JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida State head coach Willie Taggart began his statewide barnstorming tour of booster clubs at San Jose Country Club in Jacksonville Monday, saying that both fans and recruits have responded positively to the Seminoles program since he was hired in January.
"After our showing at the spring game, its showed me that everyone is excited and very enthusiastic and excited," Taggart said. "I'm ready to get out and share the message of what we're doing and what they can expect."
Taggart, dressed in a garnet sports coat adorned with a gold spear on his lapel, corrected reporters who asked about how fans responded to him, by interjecting "us."
Taggart admitted that he is much more visible in Tallahassee than he was in some of his previous stops as a coach.
"There's no hiding or anything," Taggart joked, when talking about wearing the school colors when out and about.
Between now and the start of fall practice, the team won't be back on the field, but there is improvement to be made. While Taggart acknowledged the strides that can be made in conditioning and strength training, he also said that, ultimately, the onus to improve is on the players.
"It's really important that our guys come together as a team. This is when the team really comes together, when the coaches can't be there and its voluntary," Taggart said. "(You see) who wants to get better and work on their craft. I told the guys, we'll see what kind of team they want this offseason."
Among the positions that will command the most attention before the start of the season is quarterback. At the close of spring practice, the question of who will start for Florida State is still unanswered. James Blackman, who took over as a freshman after Deondre Francois' injury in the season opener showed potential last year. Francois is still coming back from the injury and was also cited for marijuana possession. In the spring game, Bailey Hockman took snaps as well.
"They all can play football, throw the football around and do all the things that a quarterback is supposed to do. But I want to see a guy who can lead our football team and get this football team to play for him," Taggart said. "When you see a great football team that wins championship, a big reason why is a quarterback who gets the team to play for him"
Part of what Taggart is trying to do at speaking engagements like this one is to fire up the fan base. He is also trying to connect with former players and he said he spoke with both Jalen Ramsey and Telvin Smith, former Seminoles who now play for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"I was on the job about two months and Jalen stopped by to see me. That was big time. He's been back a couple of times," Taggart said. "Then for the spring game, Telvin came back. It was a joy to meet him. Talk about a guy with a lot of energy. Excited and passionate about Florida State football. I would love to be his teammate. You talk about juice."