Willie Taggart, Florida State look to close deal with recruits

4:09 p.m Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017 Sports
In this Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017 photo, Willie Taggart poses after he was introduced as Florida States new football coach during an NCAA college football news conference in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

Willie Taggart has only been on the job for two weeks. But each of those 14 days has been spent with a focus on recruiting.

And with a December signing period in 2017 for the first time in college football, the new Florida State football coach has been trying to catch up with the Seminoles’ nine verbal commitments.

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“I’m going to try to get out and see all of our guys that’s committed to us and share my vision and philosophy here, and it’s hopefully something that they want to be a part of as well,” Taggart said when he was introduced as FSU’s coach on Dec. 6.

Taggart also hosted a large group of visitors last weekend as he makes a push to expand the group of signees, both those during the early December period, which goes from Wednesday to Friday, and in February.

While programs like Clemson, Alabama and Ohio State have had coaching stability and will look to sign the majority of their classes in a 72-hour window, a more realistic goal for FSU is to have a few of their verbal commitments sign and then land some of the uncommitted prospects between Wednesday and Friday.

Four-star linebacker Amari Gainer and three-star offensive tackle Christian Armstrong are longtime verbal commitments and are expected to sign on Wednesday with FSU. After that, coaches will be waiting on pins and needles to see if they will land a quarterback (or perhaps two). Three-star Mike Penix of Tampa and four-star Emory Jones of Franklin, Ga., are among the quarterbacks who will announce their decisions Wednesday and are considering FSU.

The Seminoles are in the mix for a large group of prospects who could be signing early. One player they were in mix for appears headed elsewhere. James Cook of Miami Northwestern is signing at 10 a.m. Wednesday but appears to have picked Georgia based on his Twitter avatar (him in a Bulldogs uniform) and he has UGA ‘22 in his Twitter bio. He visited FSU last weekend.

FSU also has a commitment from Deerfield Beach three-star linebacker Rosendo Louis. And in an unusual situation, Taggart had secured a commitment from Isaiah Bolden to Oregon when he was the Ducks’ coach — and now he is looking to bring the four-star cornerback from Zephyrhills Wesley Chapel to Tallahassee instead.

FSU doesn’t have a commitment from a five-star prospect but could land one in cornerback Jaiden Woodbey of Fontana (Calif.) St. John Bosco. Woodbey is expected to choose Southern Cal, FSU or Ohio State.

Prospects who choose not to sign early can still pick their school on Feb. 7. Among the FSU verbal commitments who are expected to wait until February to sign are four-star corner Asante Samuel Jr. of Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, four-star corner Anthony Lytton of Upper Marlboro, Md., four-star receiver D’Marcus Adams of Daytona Beach Mainland and four-star guard Christian Meadows of Montezuma (Ga.) Macon County.

While many programs are looking to sign the majority of their class in December, schools with new coaches like FSU have had to be realistic in their approach. Taggart has been on the job just a few weeks but his message has resonated with prospects.

“It’s been hyper-active, rushed but it’s been organized and made sense,” 247Sports recruiting analyst Chris Nee said. “Not everybody has to sign (in December). It’s kind of like trying to splice your class in half to make your workload in the back half easier.”

FSU is expected to sign a large class – possibly as many as 25 – between the December and February signing periods. That is in part due to graduating seniors but also underclassmen leaving early (redshirt sophomore safety Derwin James and junior defensive end Josh Sweat are entering the NFL draft) and graduate transfers. Tight end Mavin Saunders announced he would graduate and transfer to Kansas, while offensive lineman Brock Ruble has not said where he will land for his final season of college football.

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