- Bob Ferrante Special to The Post
New Florida State coach Willie Taggart had a late start trying to salvage the 2018 signing class. He was able to secure three long-time commitments and produced a late flip from the West Coast.
The Seminoles signed three players by late Wednesday afternoon — four-star defensive tackle Robert Cooper, four-star linebacker Amari Gainer and three-star offensive tackle Christian Armstrong — on the first day of college football’s early signing period.
And just minutes before 10:30 p.m., five-star safety Jaiden Woodbey selected FSU over Southern Cal and Ohio State. The Fontana (Calif.) St. John Bosco star is Taggart’s first commitment since taking over the Seminoles earlier this month as the three prospects who signed on Wednesday were all commitments to former coach Jimbo Fisher.
“I am officially Nole Blooded #Tribe18,” Woodbey tweeted.
FSU missed out on a pair of quarterbacks when Mike Penix signed with Indiana and Emory Jones selected Florida. The Seminoles have focused their attention on James Foster, a three-star quarterback from Montgomery (Ala.) Lanier, who will choose a school on Feb. 7.
The first signee of the Taggart Era was early in the morning as the 6-foot-2, 365-pound Cooper had his national letter of intent in to FSU before 7:30 a.m. He is considered the nation’s No. 4 defensive tackle and chose the Seminoles over nearly 40 schools, and FSU was able to hold off a late push by Alabama.
Cooper had 42 tackles, eight tackles for loss and two sacks as a senior in 2017.
The Snellville (Ga.) South Gwinnett standout will be playing in the Under Armour All-America game on Jan. 4 in Orlando. Cooper thanked his dad and coaches for pushing him to find success and is looking forward to playing at FSU.
“I believe in Coach Taggart’s plan and I’m ready to do something,” Cooper posted on his Twitter. “I hope FSU is ready, let’s do it.”
Taggart, who was formally introduced on Dec. 6, landed Gainer from nearby Tallahassee Chiles High. The son of former FSU receiver Herb Gainer, who played for the Seminoles from 1984-87, Amari is the nation’s 19th-best outside linebacker. At 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, Gainer is viewed as a versatile defender with a high motor.
FSU also secured some offensive line help with Armstrong, a native of Warner Robins (Ga.). The 6-foot-4, 328-pound Armstrong is considered the nation’s No. 28 offensive tackle in the class of 2018.
Beyond the quarterback misses, FSU also lost out when Deerfield Beach three-star linebacker Rosendo Louis flipped from FSU to South Carolina on Wednesday. And Miami Northwestern tailback James Cook, the brother of former FSU star Dalvin Cook, chose Georgia over FSU.
Taggart is scheduled to speak with the media at 12:30 p.m. today about the 2018 class. One notable signing ceremony to watch on Friday is four-star cornerback Isaiah Bolden, who committed to Taggart when he was Oregon’s coach but could flip to FSU.