amount of time of getting some really good football players, but more importantly, good people coming into our football program. That's, again, some more positive momentum going off of how the season ended. We need to continue to do that, and our guys work really hard.
Coaches and our support staff, I mean, everybody that's played a part of it did an outstanding job once we got into campus. You get them on campus, and I think the rest is history.
So really good class. Really excited about it. Want those guys to finish up in the classroom and come join our football team. Now really excited to go and recruit our current guys now. The recruiting doesn't stop. Questions?
Q. Kids have different talents, different positions, different heights and weights and everything, but is there one thing in common that you look for in a young man when you want to sign him to come play for you? And how close do these 20 kids as a group come to that ideal that you have?
WILLIE TAGGART: Yeah, I think a lot of things that's in common with all of them is they're highly driven. Probably the most common thing was they really wanted to be here. That's important that we get guys that want to be here. They're all really good football players and you can see that when you turn on the film. It's more important to get good people that really want to be here, and knowing that's going to make a huge difference in the buy in and what we want to do.
So all those guys grew up wanting to be a Nole. They're good people and pretty good football players. So, like I said, I think it's more of that than anything that's in common is that they really wanted to be here.
Q. You doubled the number of scholarship wide receivers that you have with this class. Just how big a priority was that when you came on board?
WILLIE TAGGART: Well, we only had five on scholarship, and we'd like to have at least 11 on scholarship. So it was important that we get some guys to fill our needs that we needed. In order to do some of the things that we wanted to do, it was important to get some guys in the receiver position. I'm really happy with the ones we landed. That's pretty cool.
Q. A lot of those guys are really highly touted, and another guy, Keyshawn Helton got found in that process. What stands out about him that got on your radar?
WILLIE TAGGART: He's a winner. He's highly competitive. When you sit down and tack with the young man, he's very confident in what he does. You look at him and think oh, it's a little guy playing football. But when you turn on the film, he place like he's a really big guy. He plays with an attitude, you know. He plays like he has something to prove. I like those kind of guys. But he's a really good person too. The fact he has some blood lines with the great Derrick Brooks wouldn't hurt either. So I think that had a lot to do with it too, because it confirms what you see on the film. He knows how to play the game of football.
Q. Coach, I think this is the first time when you've come into a new job, you've had the benefit of a bowl practice and seeing your team up close instead of on film. How much did that help in terms of knowing what your needs were in the recruiting process?
WILLIE TAGGART: It helped big time, because obviously you go back and watch the film from game film. But now you get to come and watch practice of the guys. You see the guys that are leaving. You know the guys that are leaving. Seeing what you're going to have to do to replace the system that you're trying to implement here. So that helped me big time first.
And there is nothing better than watching guys practice, watching guys in meeting rooms. Then getting to know some of the guys and they're giving you a head's up too that they're probably not going to be here, and that helps you from knowing what you need and what you can get going forward.
But watching the practice, seeing our guys and where we need to go with our offense and defense, that was big for me personally since I was kind of like the only one here.
Q. You said after the early period that it's not really how you start, it's how you finish. So what were the keys to finishing so well?
WILLIE TAGGART: You remember that statement. That was a long time ago.
Q. That's my job to remember that. So what were the keys to finishing well, taking a class that was not particularly highly ranked, and getting them to Top 10 or something?
WILLIE TAGGART: I think getting a coaching staff on board, and those guys getting out there and working their tails off to build relationships. I also think you can see the majority of the guys that we got on board were guys that we probably recruited at previously places to build some relationships and rely big-time on those relationships that we had built throughout the process. That helped big time in getting some of the guys.
But I thought our coaches did an unbelievable job just getting on the road and just going out and working. Some guys were all over the place trying to make sure we get the best guys for us, and our coaches did a great job. I thought our support staff did an unbelievable job once they got on campus. I was really impressed.
I mean, it's my second time doing some of these official visits once we started. But to have everyone here and the way we did it, it was impressive. I felt like it would be hard for anyone to say no. But I give the credit to our coaches, and again, evaluating what we needed and being able to go after those guys.
Q. How important is it this class to setting the tone for what you guys want to accomplish here for you and your staff. How important is it to get off to this fast start with this class?
WILLIE TAGGART: Well, I think first it was important to try to get the guys that we needed. There was going to be a lot of changes when it comes to the system. So it was important that we try to get some needs, but not just getting guys just to get them, but getting some quality football players that can help us. So it was really important to solidify those guys.
Now it's important that we continue to recruit them too, because it's not over with. They've got to finish in the classroom and bringing them in here and get them developed into the culture that we're trying to set. I think it's more important that we get our guys that are here now going and getting the coach like we need it to be. So when those young men come in here, they come into a place that we said it's going to be.
Q. You've now received commitments from a few west coast guys that you were recruiting out of Oregon. What do you tell those recruits who might be wary of the move all the way out to Florida?
WILLIE TAGGART: It's Florida State. What are we talking about? That's what I tell them. There's your argument. It's Florida State. You've got a chance to play at Florida State. Be honest with them, yes, it's far away from home. But that doesn't necessarily mean it limits you to opportunities that present itself to you. I tell each and every last one of those individuals don't ever limit your opportunities no matter where they're at. You look at them to see if that's the best fit for you, but don't ever just say no without looking.
These young men came out here and they enjoyed the south. It's hard not to enjoy Tallahassee. They enjoy it, and they enjoy our university and our players who I thought did an unbelievable job too once those guys got here in spending time and getting to know them. Our players did a good job of recruiting these guys. So I think that helps too when they can come here and feel at home and feel like they can be around our young men and be able to thrive there.
It's impressive, but, again, it's Florida State.
Q. The running back you got out of Atlanta, Grant, is he strictly a running backer? I know he played both ways in high school.
WILLIE TAGGART: He's a running back. He's a running back. He's a ballplayer. He's a really, really a sharp individual when you get a chance to sit down and talk with him. He's really sharp and knows exactly what he wants. Typically he gets what he wants. He's been through a lot, and still been able to do what he does on the football field and in the classroom is really impressive. He's a winner, he's a running back that can do a lot of different things with the ball in his hand. Not giving them to the defensive guys.
Q. Jumping the recruiting rankings you had some 60 spots in this class in a matter of two months. Does that bear any significance to you? Can you speak to the magnitude of how much you've really done since you've taken over here?
WILLIE TAGGART: Like I said, we did a good job recruiting, getting a good staff here and our staff got on a roll and did a great job of selling our school and more importantly getting these young men on campus. But a lot of credit goes to our staff. They came in here and these guys came in and hit the ground running.
I'd also like to say thank you to their wives because a lot of these guys haven't seen their wife and kids, not a lot. Because they came in here, hit the ground running, had to evaluate a lot of film and then go out and try to recruit and build relationships with kids that they didn't have a long time to do that with.
But I credit our staff and, like I said, everyone that helped with recruiting. Again, like I said, it's Florida State, that helps big time. And when you go out and work really hard building those relationships, it makes it a lot easier.
Q. Tre'shaun Harrison, you were mentioning west coast guys, he was one of the first guys that came in and you made him a priority. What does he bring to the table?
WILLIE TAGGART: I thought Tre'shaun was a really good football player. When he worked out at Oregon we all felt he was really a very talented young man. When I came out here I knew that he'd be willing to come here, absolutely, I'd love to have him. I think he's a young man that can play anywhere in this country. He's special. Again, he's a kid that's committed, and I'm excited. Really excited about him being a part of this class.
Q. Coach, I've noticed your wide receiver class you have coming in there are some small, really fast guys, some big guys. Do you go for a specific type or do you like the diversity among your receivers?
WILLIE TAGGART: I like the diversity, and we like guys in certain ways in certain positions too. All those guys, they all have to be able to catch the football, period. But we want them all to be able to do something with the football after they catch it. They all bring in different things to the game. You get the taller, bigger guys that can go up and get the ball, and you get the faster, quicker guys that are in space that can give you some things to help you as well.
I think those guys bring different things to the table and allow us to do different things offensively. Some things that we need.
Q. Coach, how do you approach negative recruiting? I know it's kind of part of the game, but is that bulletin board material for a coach when you see negative recruiting? Does that motivate you in some sort of way?
WILLIE TAGGART: I wouldn't necessarily say it motivates me. It lets me know that we're doing something right. If it wasn't doing that, then you're not doing anything. Kind of let me know our coaches were out working and working really hard. You don't get into it.
I think when that happens, it actually helps us, because they talk less about their program and talk more about us. I always tell our guys there is no need for us to negative recruit and we won't negative recruit. It's not fair to the young men to negative recruit, especially about someone or a place that you don't know.
It's part of it. I guess that's part of competition and you compete and try to find a way. But it's not fair to the kids. So they shouldn't do it.
Q. You were able to add a handful of defensive ends. I'm curious how much of a priority it was to kind of bolster those ranks a little bit, and how do you see some of those guys fitting in?
WILLIE TAGGART: Again, because the style of defense we're going to do, there is an area that we needed to get some guys in and thinking more in the future than anything what we can do. I think each one of those individuals is a really good football player. I'm excited to get them in in training camp and allow them to come out and just compete. I think some of them, they're going to come in and try to take somebody's job, and it's going to be fun to watch.
But like I said, they're very talented, position needs because of the system that we're running, and just really trying to build for the future. Especially at that position, you can't have enough of those guys.
Q. Had you ever heard of the Armwood curse? Had anybody told you about that?
WILLIE TAGGART: I didn't until recently.
Q. What did you hear, and how were you able to land those two kids and what kind of kids were you getting?
WILLIE TAGGART: I heard Florida State could never get a kid from Armwood for whatever reason. That was interesting. I didn't realize that either. But I think the way we were able to get them, talking about relationships, those kids we had a relationship with them for like three years dating back to South Florida days that just continued. They know us. They can come here and tell everybody exactly what we're doing, they have been around so often.
So I think you talk about relationships, that was really big, and those guys decided to come to Florida State. Talk about Warren Thompson Jr., he's a kid, we've got a picture of him catching a ball with Doak Campbell when he was 7 years old, and look for he's at now. It's pretty cool.
But I think the relationships broke the curse. I think three years of relationships finally broke the curse.
Q. Your staff, including yourself, you guys did an amazing job in a month and a half just developing relationships. But talk about your staff in general, and Raymond Wood did a phenomenal job in certain areas, but talk about your staff in general and the job they did. Talk about the excitement for the 2019 class, because it seems there is a lot of buzz right now.
WILLIE TAGGART: Yeah, we're all excited because we really wanted these guys and we really needed them. It's really cool to want and need guys and you know they can really play and help you out. Like I said, those young men really wanted to be here. It's really cool to have a staff that loves to recruit.
I have a staff that loves to compete against each other. I think that's the cool thing. You ask me how they did it, and no one wanted to be the weak link in the chain. Everybody went out and got after it. It was pretty cool when you compete as a staff. You try to do it with everything.
But got a group of men that care about people and care about the university and what our university is doing for all of us. Guys that want to put this program back the way we all know it should be.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about Xavier Peters and the process of landing him, because Southwest Ohio, I mean that's Kentucky, Ohio State, UC, not a real rich ACC recruiting ground.
WILLIE TAGGART: Well, I think again, in this class and the time we got here, I think you see in our recruiting a lot of it was off of relationships. There is a point in time in Oregon where we had reached out and talked with Xavier and Coach Harlon being at Michigan State who is from Cincinnati, he had been recruiting there as well. So I think we sees things like that and it goes back to having some relationships, having a relationship with good football players that can help us.
Q. You've touched on the relationships several different times. How much of a factor in getting four kids from Pasco or Hillsborough was relationships versus how much was a concerted effort from you guys to recruit that area? That's the most FSU has landed from that area in 35 years.
WILLIE TAGGART: I think it's both. You talk about Warren Thompson and Malcolm Lamar, and the same thing goes with Isaiah Bolden from there, and even Chaz Neal, all those guys. We knew we were there in South Florida, and that just helped tremendously. But then the effort that everybody put into recruiting those guys once we got here, again a lot of the staff recruiting, it wasn't just an individual. It was pretty much the whole staff recruiting all these guys. I think that played a big factor in what we were able to do.
Q. How do you and your assistants assure players recruiting them at one school and recruiting them to another, what are some of the things you try to do to let them know that your new school is now the right fit for you?
WILLIE TAGGART: You explain to them exactly how you got there, got to where you're at. You try and be honest with them. That's what I did. I explained to them my path to get me where I'm at right now. I think it's one heck of a path. I explained to them that Florida State has been my dream job, where I always wanted to be. I was fortunate it happened, just out of nowhere that happened to me.
So you explain the whole thing and you try to educate them on how it all works and not just say anything to them, but try to educate them on the whole coaching profession and how things work. I think that's part of recruiting is educating these guys on all of it, not just what you can do with football and all those things, but understanding that's going to be a part of making the decision.
Coaches do leave, but I explained to them my path and where I wanted to be, and I'm in the spot where I want to be, I always wanted to be. I have no reason to go anywhere else.
Q. I noticed a couple situations where you had almost all of the coaches on that side of the ball go meet with a recruit. I think one was a defensive player, and one was an offensive player. Was that a special reason for that or were they just all available to go at that time?
WILLIE TAGGART: When I talk about relationships, again, it's not just with one person. It's trying to get a relationship with our entire staff. So throughout that process we try to find time where we can get our staff to meet guys. Especially guys that haven't been here or really don't know us. So trying to get them around all of our guys. They're not just going to be around the position coach. They're going to be around everyone.
So it's important that those young men know the people that they're going to be around and see if that's who they want to be around. I think it was more that than anything. With a new staff, and trying to meet all these young men.
Q. It's been enjoyable following you and your staff on Twitter. Something we didn't really get a whole lot of before. But do you have any kind of a plan how you handle social media? The follow-up on that is who is the best on your staff when it comes to putting out tweets?
WILLIE TAGGART: Who is the best? I couldn't tell you. Haven't been here long enough yet. We'll see here soon.
We just try to use social media to help us. It's a big part of recruiting now. If you're not on it, you'll get left behind. It's how a lot of the young people communicate now, and you can get them better on social media than you can texting. I think that's crazy. Because I know you get the same thing. You're watching your phone. But they'll respond to you on social media. That's just part of the world we live in now. So we've got to use it. It helps us. Not only with recruits, but also helps us with our fan base, giving them information that's going on. It's pretty cool to use it to help Florida State University.
Q. Are there some networks you use more than others?
WILLIE TAGGART: Yeah, I don't do that Snap and Instagram, that's too much for me. I just keep it really simple, Twitter. I know all the ins and outs. If I started trying to learn all that other stuff, that's too much thinking, and I don't want to think that much. Twitter is good for me.
I've got Facebook. Every now and then I'll go on there, but usually it's Twitter.
Q. With the lyrics, the music lyrics you've been tweeting today, are these favorite songs of the players or some of your own favorite songs? What's been the reaction that you've seen from that?
WILLIE TAGGART: You didn't know in my other profession I was a rapper? No, I'm just playing. There were guys, there were songs that those guys liked. Wanted to give them something they liked that I knew would fire them up for the day. It was a great day. They were becoming a Nole and wanted to show them a little love and welcome them to our beautiful place.
My song is "In the Air Tonight", Phil Collins. Started the day off that way, end the day off that way.
Q. What you guys didn't fill was a quarterback. Could you talk about the state of that position? You've got, obviously, Deondre's banged up, and you don't have many guys at all. Just your approach going into this off-season?
WILLIE TAGGART: We have some guys. We have Deondre, Bailey, we have some guys. We have some really good doctors that are going to continue to get Francois back up to par where he can come back and compete and do the things he's capable of doing. Hopefully in spring ball he'll be able to do some seven on sevens and things. I think we have two other young men that can get the job done as well.
We'd like to have signed a quarterback in this class, but I don't think it's the end of the world that we didn't sign one in this class. It's important that we sign one next year. It will be great having the whole year to make sure you get the right guy in here. It has to be the right guy.
Q. When you sign coaches, and when you get coaches so late in the process, what are the machinations for getting them on the recruiting trail? Do you tell them these are the five guys you need to call right now? Are they recruiting as soon as they agree to come to Florida State?
WILLIE TAGGART: Usually, the good thing is we had a lot of them here before we got back on the road recruiting, so we were all able to sit around and evaluate the film. So they'll know what they're watching and the guys they've seen and who they are. Then we'll map out a schedule of who we're going to go see and who is going to see them that week. I only get to see them once, so we try to be smart on when I do go and see the individual.
Then our coaches, like I said, each week they'll come in after the recruiting weekend and have our schedule for where we're going that week and try to mix it up at times. It all depends on the individual, and the needs, and where he's at in the recruiting process. So we try to feel out the whole temperature of the recruiting to help us. We try to be a little different at times.
Q. I'm sure you're still digesting today, National Signing Day. But looking ahead to 2019, how excited are you? Are you excited to see what the staff can do? Where are you guys as far as evaluating and that kind of stuff?
WILLIE TAGGART: Are you talking recruiting still? Okay. Really excited. Again, just with the momentum and the way our guys finished, our coaches and all, the way we all finish here in this class says a lot. Excited about where we're going to go going forward. I can only imagine having a year here to be able to recruit and be able to do a great job evaluating the guys we want in here. I can only imagine what that's going to be like. So really excited about that.
I know our coaches are fired up about it already on the 19s and 20 guys already. So don't ever stop. Can't ever stop. We won't stop.
Q. Now that the cycle is complete, what is next on your agenda? What do the next few weeks look like? You mentioned recruiting your current team, what goes into that?
WILLIE TAGGART: Our coaches, we're around our guys now. We don't have to go anywhere. We can get knee deep with our players and really getting to know them and being around them and them getting to know us as well.
Our guys have been having their team dinners without the coaches. Now the coaches are back, so next week we'll have dinner together, which is pretty cool. Continue for us to all get to know each other a little better. We have our morning workouts coming up so to be able to be around our guys and get to know them out there too.
So it's going to be a lot of getting to know each other and a lot of work over the flex couple of months. Really excited about it, because I think we have some good young men here that are really ready to right the ship and do right. I'm excited about these individuals and really excited to see what they can do. I know they're taking care of business right now. We've got to continue to do that. They can't wait to dive into the playbook. I told them just dive in the weight room.
But really excited about that. I'm really excited to continue to get to know our coaching staff and support staff a lot better, and getting everybody to get on the same course so we can do the thing that we need to do.
I know the next two days, three days -- wait, four days. Okay, the next four days Coach T. is taking his wife away from here, and we're going to enjoy each other.
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