Willie Taggart is headed to Tallahassee for his next coaching stop, taking over his “dream job” as the head coach of the Florida State Seminoles. The ‘Noles are coming off a 6-6 season and the exit of head coach Jimbo Fisher. But despite the team’s struggles on the field this season, it only takes one look at the roster to realize that there is still plenty of former elite recruits on the team. The failure of some of those players to live up to the hype is part of the reason Florida State struggled in 2017, but with a new coach on board many will get fresh starts.
Today we look at five former elite recruits who have a chance to turn their careers around once they’re given a second chance to make a first impression.
As a recruit: Campbell raked in offers from all over the country and made an early commitment to Michigan despite most expecting him to follow his friend and high school teammate Artavis Scott to Clemson. But with coaching uncertainty in Ann Arbor at the time, Campbell elected to go his own way and committed to Florida State at the beginning of his senior season. He only officially visited the 'Noles and never really wavered on his commitment after announcing his decision.
What he’s done: It’s been one injury problem after another for Campbell since arriving in Tallahassee. He caught three passes for 42 yards as a true freshman in 2015 and then missed all of 2016 with an injury. This past season he showed flashes in the ‘Noles first four games, only to once again be knocked out for the year with an injury. He finished with six catches for 122 yards.
Why Taggart will help: Campbell’s ranking was always based off potential and most expected him to grow under good coaching at the college level. Unfortunately, his health has been his biggest issue and that has not only limited his production in games, but his ability to work on his craft on the practice field. Taggart loves to use big receivers in his offense and while the Ducks didn’t have a player of size in 2017, the 6-foot-4, 207-pound Campbell could get his career back on track if he can stay healthy.
As a recruit: Patrick burst onto the recruiting scene early in his high school career and entertained offers from many of nation’s top programs. He officially visited Ohio State and Texas A&M but in the end Florida State always seemed to be his top choice and the Seminoles nabbed his commitment in October 2014.
What he’s done: Patrick saw limited action during his first two years on campus thanks to terrific depth in the ‘Noles crowded backfield. He rushed for 314 yards as a true freshman and 350 yards in his sophomore year. In 2017 he took a big step forward, rushing for 687 yards and also finishing with 145 yards receiving. Those numbers might have been even better had he not missed time with injuries.
Why Taggart will help: Patrick has had a good but not great career in Tallahassee, first backing up future first-round pick Dalvin Cook and then splitting time with five-star freshman Cam Akers this year. Akers figures to have another big year in 2018, but in Taggart’s recent stops at USF and Oregon, he has shown an ability to manage touches for several prospects. With the Bulls it was Marlon Mack and D’Ernest Johnson in 2016 and with the Ducks, Royce Freeman and Tony Brooks-James both had good seasons in 2017. Add in the fact that Patrick is a big back, much like Freeman, and he will have a chance to finish off his career in style if he can stay healthy.
As a recruit: An elite prospect from Pennsylvania, Upshur’s offer list featured many of the nation’s top programs, including Alabama, USC and Miami. But he fell in love with the Seminoles fairly early in his recruitment and committed at the start of his senior season.
What he’s done: Upshur has appeared in games in both 2016 and 2017 but has yet to make his first college reception. His primary contributions have come on special teams.
Why Taggart will help: While Upshur has earned time on special teams, his career hasn’t gone as most expected when he was ranked as one of the nation’s best at his position in 2016. Taggart’s offenses have used the tight ends effectively in the past, including this year, where sophomore Jacob Breeland was third on the Ducks in receiving.
As a recruit: Another elite talent from the Mid-Atlantic region, Williams was also a national recruit who drew attention from coast-to-coast. He let his recruitment play out over the entire cycle, taking official visits to Florida State, Georgia, LSU and Texas A&M before announcing for the Seminoles on National Signing Day 2016.
What he’s done: Williams redshirted his first year on campus and then missed all of 2017 with an injury.
Why Taggart will help: Williams came in with all the hype in the world, with some even thinking he could be the No. 1 overall player in the 2016 class. Instead, he’s been marred by poor timing and injuries, and has yet to make an impact. But given a fresh slate, he will have every chance to earn playing time on an offensive line that will be anything but set heading into 2018 spring practice. If he’s fully healthy and puts in the work this offseason, Williams could earn playing time and start to live up to his lofty high school ranking.
As a recruit: Matthews emerged on the national recruiting scene very early in his high school career and he wasted no time committing to his dream school, pledging to Florida State in the summer following his freshman year of high school. He took late visits to Tennessee and Virginia Tech but was never really thought to be ending up anywhere else.
What he’s done: Matthews earned his way onto the field as a true freshman in 2017, catching three passes as a wide receiver but also serving as the team’s punt returner. As the year went along, he struggled with confidence and made some questionable decisions in the return game, drawing the ire of some Seminoles fans.
Why Taggart will help: The small, shifty wide receiver is dynamic with the ball in his hands, and Taggart and his staff have shown an ability to find creative ways to use players of Matthews' ability in the past. Look for him to have a much bigger role on offense, but at receiver and perhaps on gadget plays in 2018.