The NFL draft is rapidly approaching on the football offseason calendar. The time when college football fans and NFL fans can come together in one single football event is always a fun time of the year for a variety of reasons. For college football fans, the bragging rights about having more players drafted than your rivals is something that is given close attention, and don’t think the coaches aren’t eager to cash in on the NFL draft buzz either.
This year, as is typically the case, a handful of coaches from the college game will be heading to the draft to send off some of their most recent success stories. Among those attending the event this year in Nashville will be some familiar faces. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and Alabama head coach Nick Saban will be the headliners at the draft among the college football coaching fraternity. Other head coaches attending the event will include David Cutcliffe of Duke, Matt Luke of Ole Miss, Ed Orgeron of LSU, Mark Stoops of Kentucky, Willie Taggart of Florida State, Joe Moorhead of Mississippi State, and Lincoln Riley of Nebraska.
Although not a head coach, Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson will also reportedly be in attendance.
These are coaches of schools that are either well-represented at the NFL Draft on a regular basis and/or have some key players who may be going in the first round. Unfortunately, the NFL Draft being held in Nashville will not include either head coach from Tennessee or Vanderbilt unless there is a change in the plans.
For those keeping score at home, and there is unquestionably at least one of you doing so, that is five coaches from the SEC, three from the ACC, and one each from the Big Ten the Big 12.
The 2019 NFL Draft will run from April 25-27. The Arizona Cardinals currently own the top pick, which could end up being used for the reigning Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma, Kyler Murray.
Florida State head coach Willie Taggart said he had a plan to address the obvious need for a quarterback last month. A transfer option appeared to be the most logical solution to pad the depth at the position for the upcoming season, and now that transfer option has joined the program. Alex Hornibrook, a former starter at Wisconsin, has announced he is heading to Florida State to finish off his college football career.
The addition of Hornibrook gives Florida State an experienced starter to throw into the mix as a potential starter for the Seminoles this fall. In his last three seasons at Wisconsin, Hornibrook has played in 35 games and thrown for 5,438 yards with 47 touchdowns and 33 interceptions. He has certainly had his highs and lows in a Wisconsin uniform, but there is something to be said about having the experience to fall back on.
Hornibrook is likely heading to Florida State expecting to start. Most fifth-year seniors don’t transfer without that expectation. Florida State’s quarterback situation is one of the bigger storylines for the program this offseason given the current state of the position. For the second straight recruiting cycle, Florida State did not sign a quarterback on signing day. The dismissal of Deondre Francois and the loss of a high-profile target to Maryland really hurt the depth. Justin Blackman returns, of course, and may be the biggest obstacle standing in Hornibrook’s way this fall.
After signing day, Taggart was secretive about his plans to address the concerns at quarterback. Whether Hornibrook was his primary goal will likely remain unknown, but Taggart at least got someone who has been a regular starter.
Few positions in football are as important as the quarterback position. Because of that, going two full recruiting cycles without signing a quarterback to a scholarship will tend to raise some questions. Florida State missed out on one target at quarterback on Wednesday, but head coach Willie Taggart isn’t pressing any panic buttons just yet. He’s also not about to open up about what’s next for the Seminoles at the quarterback position.
“We have a plan, I think a pretty good plan,” Taggart said when addressing the media on Wednesday, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
What is that plan, exactly? We’ll have to keep guessing because Taggart isn’t saying.
“I don’t necessarily want to discuss it right now,” Taggart said, perhaps frustrating some wanting to hear the head coach of Florida State wanting to provide some comfort about the position moving forward.
Florida State likely had their plan at quarterback initially foiled when four-star dual-threat quarterback Lance Legendre announced his commitment to Maryland. Florida State had long been expected to be in the lead for his commitment, so losing a talented dual-threat option to Maryland was a tough blow on signing day. This was just days after Florida State dismissed Deondre Francois from the program and there was not a backup option lined up at quarterback in the Class of 2019 for signing day.
Taggart did say he didn’t want to discuss the plan now, and that could be because he cannot get into too many specifics. That could be because he cannot comment on players who are not signed by the school, so JUCO and transfer options are unable to be discussed publicly. So are other potential recruits still out there to be signed.
For the upcoming season, Florida State still has James Blackman to rely on running the offense. Depth is the primary concern right now, especially if Blackman happens to struggle or gets hurt. Florida State has some serious concern about the position in the immediate future, and two straight recruiting classes means Florida State has to go big on the recruiting trail for a quarterback in the Class of 2020. As of this moment, Florida State currently has a verbal commitment from three-star pro-style quarterback Jeff Sims of Jacksonville in the Class of 2020. Expect Taggart and his staff to continue to search for a quarterback for the next recruiting cycle.
On Saturday, Florida State dismissed quarterback Deondre Francois from the football program after a video of him allegedly abusing his girlfriend was shared by the woman in an Instagram post. Now, as Francois begins searching for a new program to call home, the woman says the videos she shared were meant to intimidate Francois and “made to look like something it wasn’t.”
“I want to first start by apologizing to Deondre and his family for ultimately diminishing his character,” a long statement from Diamond Lindsey said on Instagram opened, as relayed by Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times on Twitter. “I should never have posted a video from our past situations that were already handled. The motive of the video was to scare him not to ruin anything he had going for [himself]. The sounds you hear in the video are me throwing things and hitting him. I should never have made it seem like he was hitting me. The video was made to look like something it wasn’t.”
“Deondre has never struck me with his hand or fist,” the woman continued in her statement on Instagram. “he has never bruised me, but has abused me verbally. If it was actually serious I would have took legal action instead of making a Instagram post. I just wanted closure and attention from him after we broke up but I couldn’t get it from him. The only way to get his attention was through Instagram and spiteful actions.”
Earlier on Monday, Francois reportedly entered his name to the NCAA transfer portal as he begins the search for a new place to play college football. Florida State head coach Willie Taggart informed Francois of his dismissal from the program on Saturday. The timing was not coincidental, as the video shared by Lindsey was reportedly shared earlier that day.
“I feel terrible and I know a lot of people are hurt by this but I know he will bounce back from this and continue following his dream,” Lindsey said to close out her statement.
What does this mean for Francois? At this point, the damage may already have been done with no turning back now. Taggart addressed a certain standard for the culture of the football program following the dismissal of Francois, who had some questions prior to this situation. Given this statement as a possible defense of Francois, Taggart could welcome Francois back to the program as Francois entering his name in the NCAA transfer portal does not mean he is necessarily gone for good.
Before anything else though, it may be best to make sure what details in this story are legitimate and given the circumstances that would best be left in the hands outside the football program. Either way, it is a messy situation and everybody needs to be sure they are on the same page regardless of the outcome. And that’s just assuming there is a scenario in play that brings Francois back to the Seminoles football program.
Florida State is in serious jeopardy of seeing its 36-year bowl streak snapped this season with a record of 4-5 with games against Notre Dame, Boston College and Florida remaining in the regular season. Desperate times call for desperate measures, which may be why Florida State head coach Willie Taggart is changing things up with the coaching responsibilities.
According to a Tallahassee Democrat report, Taggart turned over playcalling duties to offensive coordinator Walt Bell before Saturday’s game at NC State. The change may not have had an impact in the win column, but it was clear a change needed to be made if the offense at Florida State was going to improve.
Florida State has the nation’s 107th ranked offense, averaging 360.1 yards per game. The only ACC program averaging fewer yards per game this season is Louisville. The Seminoles also rank 106th in the nation in scoring with an average of 23.8 points per game after their 47-28 setback at NC State over the weekend.
Why would Taggart make such a move now? It may come off as the head coach pressing a panic button, but why waste time making a change you feel is necessary for the best of the program moving forward? Taggart has a lot on his plate right now with getting Florida State back to the top of the ACC. That clearly was not going to happen overnight, but having the program’s bowl streak come to an end in his first year is a tough hurdle to clear out of the blocks.
Brighter days are still likely ahead for Taggart and Florida State. Taggart’s track record shows he is capable of elevating a program’s status, and this is essentially the same Florida State program that had to reschedule a game last season against Louisiana-Monroe (which had been previously canceled due to inclement weather) just to qualify for a chance to play in the Independence Bowl with a 6-6 record. Getting to six wins could be a tall order now for the Seminoles, who enter the week with a record of 4-5 as they head to South Bend to take on the Fighting Irish this season.