The Daily Nole

FSU Football: Taggart’s Career is on the Upswing

Don Juan Moore/FSU athletics

Less than two months separate Florida State head coach Willie Taggart from his highly-anticipated FSU debut.

Taggart has been celebrated since being hired by the Seminoles in December for bringing youth and enthusiasm to the job as well as a slew of young, motivated assistants. Naysayers or even FSU-enthused skeptics might point to Taggart’s 47-50 career record or the fact that this is his fourth program in nine years as a head coach, but the numbers suggest that Taggart’s stock is trending in the right direction.

More are aware that Taggart’s previous stops at Western Kentucky, South Florida and Oregon were largely rebuilding projects. Although Taggart didn’t stick around for the bowl game at either stop, he led his alma mater, Western Kentucky, to its first bowl appearance as an FBS program in 2012 and South Florida to its first-ever top-25 finish in 2016. In 2017, Taggart finished 7-5 at an Oregon program that went 4-8 the previous season.

But for all of his recent success, it should be noted that there was a time when Taggart was on the hot seat at South Florida. After a 1-3 start in 2015, Taggart’s record at USF sat at just 7-21.

Since then however, Taggart is 24-9 as a head coach. In other words, Taggart has won more games in his last 33 contests than in his first 64.

Though its not an apples-to-apples comparison, Taggart’s record over his last 33 games is better than Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, who gave Taggart his first Power 5 job as an assistant at Stanford, current Stanford head coach David Shaw, new Florida head coach Dan Mullen and Taggart’s FSU predecessor Jimbo Fisher.

Although the ending was rocky, Fisher’s 8-year tenure at Florida State was undoubtedly a successful one as the Seminoles notched seven top-25 finishes, six 10-win seasons, five major bowl appearances and three victories, three ACC titles and one national championship. The narrative toward the end of Fisher’s tenure in Tallahassee was that his message had grown stale. The numbers seem to back that up.

During his tenure, FSU went 83-23, but over Fisher’s last 33 games, the Seminoles were just 21-12. While Taggart won more games in his last 33 games than in his previous 64, Fisher lost more in his last 33 than in his previous 73 games combined. Taggart has the look of a head coach on the rise and is still a young one.

Despite having eight years as a head coach under his belt, Taggart is still just 41 years old, meaning the majority of his losses came before his 38th birthday. As Taggart has entered his late-30s and early-40s, he’s become much more accomplished and consistent as a head coach. Taggart is the youngest head coach in the ACC and is younger now than Fisher was when he took over as head coach in 2010.

How Taggart’s tenure in Tallahassee ultimately turns out remains to be seen, but athletic director Stan Wilcox and company certainly got a guy whose stock was trending in the right direction. On the flip side for Taggart, the expectations at FSU will be bigger than in any place he’s ever coached before.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson

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