2018 National Signing Day: Florida State, Willie Taggart close strong

Florida State was in desperate need of receivers in the class of 2018. Willie Taggart and the coaching staff secured five on Wednesday.

Warren Thompson, Keyshawn Helton, Tre’Shaun Harrison, Jordan Young and D’Marcus Adams sent in their signed letters of intent on National Signing Day, helping the Seminoles double their receiver depth.

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With the exception of Adams, who was an FSU commitment to former coach Jimbo Fisher, Taggart landed the other four receivers in the last week. Thompson committed a week ago, and Helton followed over the weekend. Young chose FSU on Wednesday, and later in the day Harrison flipped from Oregon to the Seminoles. Harrison, who is from Seattle, had been committed to Taggart when he was still coaching the Ducks.

“We only had five on scholarship, and we’d like to have at least 11 on scholarship,” Taggart said. “So it was important that we get some guys to fill our needs that we needed. In order to do some of the things that we wanted to do, it was important to get some guys in the receiver position. I’m really happy with the ones we landed.”

FSU signed 14 prospects Wednesday, which brings the 2018 class to 21 when taking into account the seven prospects from the December signing period. Of the 21 signees, 13 are rated as four-star prospects by 247Sports.

It’s a class that is ranked ninth nationally by Rivals and 11th by ESPN and 247Sports — a monumental jump from FSU’s ranking in the mid-60s in early December. FSU finished third among ACC teams, behind only Miami and Clemson.

The Seminoles needed to load up on receivers as depth had been a critical storyline for the past few years. FSU lost leading receiver Auden Tate (40 receptions, 548 yards, 10 touchdowns) a year early to the NFL draft, although Nyqwan Murray (40 receptions, 604 yards, four touchdowns) is returning for his senior season.

FSU will return just four receivers with any college playing experience — Murray, Keith Gavin, George Campbell and D.J. Matthews — along with redshirt freshman Tamorrion Terry. But Campbell missed nine games in 2017 due to injury, and Gavin missed three games. The status of Da’Vante Phillips is also uncertain as his court case remains active.

With the limited number of veterans, FSU not only needed receivers but also had to have a few who could play this fall. And in one day, FSU added several players capable of doing just that. Taggart said he likes the diverse capabilities and height of the group, from the 6-3 Thompson to 5-9 Helton.

“All those guys, they all have to be able to catch the football, period,” Taggart said. “But we want them all to be able to do something with the football after they catch it. They all bring in different things to the game. You get the taller, bigger guys that can go up and get the ball, and you get the faster, quicker guys that are in space that can give you some things to help you as well.”

FSU also landed three more uncommitted prospects on Wednesday: running back Anthony Grant and defensive ends Jamarcus Chatman and Malcolm Lamar. Grant and Chatman give the Seminoles four signees at defensive end, although Xavier Peters has the versatility to play outside linebacker or end.

“They’re very talented position needs because of the system that we’re running and just really trying to build for the future,” Taggart said. “Especially at that position, you can’t have enough of those guys.”

One missing piece from the 2018 class is a quarterback. FSU pursued four-star James Foster, but the Montgomery (Ala.) Lanier standout chose Texas A&M — and Fisher — over the Seminoles. FSU will have just three scholarship quarterbacks in the fall with former Glades Central star James Blackman, Deondre Francois and Bailey Hockman.

“We’d like to have signed a quarterback in this class, but I don’t think it’s the end of the world that we didn’t sign one in this class,” Taggart said. “It’s important that we sign one next year. It will be great having the whole year to make sure you get the right guy in here.”

Noteworthy: Taggart said he thinks Francois will be able to participate in 7-on-7 workouts this spring. Francois was injured in last year’s season opener against Alabama and missed the rest of 2017. FSU has not announced the date for the start of spring practice, but the Garnet and Gold game will be held on April 14 at 6 p.m.

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