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FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE

April 6, 2019

Willie Taggart

Tallahassee, Florida

WILLIE TAGGART: Oh, man, you guys can hear me, right? Well that concludes spring ball and the Noles won, which was pretty good. But really excited about where our football team is right now. As a unit and there's a lot of work to be done, but where we're at right now I'm really excited where we're at, where we're going, it's good to see some young guys go out and make some plays. It was good to see us throw the ball around a little bit and see some guys make plays. And we got to work on our hands on the defensive side of the ball, had a lot of tipped balls and got to learn to finish, but over all I thought it was a good spring, I thought we got better, especially with the guys that we had this spring and knowing that we have some guys coming in in the fall too to help us, we are feeling really good about ourselves.

Q. The two teams combined to run 96 plays in the first half first half, just how pleased were you with the way how they played with the tempo?
WILLIE TAGGART: Good, I've been pleased with our guys all spring. They have a good understanding of what we're trying to do with that and I was really happy with our guys being able to do it without having as much depth because of the team the way we split the teams up and for them to be able to go with that tempo and still execute some plays was really good and I think for me personally it was just exciting to be able to go fast and not have any pre-snap penalty when it comes to alignment. I thought our guys did a great job receiver-wise of communicating with each other and communicating with the referees to make sure that we're not aligned the wrong way and it paid off for us.

Q. Throughout the spring when we have asked you about James Blackman you guys kind of said, James is James, he hasn't changed too much, but from this point last year to now how has he grown just as far as his confidence?
WILLIE TAGGART: Well he's very confident, I think it's more of him just understanding everyone, every coach and his teammates and understanding the plays and how we want to get them executed, but James has put in the work, too. I've seen James just this off season watch more film than he's ever watched being here, being up in our offices more than he's ever been up there and it's made a difference on the football field. He's very confident in what he's doing and there's times where coach will try to remind him of something and he'll tell coach to be quiet, let me handle this, I got it. And that's great to see. He's got the confidence and he wanted it and the guys respect him and it was good to see him make some of the plays he made today.

Q. Saw a couple of the freshmen and defense make some big plays big hits. Akeem Dent, McRae, kind of wanted to get your thoughts on how they looked this spring and do you think them and the rest of the freshmen are some guys that can make some big contributions this year?
WILLIE TAGGART: I do. I think each one of those guys, every freshmen that we brought in this spring have stepped up and shown us all that they can play at this level and that we are going to lean on them this fall. I've been impressed with each and every last one of them. Each one of them has had time with the one's throughout spring and they held their own. They constantly made plays. I was a little disappointed with Jaleel because all spring long those tipped balls he had today he was catching those in the spring and he got in front of people and he dropped the ball. But the kid is always around the ball, he's always doing things like that and at times when you tip balls, sometimes when you're playing hard you have a teammate there to catch the tip off of it. But it's good to see him in the position to make a play, we got to get him to make a play but he's shown that he can make those plays throughout spring ball.

Q. Is it hard to evaluate the running game a little bit because you split up the offensive line and had a few guys out?
WILLIE TAGGART: Sorta kinda. I mean I think it all sort of depends on what plays were being called. I think again you're going to evaluate like anything else, all those guys know the plays and the assignment and the technique that we want them to do it with and we expect them to execute it that way, but I think a lot of it is just what plays were called and if, and I don't think we called as many run plays in the game but we're going to evaluate those run plays and the execution of them and seeing if there's something that we can do better or something we need to add. But overall I thought we threw the ball quite a bit and didn't necessarily run it as much.

Q. This week you talked about the next step being the effort you see in practice translating over on to game day. Do you feel like you kind of saw that today?
WILLIE TAGGART: I did. I saw some guys making plays that they were making in spring throughout spring, saw some plays that, a couple dropped balls that you would like to have back, but for the most part I saw guys making plays that we know they're capable of making. And it was good to see, it was good, I know you asked about the guys being divided, but I do think when you can execute when you don't have all your one's or your two's together and being able to execute I think that says a lot about your football team and where you can go. And again we're trying to build depth and seeing those guys be able to execute without the guy that they had been playing with all spring was good to see.

Q. With not a lot of guys at quarterback Jordan was stepping in a pretty big role. How quickly have you seen him take to the offense and just progress this spring?
WILLIE TAGGART: Well, I thought early on he was so nervous in spring ball and not sure about a lot of things and the confidence wasn't there. And then somewhere around week two you started to see him get confident in what he was doing and he started making a lot more plays and as we started going through spring ball, we all as coaches felt good about Jordan and his capability and what he's going to be able to bring to the table for us and it was good to see him go out there today and make some of those plays which I anticipated him making I told him before the game, I got a feeling you're going to go out and have a good game today. I thought he threw the ball -- well he missed a couple throws there -- but for the most part he threw the ball well.

Q. You've been through two springs now, so what do you think are the biggest kind of areas that your program has as a whole has improved in those springs?
WILLIE TAGGART: I think we improved on understanding what we're doing understanding each other, understanding what we're doing, and the consistency when it comes to play, making the plays, I thought we, like today, I thought we played a lot more consistent than we did this time last year in spring ball and a lot of that has to do with our guys just knowing what to do now. I do think understanding the tempo a lot better helps and guys being able to play and then just the simplicity of teaching our guys in the way Coach Briles and our offensive coaches have taught our guys on the offensive side of the ball has changed and helped our guys even more and whether they're able to go out there and play with confidence that we need them to, but I think the chemistry of the, the team chemistry that we have now is night and day to where we're where we were this time last year and it should be, we know each other we understand each other we don't went through the fire and know our strength and weaknesses and now each and every day we can build on our strength and try to limit our weaknesses.

Q. A lot of big plays on offense, particularly in the passing game as best you could tell were those the result of proper execution on the offensive side or were there some defensive lapses too, I guess how do you balance that when you're evaluating?
WILLIE TAGGART: Well I can't just talk in details when I haven't seen the film. If I say -- I got to say that was some execution on the offensive side of the ball. They went out and threw the deep ball, they caught the ball and they ran after the catch and that's pretty good execution. Again just looking at it you don't like to see your defensive back get beat, but again I can't tell you exactly why he got beat. But it was good to see, it was just execution and we saw that this spring, we saw it throughout the spring and you also saw the upside. You saw guys make plays on the defensive side of the balls. And I think there was just a lot of drops today. Guys broke on some balls that we probably should have, well not probably should have, we should have had and we just didn't execute from that standpoint. But on both sides, they played some plays.

Q. A lot of the 2018 receiver class those guys Keyshawn, Young, Harrison all those guys really kind of balled out today. Have you seen a lot of progress from that group and that had been doing this all spring or are they just jumping out like this?
WILLIE TAGGART: They have been doing it all spring. A lot of those guys, that you guys haven't seen play, they were doing the scout team last year for us and now they have an opportunity now to compete for playing time and they're showing what they are capable of do you think now and then you see guys like Keyshawn Tre'Shaun and those guys they are getting better, they're playing with more confidence, I think Coach Dugans has done a great job of getting those guys to play with a standard. That group really close, they're so much closer than what they were last year and they all hold each other to a standard and I think that's why they all are making plays now when they go in there, they're all playing at a standard and Coach Dugans have those guys doing that and, but they're playing with confidence too and they're young and they just they're getting older and older and more knowledge of the game and it's only going to help them.

Q. A question about the other side of the ball. Amari Gainer was one of the leading tacklers you had, a guy that battled injury last year, how has he come along this spring?
WILLIE TAGGART: Great. He's going to be a big time player for us. He's a Florida State kind of guy and I'm excited about Amari, his future, and again I think he's going to be a household name for us as we come into the fall. He's had a really good spring.

Q. It looked like it was good natured, but what was the conversation between you and James after you had them pick up the pass interference flag there at the end?
WILLIE TAGGART: He was asking me what team I was on. I told him just play ball. Again, it's a little adversity. I was trying to create a little adversity, see how we were going to respond. See how the Gold team would respond and wanting to see how the Garnet team was going to respond when they got the ball back and I thought they handled it well. In the past our guys were getting really ticked off and they didn't want to play any more, but they kept playing and that was good to see. But yeah, they was mad at the commissioner.

Q. In overall, obviously the teams are split up but a hundred yards passing, all the big plays that kind of what you, obviously what you want this offense to be and closer to what you want it to resemble come September?
WILLIE TAGGART: Well, I think we have seen explosive plays, we want those explosive plays, I think that's really important. When you see the tempo I think if you watched us last year and you watched us this year you see the tempo is much better than what it's been in the past and in this scrimmage today I thought once the tempo went down we didn't execute as well as we were executing. But I think when this offense there's times you're going to see us have a lot of passing yards, there's times you'll see us have a lot of rushing yards, it will all be dictated by what we're getting from the defense. And that's the beauty of it. It's not just we're just going to throw it the whole time or we're just going to run it the whole time, we're going to do and take what they give us and I thought our guys, our quarterback did a great job of taking what they were giving us and it was good to satisfactory our receivers make the YACs after the catch. I think that if there's anything, that's what we want to see is our receivers make YACs, yards after the catch. And we got a lot of those in this scrimmage and that's important and we're going to need it going forward.

Q. Seemed like all of the January enrollees were ready to play at this level. But Akeem Dent, could you just talk about his spring, the spring he had, I know he was highly acclaimed coming out of high school but it seems like he's ready to play college football?
WILLIE TAGGART: Yeah, he's everything we all thought would be. The kid's coming in with a lot of confidence and from day one I mean you all saw the first couple spring practices where he went out and got I think like two interceptions back-to-back and to me that was just being a smart football player, the kid's just always around the ball, he enjoys playing, enjoys competing and when we recruited him he said that's what he wanted to do, he wanted to come here and play and he's come here and put in the work that it takes to be able to play, he's come in and spent the time with the coaches to understand what he's doing so he can go out there and be able to compete with the guys. And it's great to see him not only say all those things but go out on the football field and do it. And not just Akeem, I think Ray Woodie III has done some really good things for us and I'm really excited about him. I mean he's the sleeper no one really talks about, but that's another kid that's always around the ball and making plays. And our young guys are pretty good. They're pretty good players, but they're still young and they got to continue to grow and it's great to that we had them here this spring and they got some practice in before we get to training camp.

Q. The one offensive penalty in the first half was on a freshman. Do you think the organization appears to be better because it's year two or do you credit Kendall or maybe both?
WILLIE TAGGART: I think both. I think year two then like I said earlier, just Coach Briles and his simplicity, simple way of teaching I should say, has helped big time and not just Coach Briles, but everybody been on the same page and understanding the offense and you get everybody, coaches, players, all on the same page, those things happen. So you limit those mistakes and, again, it was great to see our guys go out and not have as many penalties. They have been working hard on it and it was good not to have as many, especially those pre-snap penalties. It was good to see from that standpoint you talked about the penalty our young guy had, I was really excited how our guys didn't let that penalty kill that drive. How they bounced back and made plays and they finished that drive with a touchdown and again in the past that killed us, we would have a penalty like that, that stops the drive and our guys bounced back and that was good to see.

Q. You talked about the big plays on offense and in the passing game. Specifically with James and what he brings to the table as far as pushing the ball down the field I guess how exciting is it to have that aspect of the offense?
WILLIE TAGGART: It's great. When you have guys like Terry and DJ Matthews and some of the young guys it was great seeing Warren Thompson catch that ball and go to the house. But we got guys like that and you can throw the ball down the field and get it to them, that's great, those are things that we look for in this offense, we want to throw the ball down the field and get those chunk plays and like the rest of us we were all excited to see James run and execute those plays. I think we all know he throws a really good deep ball and it was good, I wish Terry would have caught the other pass there, but it was good to see and it's great to be able to push the ball down the field.

Q. Last year the attendance at the spring game was I think close to 60,000, wasn't quite that this, today, is that something that you kind of expected after last season or is that something that you guys know you need to grow on and earn that back after last year?
WILLIE TAGGART: No, we just, we know we just got to keep getting better and make sure we go out and perform the way we need to. We appreciate everyone that came out there today and wanting to go out and show them the improvement that we have made and again, we're excited about the ones that were out there and we sure the ones that wasn't there, they were watching somehow. I think it was on ACC -- I guarantee you they were watching, so they're all, they're all there somehow, some way, they were there, probably not in there in our, in front of us, but they were watching and we appreciate them too.

Q. Seemed like all day no matter who was playing quarterback that the pocket was clean. How much of is that is Randy's ability to communicate things more clearly to the guys or him and Kendall knowing how to set things up or maybe just physical development of the offensive linemen overall?
WILLIE TAGGART: I think it's all of that. I think the offensive line getting bigger and stronger, I do think Kendall and Randy understanding each other and knowing the offense really helps, it helps from a teaching standpoint, again, so everybody's on the same page and that's been critical for us this whole entire spring and that's good and it's good that quarterbacks get the ball out too, that's important. But what you're seeing is just you see the offensive coaches and our players are you'll on the same page and when it's that way then can you have some success, can you go out and execute and again it's nowhere where we're going to be and where we need to be and it's good to see, I mean we haven't put in a lot of stuff but our guys are taking the little things that we have given them and made us better.

Q. You speak a lot about playmakers one guy that made a lot of place today DJ Matthews it seemed like you had him lined up in multiple spots on the field and is that by design and what have you seen from him this spring?
WILLIE TAGGART: Oh, if you ask me who is the most improved player this spring, I got to give it to DJ and that's in every aspect. He has come to spring practice totally focused on getting better, every single day, every I think he will day he's come out there with the right attitude and every single day he's come out there and practiced at a high level and I didn't get that from DJ last year, but he made that commitment to himself that he was going to do it and by doing it he's seeing what DJ can be for this football team and I think it's reminding him what he said he was going to do when he decided to come here and it's paying off for us and his teammates are seeing it and he's got so much confidence right now and I love the fact how he's leading our football team too. If you asked me who was one of the those guys that stepped up as a leader I would say DJ is one of those guys as well and he's done a great job of holding guys accountable in the receiver room and I think that's part of, we talked about receivers and the standard, him buying in to Coach Dugans's vision and what he wanted to do and selling it to the young guys. He's going to be big for us, he's going to be big for us and him and James are roommates so you can only imagine what those guys are going to be like together, but he's had a heck of a spring, really proud of him.

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