Given the awkward circumstances of how Jimbo Fisher departed Florida State, the search for a new football coach wasn’t just about finding the right fit, but also a lot of damage control.


By hiring head coach Willie Taggart away from Oregon after one season, FSU gets a dynamic recruiter who was raised in Bradenton and whose family members bleed garnet and gold. With Taggart being a familiar face in Florida recruiting circles, the Seminoles have a good chance to salvage a wobbly 2018 class and restore the program to immediate national prominence.

This was as good as FSU could do on short notice. Four days after Fisher bolted for Texas A&M and a $75 million payday, the 41-year-old Taggert engaged in a mercenary power play himself in leaving Oregon after 363 days, but at least he’s coming home to a coaching gig that’s a significant upgrade.

While Oregon has instant brand recognition with help from home-based Nike, you can’t blame Taggart for wanting a top-10 job that happened to come open just as he was settling in with the Ducks. The opportunity to win a conference title and compete for a national championship at FSU is so much better that, to use Fisher’s words, taking this job was a “no-brainer.”

Is Taggart a home-run hire? It’s too early to know, but the Seminoles landed a quality candidate, given his recruiting prowess in Florida and the way he rebuilt struggling programs at Western Kentucky (2010-12) and South Florida (2013-16).

Let’s be honest: FSU needs a momentum surge to offset the negative domino effect from two weeks ago as word spread that Fisher had one foot out the door. The Seminoles have lost six commitments from the 2018 class, plunging their recruiting ranking to 32nd nationally, a sobering number after Fisher reeled in top-10 classes all eight seasons.

Other than USF first-year boss Charlie Strong, also an FSU candidate, there weren’t many coaches it had a reasonable shot to hire who could provide an immediate spark after the messy Fisher divorce. FSU needed a coach with credibility on the recruiting trail to battle Miami’s Mark Richt and newly hired Florida coach Dan Mullen.

So give FSU athletic director Stan Wilcox and the administration credit. With the early-signing period (Dec. 20-22) looming, they went into a hurry-up offense and landed a prized catch. Taggart, only the fifth African-American head coach in ACC history, put himself on the national map two years ago in leading the USF Bulls to a 10-2 mark behind dual-threat quarterback Quinton Flowers, which included putting up 35 points on FSU.

Don’t be misled by Taggart’s 47-50 coaching record. With his salesmanship ability, and bringing accomplished defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt aboard, it’s not hard to imagine him attracting the blue-chip players to make FSU great again. As a former quarterback himself, Taggart should be a good mentor for Deondre Francois or whoever else leads FSU’s offense.

Coming after Bobby Bowden and Fisher, who combined for 15 ACC titles and three national championships, the next FSU coach has big shoes to fill. Taggart looks like he has the pedigree to do it. (904) 359-4540