Head coach Willie Taggart addressed the media for about 20 minutes during FSU’s weekly press conference today. He first spoke briefly on his positive and negative takeaways from Saturday’s game against the Samford Bulldogs and where he saw his team improve the most during the week’s short turnaround. The rest of the press conference previewed the Seminole’s first upcoming road game against Syracuse. The Orange has scored 117 points combined in their first two games against Western Michigan and Wagner. The game will kickoff on Saturday at noon in the Carrier Dome.
The full video can be watched here or read the transcript below.
Here is the full transcript courtesy of ASAP Sports. Any inconsistencies or errors in the transcripts are via ASAP Sports. They have not been edited by Tomahawk Nation.
COACH TAGGART: Good afternoon. Big time as everybody knows we head up to Syracuse for the ACC conference game. And our team is looking forward to it. We’re looking forward to getting out and making some corrections and going out and seeing if we can play at our best, which is something we hadn’t done yet. And looking forward to going out and seeing if we can get that done this week.
Q. Do you evaluate performance and execution differently on a short week or normal week or take it the same way?
COACH TAGGART: Take it the same way. I think you would probably take it differently if you’re doing things, but we’re not. We’re doing the same thing. So you evaluate it the same and expect our guys to execute the way they’re supposed to. And we execute at times but we just didn’t do it consistently enough. That’s hampered us especially on offense.
Q. Wonder if you can go back to the final drive against Samford and you mentioned execution. Seemed like that was fairly consistent. What was working well during that that you guys can build on?
COACH TAGGART: It was consistency. I think you when you watched us play in the first two ball games, we have some good runs or some good pass plays, and then we’ll follow it up with something bad. It just hadn’t been consistent. When it comes to executing that last drive, I think you saw it one of the better times where we executed the drive consistently.
But it showed our guys, they can do it, but just gotta lock in. I think a big part of it is being disciplined. I think that’s something that we have to be in order to correct the mistakes that we’re making being disciplined in our techniques, disciplined in our fundamentals and to me that’s where we have to get better at, especially on the offensive line, it’s getting better fundamentally and technically. And that’s on us as coaches to get them better and coach them up and it’s on our players to go out and execute better than what we have.
Q. What’s your impressions of Syracuse? I know they scored 117 points in two games so far.
COACH TAGGART: Talented football team. Coach Babers has done a great job getting them coached the way they want. Offensively they have a quarterback that’s very talented in Eric Dungey, been there a while. Had an opportunity to play against him when I was at South Florida and an up-tempo offense. They really go fast. And I know this season they’ve done a good job of being pretty balanced and running and throwing the ball and having some skilled guys out there. So another challenge for our defense. And we’ve got to be on our A game and do a great job of tackling and a great job of covering and playing smart football.
Q. The defense has done really well on third downs and in the red zone but on first and second down they’ve allowed a little bit more success, what do you think they need to do to get better in that area?
COACH TAGGART: I think not being so tentative on those early downs. I thought early in the game we’re being tentative and we’re allowing them to get some things and allow them to run the ball after the catch and I thought as the game went on our guys played a little more aggressive and it helped us.
I know especially in the fourth quarter, our guys played very aggressive and Devonta ended up getting a jumper route, something he could have done early in the game. But I thought they played a little more aggressive than we did early.
Q. Do you prepare or practice any different for a game inside a dome?
COACH TAGGART: No, I don’t think you do. I think one thing we’ve got to prepare for is the crowd noise and it gets pretty loud in the dome up there. But it’s no different really than practicing in our indoor other than without fans. So we’ve got crowd noise and being at our best. All the other stuff really doesn’t matter.
Q. You mentioned practicing smart, practicing like the pros, kind of not wearing the guys down. Do you ever find yourself in the midst of a season having to ramp things up in practice, maybe get more physical, more banging out there?
COACH TAGGART: I know for me personally usually you think about those things later on in the season. We’re in game two and we’re going to be physical and get after it in practice. I think you always evaluate your team and where they’re at from a physical standpoint. And I think with the new technology with the GPS, things like that, it allows you to see the wear and tear on your guys. And you make great decisions by how your guys are and when it comes to practice and how often you get after it.
Q. Whose idea was the turnover backpack?
COACH TAGGART: Our defensive players. Our guys wanted to do something for the turnovers. And they decided they wanted to secure the bag. And that was their message of securing the bag and carried it five times on Saturday and I was very impressed with it.
Q. Do you like it personally?
COACH TAGGART: I love it when we get five takeaways. And hopefully everybody else start loving it, too, because we’re getting a lot of takeaways and you see it a lot. And it’s kind of like anything else, once you see it so much you start to get used to it. And hopefully our guys continue to get takeaways so we all can get used to it, we can all enjoy it and like the fact that our guys are out getting things that we all want them to do, which is take the ball away.
Q. I think you guys had 81 offensive plays against Stanford but seemed like a lot of times they were still able to substitute in and out defensively pretty freely. Where is the up-tempo compared to where you want it, what percentage are you getting it to where you want?
COACH TAGGART: It’s not where we need it to be. I think we can all see offensively we’re not where we need to be. I think with the tempo you see it at times we get rolling and sometimes some things happen to mess up the tempo, but a lot of it is gaining yardage on certain downs. When you get it and you continue to go fast, I think that’s something another area where we can be better offensively is with our tempo. Still not where we want it to be. And that comes with more reps. It’s new for all of our guys and we’ve got a lot of guys moving around in there. So getting consistent play by everyone and just getting better week in, week out, our guys will get there.
And it was better than the week before, but a lot comes down to just executing. We can execute consistently enough we can have a tempo going the way we want it to. At least one of the things we can control.
Q. Especially the DB, seems like you’re getting a lot of the freshmen out there pretty quickly. There’s going to be some growing pains there obviously, but seems like there’s problems inside for them as well?
COACH TAGGART: I think it goes back the technique. When you see guys -- I know on Saturday, when our defensive back did get beat on the deep ball a lot of it was just technique. Bad technically in how we defended both of those balls. And you gotta give credit to Stanford and their quarterback did a great job of placing the ball where he did.
So I think for us it’s getting better technically and fundamentally will help with that and it did as the game went on. They hit a couple and then as the game went on they got tight and played better coverage with them.
Q. It seems like you guys got some pressure on defense but you weren’t able to get home, didn’t have a sack. Was that just a case of them getting the ball away quickly or was it something that your guys could do better?
COACH TAGGART: Well, I thought they had a good scheme for our base defensive package and quarterback did a good job of getting rid of the ball. They weren’t holding the ball long. And, like I said, they had a good plan for our base package. And then Coach Barnett switched it up and allowed us to play better with what they were doing.
Q. How is Khalan holding up? Were you able to talk to him at all yesterday, and the injury, is there a chance he could play again this year?
COACH TAGGART: Yes, he’ll be back. Khalan is -- he’ll be back. He had a knee injury there where he dislocated a kneecap. And it wasn’t necessarily as bad as we thought it was when we were out there. But it will be some weeks before he can get going again, though.
Q. Syracuse has scored at least 55 points in the first two games. So what is your game plan defense?
COACH TAGGART: Play great defense and try to not let them score 55 points on us. We’re going to go out and study the film today and what we did last night and today and try to put a good game plan together to see to it that we don’t allow that many points. And our guys know it’s going to be a challenge for us, good team. And they play well. They beat some really good teams at home out there in the dome. So our guys understand the challenge and our guys will be up for the challenge. And we’ll look forward to it.
Q. For the offensive line, the different lineups we see is that more about injury and performance and for the running game outside the blocking is there something that the running backs can do to make things a little bit better?
COACH TAGGART: I think when you look at it offensively, it’s just collective mistakes by a lot of different people. And I think with your two-part question, we can be better up front. A lot of our problems are fundamental, technique. It’s not physically getting whipped. It’s just blocking and doing things the right way and again a lot of that comes back on coaching and also on our players taking the coaching and applying it on the field.
And then there’s times again where I felt like our backs are pressing too much and they’re not reading their reads and there are some holes they missed, some reads they missed too.
And, again, that’s what I mean by not being consistent in what we’re doing. And we’ll get there. We’re a little better than we were week one. And we’ve got to be much better as we go up against Syracuse this week and I know our guys will be.
Q. Anthony Grant looked pretty good on kickoff returns. With Khalan out a little while, is there a chance you may get him more in rotation in terms of the tailback position going forward?
COACH TAGGART: There’s a chance. But we’d like to get our other backs going. They’re still trying to go too. But there’s a chance he could be back there. He’s one of our backs. And we have some things we can do and you just never know. There’s a chance he can get back there and play and with Khalan being out there’s a better chance.
Q. I don’t know how many of those plays are true zone reads for Deondre, and if he’s not reading those right, is that something in your experience that comes with time or is it something you have a knack for?
COACH TAGGART: It comes with experience, with reps. You think about it with Deondre. He didn’t have a spring to do it and in training camp, he’s sharing reps with other guys. He had the reps that all the other guys has with it. And I thought he was so much better from game one to game two when it comes to his reads. I personally thought Deondre was locked in that game and to everything that we had to do.
Did he miss some reads? He did. But he was so much better with it this game than he was the first game. So I seen a big improvement when it comes to him reading those zone reads and he’s getting more comfortable and seeing it better. And I think with the reps it’s making him comfortable with that. But, yeah, he did miss some. He missed a lot of them in the first game and in the second game he missed a couple here and there. But I thought overall he played a hell of a game for us and he was focused on what was going on and saw the field really well.
Q. Brady Scott came in the second half and seemed like he played pretty well. Just how did he grade out?
COACH TAGGART: Okay. He did all right. Nothing spectacular. Can be better, which a lot of guys on that spot really didn’t expect for Brady to come in and just tear it up. Considering the way he had to come in and the position he had to come in to play for which wasn’t necessarily what he was planning on. But again that was -- he had to come in and try to help his team out. He did it to the best of his ability. But we did get some things going there when he came in. And just go back to executing. Need to execute things better there late in the game.
Q. You mentioned Eric Dungey briefly in your opening statement. From your assessment, what stands out about him as a quarterback?
COACH TAGGART: He’s a hell of a competitor. Kid loves to compete. You can tell he loves to play the game. He has fun out there while he’s playing. And he’s good at throwing the football. He’s a hell of an athlete too. He can run the ball and throw the football, and he can cause you a lot of problems. And doing that with tempo is pretty tough. So our guys are going to have our hands full going against him. And hopefully it’s just one of those bad days for him that day.
Q. Going back to Deondre and the zone reads. I guess how important is it in your offense to do that consistently? When that’s going well, what does that open up for you guys?
COACH TAGGART: It opens up a lot. Gives us multiple options when you’re able to do those things and when people try to bring more guys in the box, being able to get it to your guys in space is important, more comes down to the numbers game and you’ll have guys in the box that you can hand it out to our backs and let them do what they do.
But it all starts with him and his decision-making on when to give it and when to throw the ball and a lot of it is staying locked in every single play and making sure you go through your progression.
Q. Tamorrion Terry just catches touchdowns apparently. I noticed a couple of plays seems like they were starting to roll double coverage over towards his side of the field. Is he a guy that can open up things even when he’s not getting the ball?
COACH TAGGART: Yes, he can. He’s a talented football for us, a kid that can go up and attack the ball on one-on-one. And a kid that can stretch the field for you as well. Is really good -- I’ll tell you, Tamorrion, he had a great week of practice. And I think that’s why he had the game that he had, just his mentality where he went about practicing and it paid off for him in the game and hopefully a lot of our other guys learn from his example, come and locked into practice and you get the same results on the football field.
Q. You mentioned running backs maybe pressing a little bit. I know Cam had some high expectation for the season and hasn’t been the start probably he hoped for. With running backs, is it traditionally it’s going to come where the kid is talented, or are there are things he needs to work on?
COACH TAGGART: I think with Cam, because of his expectation and the things he wants to get accomplished he’s still got to be patient. I think as we get into the game and we’re down and things aren’t going our way, that’s when guys start to press a little more. And I think that’s what’s happened when you have a young team that’s not as experienced as you like them to be so you can deal with those things better. But I think he’s just got to relax a little bit and trust his training and trust everything that Coach Pimpleton has taught him to do, because when he does it that way great things happen for us on the football field.
I think he sees that, as we go watch the film, golly, this close, this close with this one guy here. So I think he realizes that we’re so close. And it’s just like that he can end up having one of the games that he anticipates having, is that we’ve just got to get all 11 guys playing on the same court and with the same passion that we all expect from them all and I think those things will happen for him. But I think Cam sees that as close and it’s close for him and it’s just a matter of time.
Q. Your first game at South Florida was against an FCS school that didn’t go very well for you. Two years later you were in a bowl, three years later winning ten games. How did you not panic then? Did you panic then? Did your players panic at all? What did you say to your players?
COACH TAGGART: You stay the course. You be honest about everything. You make them understand the situation you’re in. Everybody’s not going to be happy when you just don’t play the way that everyone wants you to play and that’s part of it. That’s why this game is so great. You have so many critics and so many opinions.
So understanding that, but staying true and locked into the goals that we set out for ourselves and be real with ourselves when we’re watching film, while we’re doing what we’re supposed to. If we’re not then there’s no need to pout your head, put your head down or get upset. Just get back to work and make sure those things don’t happen. And so we try to be real. We tell each coach and player, look at yourself in the mirror: Are you doing enough?
I tell all the players, everybody wants to play. Are you up here enough watching film? Are you doing things on your own so you can play and so you can do the things that you need to do to be successful. And our guys are learning that.
We have some young guys in some key areas that still have to understand those things. But it’s common. We’ve got to stay the course and understanding, like being here, we understand the expectation. We don’t ever want that to change. And our guys gotta understand when we’re not playing up to our expectation then negative things will be said about us.
But it’s on us to change that. And if we want that change, it’s not -- we can’t ask anyone to say nice things to us all the time if we’re not doing our part. So we know it’s on us and it’s on us to go out and do it and that’s what we’ve got to do.
Q. Still haven’t scored in the third quarter in the last two games. How do you try to get things going coming out of the half?
COACH TAGGART: Again, I go back to we have to execute consistently enough. We get out there, get our first down, we get big plays then we shoot ourselves in the foot. We just need consistent play. I think part of having more consistent play, too, is playing guys more consistently as well and not moving them around so much. And I think that helped with the continuity and the start to get the synergy we need on offensive side of the ball. But I think a big part of our problem right now is more technically and fundamentally and we’ve got to help our guys as coaches to do that and then our guys gotta apply that teaching on the football field on a consistent basis.
They’ve shown that they can do it. We talked about the last drive. And there’s a couple of drives in there they’ve shown they can do it. We’ve just got to do it more consistently.
Q. During the trip to IMG, one thing you emphasized was building team chemistry and the bond with each other. During the season, when you’re on these road games during travel or maybe the night before the game, is there anything you do to try to bring the guys together?
COACH TAGGART: We watch a movie the night before a game at the hotel. After dinner and everything we’ll go and watch a team movie together at the hotel. And that’s about it. Other than that, it’s about business and trying to get ready to play.
Q. This is kind of random, but the helmet tomahawk stickers, is that something you still want to do; and, if so, what’s your criteria for that?
COACH TAGGART: Yes, we’re doing it. Our guys have to do certain things in order to get it. We have a list of criteria what it takes to get one of the decals. And I think you’ll see those things as the season goes on. But we’re definitely going to do it as part of us and as part of our tradition and we did just put some meaning behind in how you get them. You don’t just get them. You’ve got to go out and earn those things.
So I think you’ll see them on our helmet as we go forward.
Q. I want to ask Naseir Upshur. He’s not in uniform. Is he available this year?
COACH TAGGART: Yes, he’ll be playing in this game this week.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.