Willie Taggart has been presented with obstacles that few thought he would’ve faced since he was named Florida State’s coach on December.
His ability to turn programs around was considered a plus when he took over after Jimbo Fisher’s departure. Fisher did a tremendous job of putting FSU back on the map but left following a disappointing 2017 season. Combining Taggart’s experience with the idea of bringing in talented assistants Mario Cristobal and Jim Leavitt – both of whom had head-coaching experience as well as great relationships in the state of Florida – led folks to believe the new regime would hit the ground running and regain the recruiting advantage that FSU had during most of the Fisher years. But a promotion and a huge payday for Cristobal and Leavitt, respectively, meant Taggart had to undertake a nationwide search for assistants that has been much covered and much criticized.
The beauty in the disappointment of not getting those much-lauded assistants is that it forced Taggart to show that he not only can recruit young men but that he can recruit talented assistants. He brought some high-level recruiters from his Oregon staff, and he landed well-respected defensive minds in Harlon Barnett and Mark Snyder to go with one of the best defensive line coaches in the nation in Odell Haggins.
Most of the hiccups and drama came on offense. Much was made over not being able to land wide receivers coach Ron Dugans, a former Seminoles star, from Miami. Then there was the Mike Locksley saga. Both are good coaches but even better recruiters.
The defensive coaching staff has guys with experience who can help with game-planning and the adjustments necessary to compete with a traditionally tough schedule. But who on the offensive staff would help Taggart do the same thing?
Over the past week, fans – and I’m sure Taggart, as well – grew weary of seeing Locksley doing something similar to what he did last year with Florida. Then came word that Maryland offensive coordinator Walt Bell – a name few casual fans knew but nevertheless a respected mind in coaching circles – was interested. Bell holds weight as a budding offensive mind. He combines the energy you’d expect a young coach to have with the experience of working under respected offensive minds such as Larry Fedora, Blake Anderson and Mike Gundy (Bell is a former quality control coach at Oklahoma State). He has risen fast in the coaching ranks despite being just 33.
Bell has had many opportunities to shoot up the ladder even faster, but has been somewhat meticulous at crafting his résumé. Most notably, he reportedly turned down a shot at becoming head coach at UL Monroe in favor of becoming OC at Maryland for D.J. Durkin, himself a respected young coach. His impact was immediately felt at Maryland before injuries stifled the process. The Terps had three starting quarterbacks in 2016 and had to use four in ’17.
© 2016, gridironnow.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.