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Is Willie Taggart's Florida State Tenure Already Falling Apart?

David Kenyon

Willie Taggart has a problem.

His debut season at Florida State fell enormously shy of the eight- or nine-win optimism with a 5-7 finish. The program's 36-year bowl streak came to a screeching halt, while the offense flailed and the defense allowed the most points per game in school history.

During the early signing period, the Seminoles lost longtime commit Sam Howellthe No. 6 quarterback in the 2019 classto North Carolina. In February, FSU then missed on 4-star targets John Rhys Plumlee and Lance LeGendre.

Taggart dismissed starting quarterback Deondre Francois following domestic abuse allegations. Yet the school filled its offensive coordinator vacancy with Kendal Briles, a controversial hire given his alleged involvement in Baylor's sexual assault scandal.

Poor on-field results. Frustrating recruiting. Inconsistent culture. Those concerns amount to one enormous problem.

And if the Seminoles struggle in 2019 with a favorable schedule to buoy them, Taggart's tenure may quickly become a nightmare.

Francois' dismissal has left FSU with one scholarship QB, James Blackman, expected to be eligible next season. Louisville transfer Jordan Travis would need a waiver approved, and that seems unlikely at best. The current backup is walk-on Nolan McDonald.

As a result, the 'Noles must be active on the grad transfer market. The current situation is inexcusable. But at the same time, Blackman has already explored a transfer. Bolstering depth while keeping the redshirt sophomore is imperative.

If Taggart fails to bring in another quarterback, there's real potential for something awful to happen.

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Last season, the team's slogan was "Do Something." On a weekly basis, fans were begging for Florida State's offense to "Do Anything. Like, Literally Anything Good." Those issues largely stemmed from a complete disaster of an offensive line.

FSU's 2.8 yards per rush ranked 129th out of 130 teams. The blocking unit surrendered 8.6 tackles for loss (127th) and three sacks (112th) per game. And the Seminoles' average of 21.9 points was their lowest output since 1981.

Taggart and Co. addressed that weakness by signing five offensive linemen in the 2019 recruiting class, but the freshmen cannot be expected to provide an immediate fix.

Blackmanor whoever is behind centeris going to take hits. One injury could obliterate FSU's season.

After all, field position was an enormous obstacle for Florida State in 2018. The defense had its issues, but it wasn't getting much assistance from an offense that led to the nation's fifth-most punts. That's where Briles, as controversial as he is, should help.

Strictly speaking about his coordinating ability, Briles has thrived. Baylor consistently ranked among the nation's best, and he oversaw 2017 Florida Atlantic and 2018 Houston offenses that followed suit. FAU's efficiency fell last season without him, and Houston lost its bowl game to Army 70-14 after Briles left for FSU.

There's a strong chance Briles will move the offense in a promising direction. With games on tap against Boise State, Louisiana-Monroe, Virginia, Louisville and North Carolina State in September, a 5-0 start is within reason. At that point, even a 3-2 mark against Clemson, Syracuse, Miami, Boston College and Florida should be considered a success.

But the decision to hire Briles emphasized Taggart's top priority: winning.

That better work out, because the culture he's creating reflects it. According to Chaunte'l Powell of the Orlando Sentinel, Taggart once stated he had a zero-tolerance policy about violence against women. Florida State says it "does not tolerate sexual violence."

While we can debate Briles' knowledge of the abhorrence at Baylor all day, only those involved with the investigations have the answers. The optics are bad. The ethics, at best, are questionable.

Taggart shouldn't be on the hot seat yet, but the paths to criticism both on and off the field are apparent.

If quarterback depth remains indefensible and either Blackman gets injured or Briles fails to reconstruct the offense, it'll be time to sound every panic alarm in Tallahassee.

             

All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from NCAA.com, cfbstats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

   
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