Willie Taggart’s first spring practice at Florida State begins March 21. Here’s a look at three offensive players who need to make a statement.
1. QB Bailey Hockman: Hockman, a redshirt freshman, could be exactly what Taggart is looking for in his “Gulf Coast Offense.” Hockman is a lefty who’s athletic and is considered a good passer while on the run. Gone is Jimbo Fisher’s pro-style offense and his “my system is the best in college football and you’ll learn it and execute it” approach. Taggart actually runs an offense geared to his quarterback’s strength. Deondre Francois, who has 14 career starts, still is recovering from his knee injury and will be limited this spring. That leaves Hockman and James Blackman, who started 12 times last season, to presumably get the bulk of the spring snaps. No one predicts Hockman to win the job, but his accuracy and deep ball could turn some heads this spring. Taggart’s fast-paced offense, which includes a no-huddle approached, will be different for all three quarterbacks and Hockman could prove to the best-suited for Taggart’s attack.
2. WR D.J. Matthews: Matthews was little-used as a true freshman last season, but showed his athleticism when he played. He should’ve been the punt returner all season (a mistake by Fisher) and did show how talented he was when given the opportunity. FSU only returns five scholarship wide receivers, and Matthews could be a force in Taggart’s new offense. Matthews is versatile and can be valuable in Taggart’s “get the ball in the playmakers’ hands” approach. I’d expect Matthews to be among the team leaders in receptions, with many of them coming at the or behind the line of scrimmage.
3. RB Khalan Laborn: Lost in the shuffle as a true freshman last season, Laborn still has the same players ahead of him on the depth chart. I believe Laborn, a former five-star prospect, will be too good to keep off the field even with Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick returning. Laborn is a do-it-all back who’s a good receiver out of the backfield; he may be better-suited for Taggart’s offense than Patrick or Amir Rasul. Laborn needs a solid spring. Many figured he would transfer, but by him staying, he obviously has the confidence that he can be a factor this season.
(You can follow Rick Ballou on Twitter @Ballou1010XL)
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