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July 19, 2018
Charlotte, North Carolina
Q. Cam, first impressions of Willie Taggart and going through the spring with him?
CAM AKERS: Just a lot of energy, a lot of excitement. He came in and changed a lot of things, holding each other accountable, and we're really enjoying it, and we're really looking forward to the first game.
Q. Along those lines, Coach Taggart talked about bringing some fun into his administration. How much fun has it been for the last couple of months?
CAM AKERS: A lot of fun. He brought a lot of energy, like I said, a lot of energy to the program, and just kind of reviving us and bringing us back to Florida State football, where we're supposed to be.
Q. Cam, Coach Taggart is installing a new up-tempo offense. As a running back, how much different is it, maybe how much more fun to be in the spread, go, go, go, high tempo as opposed to the more traditional power I in the past?
CAM AKERS: For me just a lot more space, a lot more opportunity, a lot more seams, a lot more opportunity for big plays, so I'm looking forward to being able to break a lot of those for this upcoming season.
Q. In high school you accounted for nearly 13,000 yards in your career, 79 touchdowns as a quarterback. You were obviously the leader in high school. You contributed very well your freshman year, but you weren't so much the leader. Was that transition different for you?
CAM AKERS: It was definitely different coming from the quarterback position in high school to the running back position, and just a different state in general. It was a different environment for me, and this year I look forward to taking on that leader role a little bit better and leading the team.
Q. 5.3 yards per carry last year. You sort of made it look kind of easy.
CAM AKERS: We've got to get that up. That wasn't enough. I did a lot of research on a lot of other backs, 7.5, 6.2, so I feel like I've got a lot of work to do. You'll be seeing that progress this season.
Q. There's obviously a relationship you had with the offensive line. Tell me what your rapport is with them both on and off the field.
CAM AKERS: Those are my guys. They work hard. They open up holes for me, so I give them all the credit. I don't take none of it. I give them all the credit, and I can't thank them enough.
Q. Last year you split time with Jacques Patrick. I would assume that would be the case again. Talk about the different styles, the different skills that you and Mr. Patrick pose for a defense.
CAM AKERS: Anything you're looking for, in my opinion. You've got the bruiser who can get you the five or six yards, and he can make a play, and I can do the same thing. And as far as the other backs, also we've got Laborn, we've got Rasul, we've got White, and everybody can make plays on the field, so it's going to be tough.
Q. Where are you looking to make you biggest improvement as a player from year one to year two?
CAM AKERS: My biggest improvement would be leadership, being more vocal as a leader. Coach Tag talks to me about that all the time, just being more vocal and taking on that role.
Q. Season opener against Virginia Tech on Labor Day. I know it's early, but what's your early thought on that match-up?
CAM AKERS: Just coming out and bringing the Florida State culture back, doing what we do best, and that's playing Florida State football, taking it one game at a time with Virginia Tech first, and we're getting ready.
Q. You talked about the difference from high school to college; what was your aha moment as a college football player? What was the lightbulb that went on that said, oh, this is what it's all about?
CAM AKERS: The aha moment for me, I was trying to make a big play when I wasn't supposed to be trying to do that, and I took a big hit. And I was like, yeah, this is not high school no more. You've got to take what people give you, and that was just an aha moment for me.
Q. Do you remember what game that was?
CAM AKERS: The spring game when Derwin hit me.
Q. Over a thousand yards last year as a freshman, but like you said, there needed to be more last year. What did you take away from that season of adversity where you excelled but obviously you wanted the team to do more?
CAM AKERS: Me personally, I don't feel like I can excel without the team. Last year, it's just something to work off of, for me, as an individual. But I feel like the team -- I'm more worried about the team's success than my success.
Q. Tell us about Brian Burns before we bring him up.
CAM AKERS: He's a dog on the field. He gives me trouble every day at practice, so I can imagine what he's going to do to other teams. Just a great person on and off the field. He does everything he's supposed to do, and I'm glad to have him as a teammate.
Q. Brian, he described you. How about you describe him?
BRIAN BURNS: Cam Akers, Cam is a monster. Besides what y'all see up here as a nice dude, he's a monster in the weight room, on the field, in every aspect of life. He's a natural competitor. He plays hard, works hard, and he's extremely humble, and I'm glad to have him on my side.
Q. Brian, same thing that I asked Cam; your first impressions of Coach Taggart, what he's brought to this team and what you're taking away from his leadership?
BRIAN BURNS: Coach Taggart has brought a new wave, a new culture to Florida State. He's bringing enthusiasm. He's making everybody hold themselves accountable, responsibility, no excuses for anything, whether it's missing a class, weight room, it doesn't matter. There's no excuses for anything, and he's really changing our guys, and I'm really appreciating him, and I'm excited for this year.
Q. Yesterday Josh Jackson, the Virginia Tech quarterback, talked about how they're watching a lot of Michigan State film to get an idea about Harland Barnett's defense. Can you talk about how you guys are adjusting both to the new scheme and the new defensive coordinator?
BRIAN BURNS: It's a quick adjust. I mean, it's not too difficult. It's a defense that allows you to play rather than think, so we're able to play fast, physical and aggressive, and everything is pin your ears back and go. We're going to get after it, and it's not really that hard to adjust to.
Q. You guys lost Derrick Nnadi and Josh Sweat, but you got yourself back, DeMarcus Christmas. Can you talk about the D-line and how you guys are coming together?
BRIAN BURNS: The D-line, as usual, is going to be another strong part of this team. I mean, with guys such as Marvin, Kaindoh, J. Rob, we have a ton of young guys. I'm forgetting a couple of names, but we have a ton of young guys who are going to step up this year and fill those spots as far as Josh Sweat and Derrick Nnadi. So I'm extremely positive to see what those guys are going to do this year.
Q. For you physically, how much do you feel that you've grown over the last -- I guess the off-season with Coach O being there as part of Coach Taggart's staff? How do you feel physically right now?
BRIAN BURNS: Right now I feel great. I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life. But other than that, this program, this strength and conditioning program has been amazing to me. I'm gaining weight. Coach O is doing an amazing job with the guys while working hard every day. So there's nothing but improvement, and there's a lot more space for improvement, but right now everything is going at planned.
Q. I'm looking at the people who aren't here anymore and really some of the biggest names in ACC football. You have just four starters returning on defense and going to a new system. At first glance, it seemed that Florida State could struggle on defense early because there's so many new players. I'm sure you have a different point of view. Sell me on scheme and the personnel that we've never heard of that are going to win games for you.
BRIAN BURNS: To be honest, you're right, there are a lot of guys that was key to our defense last year that left, and we do have four returning starters. But there's a lot of talent and young guys we have that you haven't heard of yet that's soon to come. But other than that, I mean, we do lack experience, but I am extremely confident in the guys we have that's going to step up, and that's what football is about. It's about the next man coming up and playing for the guy that has left. It's always next man up, and they're extremely competitive. They compete every day, and I'm excited to see what they're going to do.
Q. Your freshman year you had nine and a half sacks. Last year you had four and a half sacks. Do you think offensive lines, do you think other folks are starting to figure you out a little bit?
BRIAN BURNS: Figure me out? No. (Laughter.)
Honestly, my opinion has nothing to do with the offensive line themselves, it has everything to do with me. Just to give you a little background, my freshman year I was going off pure athleticism doing what I could do. Coming into my sophomore year I was doing the same, and it didn't work as you could see. But over the course of the season, I matured and learned to grow up, and I learned there's other necessities that's a part of this game that I have to take as far as watching film, taking care of my body, things like that. So that's why you've seen those flashes at the end of the season, because I was growing up. So this season was important to me, and I'm going to take that end of the season and translate it into the 2018 season.
Q. Brian, Coach Taggart has brought a lot of former players back. Of course, he brought Coach Bowden back to spring practice. How much has Coach Taggart really emphasized kind of living up to the Seminole standard and what's come before at Florida State and the tradition that comes with it?
BRIAN BURNS: He emphasizes it every day. This is Florida State, as we always say, and you've got to live up to it. It's an amazing tradition that's before us. It's bigger than us right now. Everything is bigger than us as far as Florida State-wise. It's about the tradition, the legacy. Odell is going to preach that to us every day. He's going to pound that in our heads. Other than that, we need to buy into it. We need everybody to buy in so we can get back to the way Florida State plays football.
Q. It was just a couple years ago you were coming off six wins in two years, then you found success at South Florida --
WILLIE TAGGART: I don't remember that. (Laughter.)
Q. What did you learn then that led to your journey getting here to Tallahassee?
WILLIE TAGGART: What did I learn then? To stick to the plan. Don't just give up because everyone else thinks it's not going the way that you want it to go. Stick to the plan, believe in your players, believe in the system, and just keep working to see it through.
You know, I was told a long time ago when I became a head football coach, in order to be successful you've got to have a vision. You've got to have a plan. You've got to have an unbelievable work ethic. And probably the most important thing, you've got to have the patience to see it through, and you've got to be careful when you say patience. As long as there's progress, where I've been patient, things are heading in the right direction, and luckily we had a great administration at South Florida that understood that and saw it through, and great things happened from that standpoint.
I think that's probably what I learned about it all.
Q. You had brought up the tag line lethal simplicity. Just to expand on that a little bit as we head into the fall about what that means for Florida State.
WILLIE TAGGART: Just allowing -- I think you heard Brian talk about earlier, just allowing guys -- just with the defense, allowing guys to line up and play football. We have some talented football players on our team, and we as coaches can't confuse them by being so complicated with a game that's simple and a game that these kids have been playing all their life. And we've got to allow them to go play the game of football like we know they can play and like we recruited them to play for. So just being simple and allowing our guys to play the game of football and have fun doing it.
And also realizing they have a lot of other things on their plates, so you can't be as complicated as you want to be. Just keeping it simple and allowing them to be great at what they do.
Q. I talked to you shortly after you took the job at Oregon when you stopped by Clemson for a day. If you had known -- this is kind of jokingly -- but if you had known that a year later you would be coaching the rival, would you have paid a little bit more attention to things around there? And then the second part would be what did you take away from that visit with Dabo and his staff and kind of being on campus?
WILLIE TAGGART: I wouldn't say I would have paid a lot more attention. I paid a lot of attention while I was there. Coach Swinney has done a great job at Clemson. I loved how he ran his program. I had a chance to meet with his offensive coordinator the year before and was really impressed with him. And I think after meeting Coach Scott, I was like, I want to meet Coach Swinney and see how all this thing originated.
But they've done a great job over the years, and once you go there and you get around the program and you see the environment, you see the culture, you can understand why they're having a lot of success at Clemson.
That was the purpose of going there, and to kind of -- for me personally, just as a young coach and moving his way up, kind of clarify some things to me that we're already doing it the right way where we're at and continuing to do things the way we're doing it, we'll get to where we all want to go.
Q. In an explosive division, maybe the most explosive division in America, Florida State ranked last in offensive production last year. Does that shock you?
WILLIE TAGGART: Yeah. I think everything about last year shocked me when it came to Florida State. But that's football, and that's life, and that's behind us now. It's on us now to change those things because we know we can be a lot better than what we did last year. And that's the expectation for us to be a lot better than what we performed last year, so I'm looking forward to our guys changing that narrative.
Q. How will your offense address those issues, your style, your scheme, and maybe bring back the fast-break football that people saw from Florida State in the '90s?
WILLIE TAGGART: Well, it all comes back to execution. We've got to do a good job as coaches of explaining to our guys what needs to be done in order to be effective. And then we've got to, again, put it back on our players and hold them accountable to doing their job. We know we have talented players, and if we coach them up in their discipline and they're fundamentally and technically sound, then we're going to have ourselves a good football team and a good offense, defense or special teams. We have talented players over there. We've got to coach them up, and then we've got to go out and make those plays to change what happened from last year.
Q. How would you describe your vision for this program, not just for this upcoming season but for years to come?
WILLIE TAGGART: My vision for this program is to win multiple championships in a first-class manner. That's our vision. That's going to always be our vision. To me that's what Florida State is all about, and that's what I grew up watching and loving when it came to Florida State football. Every year they were competing for a championship, and every year they were winning. That's our goal. That's our vision, and that's why we all come to Florida State University is to win championships.
Q. I was just wondering if you could kind of let us know, how do the conversations go in the office to figure out who you're going to bring for ACC kickoff and why did you ultimately choose Cam and Brian?
WILLIE TAGGART: There wasn't a lot of conversation. It was just, Coach, who do you want to take? Probably the last two guys I saw that day and had a great conversation with them. No.
But these guys have been standup guys for us. They've done everything we've asked them to do. They are exactly what we need when it comes to leadership and guys that represent our football program. We have plenty of guys, but we're told we could only bring two, and that's tough to do, but I don't think anybody would second-guess the guys we brought here today. They're guys that when you describe Florida State University and playing for Florida State, these two guys are the type of guys you want in the program. They came here to win a championship, and they know what it's all about to be here and what it represents. I'm happy with the guys we brought here.
To be honest with you, I could have brought any of our players and been happy with them, considering the work they've done this off-season and the things they've done since I've been here.
Q. You're the only new head coach here at ACC kickoff in 2018, and the league has obviously gotten a lot better over the last five years, and it's astronomically better than when Florida State joined the league in 1992. How does the ACC getting better make your job a little bit more difficult to try to bring Florida State back to the expectations of Florida State?
WILLIE TAGGART: I wouldn't necessarily say it makes my job difficult, but I would say it's a great conference. I think if you look at being the only new coach in this conference, and only new coach and the coach before didn't get fired, says a lot about this conference and the winning that goes on. You understand that each and every week, you've got to come and play your A game, and each and every week you can get beat by any team in this conference. You've got to play your A game.
And for us at Florida State, it's not about anybody else, it's about us and the way we play. I wouldn't necessarily say it's difficult -- going to make it more difficult, but it's on us to go out and perform and do the things that we know we're capable of doing, and it's on us to go out and earn the respect and get back to the days that we all know Florida State can and should be.
Q. You want to pick up the tempo with the spread offense. How is that process going? How much faster is it going to look to the fans than last year? And above all, talk about Cam and his suitability for this offense.
WILLIE TAGGART: Tempo, now, with our tempo, and I hear people talk about it, it'll be faster than what we've been before. We're not a team that's trying to get 100 plays. We don't do tempo to get 100 plays. We're trying to get explosive plays. We're going to tempo when we want to, and from that standpoint, it'll be faster. We won't huddle, so that's going to be a change by itself. But the key is to create explosive plays, and I think that's something we all want, and we have the players to do that.
You talk about explosive plays, you've got explosive players like Cam. He's a tremendous talent, and as a coach you've got to find ways to get him the football and allow him to do the things that he's capable of doing, and we saw that this past season as a freshman, him doing the things that he did. You can see that he only can get better. He will get better, and I'm excited about it. Again, we've always been able to run the football wherever I've been, and we don't plan on that stopping anytime soon.
Q. Week 1, primetime match-up against Virginia Tech. Just if you could, please, talk about an opponent like Virginia Tech that has 19 wins over the last two seasons, and your first game with Florida State, making sure they're ready for that kind of attention and spotlight right out of the gate.
WILLIE TAGGART: Well, I think we all know we're going up against a good opponent, a well-coached football team and a team that knows how to win. I think if you just go back to last season, our guys played in a big-time game like this, and they understand what it's going to take, and for our guys, we've got to make sure that we prepare so we can have a better outcome than what we did before.
I don't think playing a big game like this is new to any of our players. We've just got to make sure we prepare and make sure we do the things that it takes for us to be as good as we need to be on that day. Again, it's not about who we're playing, it's about us playing at our best, and we've got to make sure we're training that way in training camp every single day and we're taking care of our bodies and we go out and perform the way we train.
Q. I asked Cam and Brian what their impressions were of you. What were your impressions of this team as a whole when you walked in, knowing the history of Florida State and then obviously knowing that they had that adversity last year?
WILLIE TAGGART: Coming in, again, I was fortunate to come in and these guys were still practicing for a bowl game. And that's new to me, but it was a blessing for me, too, to actually see them out working and taking coaching and sitting in meetings and seeing how guys respond to all those little things, and I was impressed with all of them. I think we have -- I first came here, to be honest with you, I thought I was going to come here and have a bunch of turds, and we don't. We had a bunch of really good young men that want to be great and that want to -- that have some big dreams and some big goals, and just the reason why they came to Florida State. And to get around them and get to know them a little better, you can see that there's a lot of good kids here that want to do well. That gets you fired up as a coach.
I hadn't had anybody I had to dismiss off the football team, and that says a lot about our players. Guys that want to be there and want to be a part of the culture that we're trying to create. So for me it was very gratifying that I didn't have to do any of those things. It gets you excited every single day to get up to help these guys because they want it really bad. And they're showing it by the way they train, and they're showing it by the way they're going to class and by the way they're changing their ways academically and socially. I can't wait until training camp and then the season to show how much they've changed when it comes to football.
Q. Deondre was playing so well against Alabama and then got hurt, James had to come in and play the season, certainly played well at times. Talk about the quarterback position here in 2018 under Willie Taggart.
WILLIE TAGGART: This is the last question and somebody finally asked me about the quarterback, huh? I mean, we have -- I know everyone talks about James Blackman and Deondre Francois -- and we're leaving out Bailey Hockman, he's another quarterback on our roster that's talented and is going to have an opportunity to compete for the job. I'm kind of like the rest of you all, I'm ready to see who's going to be our quarterback, as well. I'm excited.
This is the first time I've been in a position as a head football coach to have three guys that can play for you. I'm looking forward to training camp and looking forward to these three young men competing for the job. That's why they came to Florida State, and they understand when you come here you're going to have to compete. Nothing is going to be given to you, and they appreciate that. But those are the type of kids that we bring to Florida State, and I'm excited to see these guys go out and compete this training camp. I'm just like the rest of you, can't wait to see who separates themselves as we go into the season, and as soon as they do that, we will let you all know who our quarterback will be.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports