Florida State hiring Willie Taggart was excellent news for new Florida coach Dan Mullen.
Because it means Jimbo Fisher is gone.
Taggart, 41, might become a star. I believe he will, despite a 47-50 career coaching record. Still, Mullen’s first week on the job in Gainesville was marked by tremendous fortune with the news coming out of Tallahassee that Fisher was leaving for Texas A&M.
Fisher was 7-1 vs. Florida, winning the last five meetings. He won a national title with the Seminoles. He produced a Heisman-winning, top-overall pick in quarterback Jameis Winston. He groomed two other first-round quarterbacks at FSU in E.J. Manuel and Christian Ponder. And Fisher was an elite recruiter for FSU. His last four classes were ranked sixth, third, third and fourth nationally.
Sure, Fisher now is in the SEC at Texas A&M, but he’ll be a non-factor for UF unless the teams meet for the SEC title. The Gators don’t play the Aggies again until 2022. That would be Year Five for Mullen and Fisher.
Fisher has been building relationships with top Florida prospects in the classes of 2018 and ’19 for years. He could boast that he owned the Gators. Mullen would’ve been at an incredible disadvantage. That disappears as most of those prospects likely won’t be heading to College Station with Fisher.
Mullen has had an eight-day head start on Taggart. In the coaching world, that’s about 160 hours. Several of Mullen’s assistants also have been working for UF for a week. That time should be vital with the early signing period approaching on December 20.
As of Wednesday morning, the Gators have the nation’s 14th-best class; the Seminoles are 30th. Taggart will gain ground, but Mullen should be able to bring in a comparable class. It’s highly unlikely that would’ve occurred with Fisher still at the helm.
Fisher has star power. Taggart does not. He’s coached at Western Kentucky and USF. When he landed a Power Five job, it was at Oregon and that lasted for a year with the Ducks making no national noise at 7-5.
Coaching three schools in three years is something Taggart will have to answer to on the recruiting trail as well. That’s a lot of players Taggart signed and then left behind. Prospects might understand, but their parents might not.
Mullen’s not a star, either, but he’s more recognizable than Taggart. Mullen did guide Mississippi State to a No. 1 ranking for five weeks in 2014 and eight consecutive bowl appearances. He coached star quarterbacks in Alex Smith, Chris Leak, Tim Tebow, Dak Prescott and Nick Fitzgerald.
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