Florida State Football: Coach Willie Taggart’s Press Conference Transcript

HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: Good morning. Training camp has been going really well for us. It’s been fun being around the guys. It’s been really exciting watching these guys get better each and every day, and we had a good two weeks of bonding with each other, players, coaches and players and improving from a football standpoint. Been really impressed with the way the guys have come to work every single day and didn’t have to motivate them to do anything. I told them from the beginning that they had to “embrace the suck” and I think they are embracing it.

Q. Can you expound on that last comment, “embracing the suck”?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: Yeah, as you get into the dog days of camp, it sucks. You get up doing the same thing every day, trying to get better. Being through it, out in the hot sun, you’re like, golly, can we just play. But you’ve got to embrace it. That’s the time to get better, rather than looking at it as a negative, trying to make it a positive. Just embrace it, embrace being with your teammates, enjoying each other and enjoy competing.

Q. Wondering about the scrimmage yesterday, how that went and what you were trying to do there?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: We had a really good scrimmage yesterday. We had a situational scrimmage to where we put our guys in different situations and seeing how they operate in it. It’s a competitive situation, and where the offense or the defense win, and it was pretty good.

You know, we had one situation where we started from the 35-yard line and offense gets whatever it scores, and the defense get a three-and-out or stop them on down, they get so many points. Then we move the ball down to the plus-40 and we then move it to the red zone; the ten-yard line; the five-yard line; end of the game, 1:20, one timeout, offense down by five. Just different situations, and it went well. Well, it went probably better for the offense yesterday than it was for the defense, but that was a first throughout training camp.

It’s going to be really exciting to see our defense bounce back tomorrow at practice.

Q. Are you ready to name a quarterback starter, and if not, how close are you to doing that?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: No. I’m not. And how close? Closer than we were the first day we started training camp. So we’re getting there.

Again, had a good scrimmage yesterday. Some guys played better than others, but I thought they all did some good things. There was no turnovers, which is always great when you can take care of the football.

So guys are still working. Again, it’s a good situational scrimmage, and next week, we’ll have kind of like a full-game scrimmage, so that will be good, as well.

Q. Can you name the guy that maybe had a better scrimmage yesterday? I’m just wondering if you can just talk about the development of each quarterback that you’ve seen. That’s really my question, the development of each quarterback throughout this camp.
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: Well, I think you can see where Bailey Hockman and James Blackman from a great understanding of what we’re doing, they are probably a little ahead of Francois from that standpoint. They are doing some things and getting better at what we did in the spring, and it’s been really good because it’s starting to click for those guys and making the plays.

Then just Deondre, it’s pretty cool to see him out there and him making the plays that he’s making. He just came back in training camp and will tell you he’s been putting in a lot of work, too, and that’s paying off for him, as well. They all are making plays, and I think more importantly, they have some receivers to help them make plays out there, too. Our young guys are make something good plays at the receiver position, which is always going to help a quarterback.

I hope that answers your question. I don’t know if I did or not, but they are all getting better.

Q. I feel like traditionally, most teams this early in the season, the defense is ahead of the offense. Did that catch you by surprise?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: I think we’re pretty much — it’s how it’s been. Like I say, that was a first to where offense really got on defense yesterday. That was a first throughout training camp. I think throughout the whole training camp, defense probably had an advantage.

But yesterday, the tables turned a little bit. But again, it was one of those, a good teaching moment for our defense. They got to come ready to play every week. Can’t take a day off.

Like I say, I’m excited to see how they bounce back in tomorrow’s practice. That’s going to be the key is how they bounce back after performing the way they did.

Q. Can you elaborate on the mantra on the front of the media guide, “Do Something.” What exactly does that mean?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: That means if you want something, you’ve got to do something in order to get it. We live in a do-something world. Everything you want, you’ve got to go out and make it happen.

So it always goes back to not making any excuses or not blaming anyone for you not having success or not getting the things that you want in life. You have to go out and do something. You have to work at it. You have to make it happen if you want it, or it’s not going to happen. I don’t care what it is: If it’s football or you want to be a starter; if it’s being a car dealership, I don’t care whatever profession you’re in. You’ve got to do something. That’s just the world we live in.

So that’s the motto. That’s always been my motto.

Q. In that vein, since Deondre got into the trouble, what has he done? What is he doing? What sort of something has he done to sort of get back in your good graces?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: I don’t think necessarily it’s in my good grace; it was in the football team’s good grace. It’s all of ours, not just mine.

And what he’s done so far, he’s volunteered to move back on campus and be around his teammates a lot more. That was something he wanted to do. He wanted to be around his teammates more, which I think he realized and the more he understand the more he’s around those guys, the better things will be for him.

A lot of it is just who you surround yourself with, and I think he understood that and he’s been around those guys. He’s been happy. They have been fun. It’s been fun to see how they have all been meshing together. He’s been doing well in the classroom, too.

Q. Did you suggest that?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: I just mentioned — he suggested that he move back on campus and be with his teammates.

Q. Have you started working at all on Virginia Tech stuff and what is your, does having a game like that, right at the beginning, give kids more to look forward to or do you get a little bit concerned about maybe having that tough a game right off the bat?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: Well, we started on Virginia Tech back in the spring, you know, and we’ll start more tomorrow and every day leading up until we play them.

I think being the first game, again, you never know what to expect. What I’m trying to do with our football team is get us to where it doesn’t matter who we’re playing. I think it’s hard to win. I don’t care who you’re playing. It’s hard to win a football game. Want our guys to understand it doesn’t matter who we’re playing. It’s the way we play, and can we go out and perform and be at our best.

That’s what’s going to be the key for us, no matter who we’re playing, and understanding that you’ve got a quality opponent ahead of you, going to be well-coached. But we’ve got them at home. It’s big-time college football. You have to come ready to play every single week.

Q. We and the fans are going to parse every word you say about the quarterbacks.
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: (Laughing).

Q. Can you speak more about Bailey and James and the lead they have mentally over Deondre and whether or not that’s a lead that he can or can’t overcome in camp?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: No, it’s just those guys have more reps than Deondre. So the more reps you get, the better you get at things.

Those guys probably have a better understanding of certain things because they have more reps doing it, you know, but like I said, it’s been really good to see Deondre — it’s not like he’s that far back.

I mean, he hasn’t had those reps and he’s still able to come out and execute our offense, which tells me he’s been working on some things, and again, I can remember in the spring when he wasn’t in there at quarterback, he was behind the quarterbacks going through all the operation of the quarterback, which I think is helping pay off for him and catching up from an understanding-of-what-we’re-doing standpoint.

I think they have an advantage because they have more reps and they are getting better because of those reps.

Q. You knew when you got here, or soon after, that you had a pretty good group of running backs. How special is that group?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: They are very special. Each and every last one of those guys, is cool, and you can put a guy in there, you don’t have to change up anything. You don’t have to deviate from what you’re doing offensively.

Any one of those guys can go in there and get the job done for us. It’s cool to see how close they are, you know, and those guys are trying to make it where it’s just a standard, a player running back here at Florida State University, their expectation is the same from those guys. That’s great to have. You can never have enough running backs, and we have some really good ones. We just got to find different ways to get them the ball.

Q. What do you know about Harlon Barnett and a Harlon Barnett-coached defense that you didn’t know eight months ago when you hired him?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: Coach Barnett got a little something to him, you know. You guys seen him and talked to him and nicest guy in the world.

But it’s a different side of him, too, out on the football field, and I’ve been able to witness that out there in practice. I was able to witness it even more yesterday after practice, watching him discuss with our defense our disappointed he was in their performance. That was really nice to see.

Again, I think they will respond big-time, but Coach, he’s done a great job and I think I mentioned it before, been really impressed with just how he has the entire defensive staff and how close those guys are and how well they all work together. That’s been really impressive in this short amount of time.

But you can see it trickling down to our team, our defensive guys, as well, and seeing how they are starting to work well together.

Q. I was wondering if you can continue on the “embracing the suck” thing, and maybe that’s something that last year’s team didn’t really do so well at times. But do you feel your team doing that this year and what are you doing as head coach to help them do that?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: That’s pretty talented there, you asked a question and had your phone —

Q. It’s all in this, right here.
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: Well, I think every moment is a teaching moment, you know, and again, playing and understanding training camp, we talk about it. Those days are going to come up. We talk about it every night before they go to bed what the next day is going to be like, but you’ve got to enjoy it, and we also talk about how many other people would love to be in their position, and for them to appreciate what they have and appreciate one another and appreciate coming together.

I think as we play this year, we talk about having a pack mentality and that’s when it comes: When there’s nothing else to do and you’re running a team every single day, and you have to be out in the hot sun and conditioning and there’s nothing else, meetings. That’s not always fun. It sucks. But you’ve got to embrace it and try to enjoy it.

But more importantly, you have to enjoy competing and getting better and I think that’s what’s helped us throughout this training camp is our guys enjoy competing whenever there’s a competition situation. Again, you don’t have to motivate them, and it’s been fun going to training camp where I don’t have to come out and get on our guys about practicing. They are coming out ready to practice every single day since we’ve been out here and that’s been really nice.

Q. Talk about when you were at South Florida and then coming up to Tallahassee, more looking at next year recruiting, are you going to get more into Georgia and Alabama? Is that one of your things coming in here?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: I think it’s smart to get in Georgia. I mean, we’re kind of in the south part of Georgia almost there. We’re, what, about 30 minutes away from Georgia on the Georgia State line. We’re going to recruit the best football player that fit what we’re trying to do, and we know there’s a lot of great players here in the State of Florida, but there are also great football players in Georgia and Alabama and Louisiana and Texas and California and Ohio, D.C.

There’s good, good football players all over the country, and we want to make sure we get the best; the best that can come here and fit what we’re trying to do and fit our culture and want to be a part of what we’re trying to build.

Q. At your introductory press conference, you dropped the term, lethal simplicity. As you continue to work with these guys, especially your parts on offense, how have they embraced those concepts and also executed them?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: A little struggle in the spring, obviously, because it was totally different from what they were doing before. What I’ve seen throughout training camp is our guys have worked really hard in the summertime to understand what we’re trying to get out of our offense and then just watching in training camp, just how much better our guys are today than they were when we first started. There’s a reason why defense had a bad practice, too: Because offense was getting better.

But I think guys understanding what we’re trying to do, not just learning their plays. They are understanding what we are trying to do when we call certain plays now, and that’s helping. I think simplifying things and not making it to where — it’s chemistry helps, too.

Now they can go play football, and starting to see it. I’m seeing some of the young guys are making plays for us, too, and I think because of, it’s been simple and allowing them to do the things that we recruited them to do.

Q. On that note, how did the younger players — I know you’ve been pleased with them so far in camp, but in a scrimmage situation, how did they handle all that?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: Good. I know on the offensive side of the ball I was really, really impressed with Tre’Shaun Harrison and Keyshawn Helton. Both those guys were pretty fun to watch yesterday, running around and getting in there and having fun. Kids straight out of high school. No worries and just give them a football and let them go and they was making plays with every group that they were in. I mean, we put them in with the threes, the twos and the ones. They were making plays for us, so that was really nice to see.

Our running back, Grant, he’s very talented. I mean, we loaded him and that kid’s special, too. He was having a good practice. I thought our offensive line played really well and that was good to see. Good to see Art Williams doing some really good things on the offensive line for us, too.

Q. When you were at USF, you recruited DeCalon Brooks pretty hard. What do you remember about that process and what did you like about him or think he could project to?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: Well, you know he had it in his blood lines, first and foremost, but when you watch him, he’s a tough, hard-nosed football player. He plays defense like he’s supposed to. He’s physical and smart. You knew he was going to be a great leader, as well.

But you’re talking about just a flat-out football player, you don’t get many that’s better than DeCalon. Again, his blood lines. I’m seeing the things in practice with him what we thought we would get at South Florida and he’s maturing. It’s been cool to see him come back from his injury and perform the way that he’s doing now. He’s a highly competitive kid, which we all expected him to be and being highly competitive and working really hard is going to pay off for him.

Q. What has stood out to you about Janarius Robinson so far?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: He loves to play the game. He loves his teammates. He’s, again, highly competitive, and I think he’s one of those guys, he hear everyone talks about Burns, and he wants to prove himself, too.

He’s a kid that loves being at Florida State and very talented and look forward to him helping our football team out tremendously. And I just found out he can play the piano, so pretty neat.

Q. How much has the foil in your opinion improved from the spring until now and what kind of job is Coach Frey been doing there and what’s it like to watch him coach up close?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: I think have improved tremendously from the spring. Part of that, we got some guys back healthy from the spring, too.

Watching a guy like Landon Dickerson, you know, coming here, I heard a lot about him and how special he can be. I think he’s having one heck of a training camp and starting to see what everybody else thought, as well, about the young man. But he’s having a really good training camp.

Derrick Kelly having a really good training camp. Granddaddy Eberle, he’s having a good training camp. It’s just fun because you see those guys like enjoy being with each other and taking pride in what they are doing.

Jauan Williams having a really good training camp for us. But you’re seeing consistent play out of those guys, and they are starting to get a little synergy playing together, and that’s something we need up front for us.

Q. Every time we ask you about wide receivers, we ask David Kelly, and Keyshawn Helton’s name comes up. He’s a guy that wasn’t highly-recruited by a lot of schools and you guys got him late. How did that recruitment go, and was part of that because of — from Derrick Brooks, that being his nephew, did that name pop to you guys from that or how did that all come about?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: No, I was actually out in Pensacola recruiting at another school, and the coach at that school was like, “Coach, I’m telling you, you need to go by and just see this kid. This kid, he’s one of the best receivers we’ve played against this year.” He just kept raving on the kid.

Before I left, he was like, “Coach, I probably just need to show you.” He pulled up the film and I watched the film and I said, you know what, I need to go by and see this young man. Sure enough, went by and met him and spent time with the principle and she raved about him, his character. He was awesome in the classroom and then I found out he was Derrick Brooks’ nephew and was like, okay. You kind of see it in the way he plays, too. Another kid that plays the game the way you’re supposed to play the game.

But he also had a little attitude about himself. He had something to prove, and I loved that about the young man. That hasn’t changed since he’s been here. He’s been on a mission since day one and he’s out to prove himself. He’s doing a darned good job of proving himself.

Q. Are you still surprised he was under the radar?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: Never surprised about anything. Those things just happen. But that’s a big reason why you recruit, and you try not to leave any rock unturned. You’ve got to go — but then when you have good relationships with coaches that you trust, sometimes those things happen, too, where they will put you on someone that maybe been overlooked.

But Keyshawn fits what we’re doing, too, so that helps, as well.

Q. Obviously there’s a fine line between getting your guys in football shape and pushing them past the limit. How have you seen strength and conditioning change over the years? What’s your philosophy on strength and conditioning, and do you think the NCAA needs to have more oversight on how schools train their athletes?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: I think student welfare is first and foremost and that can never change. We’ve always got to do what’s right for our student athletes. I think there’s rules in place to make sure that those things are taken care of.

We just have to make sure we abide by the rules and make sure that — I know here, whatever our trainers tell us, that’s what we do. There’s no if, ands and buts about it. We are always going to do what’s right for our young men and all of our student athletes.

And I don’t know whether the NCAA should be in charge. I can’t tell you that. That’s not my expertise. But I do know, there’s trainers out there that do their jobs, and we’ve got to allow them to do their jobs and we do that here.

Hope that answers your question.

Q. Curious about Cole Minshew’s status? In Bradenton he was a little banged up.
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: Yeah, Cole had a little ankle injury. He’s rehabbing to get back. Hopefully get him back in week and get going. He got a couple days off. Hopefully he’ll be back this week.

Q. Moving Deonté Sheffield over to wide receiver, what are some of the challenges that come with that and how do you think he’s responded to that so far?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: I think part of it, just learning the run routes and catching the football. You know, that’s something you’ve got to be able to do. You know, you play running back, and good to be able to catch the football playing running back, but receivers, you’re going to be asked to do that all the time, and also, block, as well, out in space.

I think those are all challenges but usually when you’re a pretty good athlete, you can learn it. Especially if you’ve been taught well. He’s picked it up. He’s picked it up, and he’s competing with the other guys at that position.

Q. Has D.J. Matthews built on his spring, continued to progress and have you given up trying to put any more weight on him? I noticed the weight change; he’s gained one pound. Are you resigned to the fact that he’s going to be the littlest guy you’ve got?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: D.J., actually, he hasn’t practiced training camp so far. He’s been doing some individual drills and things. He had a back injury. He’ll be back this week to practice more. Like I say, he’s done individual stuff.

From a weight-gaining standpoint, I think it is what it is. D.J. is going to be what D.J. is right now. He’s working; I will say this, he’s working to try. Probably need to eat a little more than what he’s eating, but he’s working. He’s working hard in the weight room. Some people, it just don’t work right for. I was one of those people that couldn’t gain any weight, either. So as long as he’s tough and he’s smart and don’t get tackled, he don’t have to worry about it. He’s pretty fast, too, so that helps.

Thank you all very much. Have a great rest of the day, if you want to.