Adam RittenbergESPN Staff Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — New Florida State coach Willie Taggart said the team “didn’t handle adversity well” in 2017 and must build more chemistry and accountability to compete for championships again.
Speaking Thursday at ACC media days, Taggart said he was surprised to learn how little Florida State players knew about each other when he took over as head coach. The Seminoles opened the 2017 season at No. 3 but started 3-6 before winning their final four games, including the Independence Bowl over Southern Miss.
“A big part of caring about someone is you’ve got to get to know your teammates,” Taggart said. “Our guys really didn’t know each other well enough. You’re on the same team and you lift weights together and all that, but they didn’t understand who that person is and where he comes from, what he’s been through.”
He later added: “I was really surprised, we have guys who have been around here four years and they didn’t know certain things about their teammates, who they thought they knew really well.”
During the offseason, Taggart and his staff separated the team into smaller groups to talk about their backgrounds and challenges.
“You’ll be shocked by some of the stories,” he said, “and it will amaze you because, for them to go through some of the things they’ve been through and still play at a high level and be here in college, it’s amazing.”
Sophomore running back Cam Akers said Taggart’s immediate emphasis is needed after the team didn’t have enough accountability or chemistry in 2017.
“It wasn’t enforced,” Akers said. “Now it’s being enforced by a higher power, which is Coach Taggart. Last year, it was just amongst each other.”
Florida State opens training camp next month with an open competition at quarterback. Deondre Francois, who started in 2016 before suffering a season-ending knee injury in the 2017 opener against Alabama, returns to the field alongside sophomore James Blackman, who started throughout last season. Taggart said redshirt freshman Bailey Hockman also will compete for the job.
“I’m just like the rest of you,” Taggart said, “can’t wait to see who separates themselves as we go into the season, and as soon as they do that, we will let you all know who our quarterback will be.”