The Daily Nole

Grading Taggart’s First SNL at Florida State

Colin Abbey/FSU athletics

The closing firework of the summer took place this past weekend when Florida State hosted its Saturday Night Live recruiting event. The event was intended to bring high-profile recruits to Tallahassee and also give fans a taste of the energy that head coach Willie Taggart’s staff wants to bring.

Much of the process was behind closed doors, involving recruits meeting with coaches and touring the facilities. The actual camp session that involved coaching, drills, and 7-on-7 competitions was open to the public on Saturday afternoon.

Saturday Night Live has been a staple of Taggart’s recruiting strategy ever since his days at South Florida. A huge number of commitments was not expected, but some positive momentum certainly was. This was also one of the first major recruiting events open to the fans.

How did Taggart and his staff grade out in his first SNL at FSU? We’ve broken it down into four categories, encompassing everything involved with the event. At the end, we give an overall grade and a summary of how we think it went down.

Talent Present: A+

Florida State absolutely knocked it out of the park when it came to getting talent on campus. Virtually all of its main targets for the 2019 class were in Tallahassee, and that’s not including the 2020 prospects. Names like Tyler Davis, Brendan Gant, Kalen DeLoach, Charles Cross, and more showed up. Beyond them, at least four 5-stars from the 2019 class were there as well, including two of the Seminoles’ top targets in defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux and linebacker Nakobe Dean.

Even players that aren’t considered leans to Florida State were among those at Doak Campbell Stadium. Top 100 recruits like Kaiir Elam, Khris Bogle, and Kardell Thomas were the surprises of the day, since none were part of the original expected visitor list. Florida State got all the players it wanted and more.

Some would question the effectiveness of hosting prospects who likely won’t commit to Florida State. Keep in mind that the 2019 recruits won’t be signing until at least December, after the 2018 regular season has run its course. There is still plenty of time and unknown variables which could impact where they sign. Take Kardell Thomas for example. He’s from Baton Rouge and currently committed to LSU. Seems like wasted energy in trying to get him to flip.

But Ed Orgeron is on shaky ground heading into the upcoming season. If LSU were to disappoint in a major way, Orgeron could be fired before early signing day occurs. Thomas would then have to reconsider his choice and think about where he wants to spend the next three or four years. There’s nothing negative with getting him on campus and giving him something to ponder.

Fan Experience: C

Reports from those who went were mixed. There was a DJ and some vendors selling food and drink for whoever wanted it. Fans could easily see the drills and what was happening on the field.

But Florida in the summertime brings inescapable heat that requires some incentive to keep people in the stands. There simply wasn’t anything which fit the bill. Unless you are a recruiting buff, there is no reason to go to SNL.

At the end of the day the event is focused on football recruiting. That’s perfectly fine, but for a staff that wanted 10,000 in attendance, they did nothing to try and reach that goal. It doesn’t need to become a fan-centric event, but a little engagement could go a long way to helping the overall environment.

Event Planning: B

This earns a separate category because it involves more than just the visible drills. Florida State did a very good job positioning its camp in the middle of the Florida and Miami events. If a recruit wanted to visit both Florida and Florida State, he could go to Gainesville on Friday and then make the 2-hour drive to Tallahassee for the rest of the weekend.

Since Miami is the odd one out of that arrangement, it also meant that some recruits would have to choose whether to be in Coral Gables for Saturday night or in the state capital. That’s usually an indicator about where a recruit stands between the two programs.

The actual event portion receives some lower marks when it came to planning. It started an hour later than expected, which is annoying but nothing too egregious. Instead, the aforementioned weather conditions subtract from it. SNL started around the hottest point of the day with most of the stadium under the sun. Again, this made it unpleasant for fans to sit through and was also just a weird time of day. FSU could’ve benefited from just pushing it back an hour or so.

Commits Gained: A-

No announcements on Saturday night wasn’t all that surprising. Only one part of it was open to the public, with most of the work going on behind the scenes. The levy broke with offensive tackle Charles Cross announcing his commitment on Sunday afternoon.

4-star defensive back Brendan Gant went public with his choice about 6 p.m. EST that same night, and 4-star linebacker Kalen DeLoach followed up Monday. Both Cross and DeLoach were quality pick-ups at positions that will need more depth and talent heading in to the 2019 season.

That means the staff fulfilled two of its biggest needs thanks in large part to the SNL recruiting event. If someone unexpected commits to FSU shortly after visiting for SNL, then this grade could be changed to an A or A+.

Overall: B+

If one wishes to view the event solely from a recruiting standpoint, then it would be a solid A. There’s merit to that viewpoint, and it’s undeniable that SNL did its job when it came to getting talent on campus and gaining commitments. Beyond that, the Seminoles also got their foot in the door with other talented prospects who are now interested in what they can offer. Florida State may have solidified a top 10 class this weekend.

Yet given what we’ve witnessed over the past few months with fan engagement, Saturday Night Live was a slight disappointment from Taggart and company in this regard. That’s not to say it was bad or that the event should be closed off to the public. It was still a step in the right direction that both media and fans are happy about. Compare that to something like Nike’s The Opening, which changed the location and format of the camp, effectively killing the energy and hype surrounding it.

Potential changes for next year are easy and the small things can make a huge difference. If these are the results of the current plan, imagine what the results could be when fans are enjoying themselves and giving Doak Campbell an energy boost unlike any other recruiting event.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply