Florida State fired head coach Willie Taggart after less than two years. What candidates might be the right fit?
Willie Taggart was a bit of a questionable hire to begin with, only because he was taking over a national championship-caliber Florida State program and he hadn’t won a conference championship or a bowl game.
He was a great builder of programs, but he always took off just as his teams – WKU, USF, and Oregon – were getting terrific.I t’s not like he dined-and-dashed. He kept taking on better jobs, and Florida State was the one he wanted, it was there for him, and he got.
To be extremely fair, Jimbo Fisher didn’t leave a full cupboard.
You can’t just fix an offensive line in one year or with one recruiting class. This was going to be an overhaul no matter what offensively, and the next guy up will have to deal with a slew of the same problems.
With that said, the defensive woes were inexcusable. The Noles are supposedly DB U., and they currently have the ACC’s second-worst pass defense.
Most unforgivable, though, is not going bowling. You can survive one year after being the guy who broke a decades-long streak of going to bowl games, and you can maybe lose at home to Miami like FSU did on Saturday, but you can’t miss out two years in a row like FSU is about to do.
Taggart will be fine. He’s only 43, and he’ll get another head coaching job in a hurry while still collecting around $17 million on his buyout.
He’s also an extremely class act.
Defensive line coach Odell Haggins will be the main man in the interim, but this is one of those premium job openings that can cast a wide net. It might not be the USC gig – assuming that opens up – or Oklahoma if and when we can all cut to the chase and Lincoln Riley becomes the new Dallas Cowboy head man, but it’s a destination job.
Unless someone offers you a ten-year guaranteed contract, there are few places to fall up from here.
So who are five coaching options who might be the right fit?
First of all, again, this is a plum gig. Florida State can and should go relatively big. Maybe not Urban Meyer big, but this needs to be at least an A- level star.
Second, there needs to be a track record. Either a top coordinator would be nice, but this is a next-step job for a guy who’s won big and can turn this thing around in a hiccup.
This is all total speculation, but five guys who at least have to get a phone call of some sort are …
5. Urban Meyer, FOX college football analyst
Yeah, yeah, yeah, but give it a shot anyway.
FSU Athletic Director David Coburn famously said that Meyer wasn’t an option even it Taggart was “hit by a bus,’ but if you’re a really, really bad athletic director if you don’t try to woo a legendary coaching option into a ready-made national championship-caliber gig. He’d say no – think Cleveland Browns more than USC Trojans – but stranger things have happened.
4. Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic head coach
The guy is about to win his second Conference USA championship in three seasons, he’s already building up a base in Florida – to a point – and even with all the tweeting and the Lane Kiffiness, he’s actually great at this college coaching thing.
He won in one year at Tennessee, he won at USC when it was hammered by the Reggie Bush situation, and he won at Florida Atlantic. It’s not going to happen, but I’ll keep on stumping.
Okay, enough. Those two aren’t going to be in the mix for the Florida State head coaching job. But these three most certainly have to be …
3. Matt Campbell, Iowa State head coach
The guy is winning at Iowa State. Start with that.
He won big at Toledo with three nine-win campaigns in four seasons, and it took just one year to create a team good enough to hang with and beat the big boys in the Big 12. He has zero ties to anything Florida, but he’s the young, energetic winner who has proven himself ready for that next step. However, he’s just not A-list enough.
2. Mike Norvell, Memphis head coach
But only if he brings a whale of a defensive coordinator. He’s young, he’s talented, he has Memphis on the verge of being the Group of Five representative in a New Year’s Six bowl game, and his offenses really, really work. He’ll bring the offensive explosion to FSU, but his Tiger defense has yet to tackle anyone. There’s also a Willie Taggart-like problem – he hasn’t won anything. Not a conference title, 0-3 in bowls, nothing big.
But again, like Campbell, Norvell isn’t a big enough superstar. This is a job that should get a guy who’s ready to go from already-good to a whole other level.
1. Jeff Brohm, Purdue head coach
Don’t get hung up on the down season. Injuries have ravaged his team, and yet the offense keeps on producing. You want the offense to work right away with a mediocre group of offensive linemen in place? Boom.
You want a high-powered passing game? You want the guy who took a Purdue program from absolutely nothing to a bowl game in one year? You want the guy who took what Taggart set in motion at WKU to a whole other level, going 22-5 with two conference titles before taking off for Purdue? Boom.
Brohm turned down Louisville last year to go back to Purdue, but there’s some thought that he might be destined to go Kliff Kingsbury and be a pro coach before he’d take another college job. But Florida State is different.
Get this guy in the right situation – he’d be perfect for Tennessee – and he’s going to blossom into a national title-caliber head man.
Five other names that might be more realistic than the first five on this list: Dave Aranda, LSU defensive coordinator; Luke Fickell, Cincinnati head coach; PJ Fleck, Minnesota head coach; Mark Stoops, Kentucky head coach; Brent Venables, Clemson defensive coordinator;