TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — When Willie Taggart was hired by Florida State in December, he described his philosophy in two words: lethal simplicity.
The spring practices and Saturday’s Garnet and Gold game showed that the Seminoles have embraced the changes.
The players aren’t the only ones who have embraced the start of the Taggart Era. A program-record crowd of 60,934 showed up at Doak Campbell Stadium for the spring finale.
“That was an impressive crowd and a lot of energy for a spring game,” Taggart said. “It gives us a little preview of what it is going to be like for the first game [Sept. 3 against Virginia Tech].”
Taggart’s up-tempo spread offense got plenty of work. It ran 85 plays in the first half and 125 in the game, as the second half was played with a running clock. Taggart said he is pleased with how the unit has been able to grasp the system along with how it adjusted to the pace of practice, but he is still searching for consistency.
“We can be a lot better. There are still too many mistakes that are drive killers like bad snaps or false starts,” he said. “There a lot of things we have to clean up, but it is good to see guys making plays.”
The defense, which is being installed by former Michigan State defensive coordinator Harlan Barnett, was not able to force a turnover, but Taggart was impressed with how they did stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback.
Taggart said he kept things vanilla for the spring game, but there was a double pass, two halfback passes and a fake punt.
It is clear that Taggart’s hiring after Jimbo Fisher left for Texas A&M has revitalized a program that has struggled the past couple seasons. Since winning 33 of 34 games between 2013 and ’15, including a national championship, the Seminoles are 21-12, including 10-10 in the ACC.
Last season, Florida State needed to go on a four-game win streak to go 7-6 and avoid its first losing season since 1976.
“It is like the chemistry he has built was fast,” defensive tackle Demarcus Christmas said. “He earned our respect quick, and I’m sure we earned his respect by pushing us. The energy he has brought to the program has enthused us.”
Here are some other things to know from Florida State’s spring and Saturday’s game:
TERRY STEPS UP: Tamorrion Terry has established himself as one of the receivers to watch when preseason practices begin.
The redshirt freshman made the most of his opportunities during practices, as injuries to Nyqwan Murray and George Campbell left the Seminoles with three scholarship receivers. The 6-foot-4, 197-pound Terry has shown quickness and had the advantage in many 1-on-1 matchups during practices.
Taggart said Terry made an immediate impression on him during December’s bowl practices and has continued to build from there. During Saturday’s spring game, Terry got wide-open for a 48-yard reception on the first series and on a 13-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
“I thought I was going to be able to play last year, but stuff happens. I’ve been trying to show everyone this year what I’m really able to do,” Terry said.
Hockman was plagued by a foot injury the past couple weeks of practices but led the Garnet squad to a 31-13 victory by throwing for 203 yards and a touchdown.
Taggart said Blackman, who started 12 games last season, was hurt by a couple of drops by his receivers but did a good job of moving in the pocket.
Whether Deondre Francois remains a part of the competition is unknown. The junior, who did not take part in contact drills as he rehabs from a knee injury he suffered during last season’s opener against Alabama, was cited for marijuana possession last Thursday, which is his second off-field incident since Taggart took over.
Taggart said Francois remains on the team, and the matter is being handled internally.
MORE DEPTH AT RUNNING BACK: Khalon Laborn was recruited last year as a five-start prospect but was redshirted. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound back concluded a nice spring with a 91-yard touchdown during the second quarter after the right side of the line opened a huge hole.
“We thought as a staff he was going to have a big game,” Taggart said. “He’s a good football player who has grown up big time. He is maturing slowly but surely.”