TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – An emotional Willie Taggart said becoming the football coach of the state of Florida was the fulfillment of a dream he had had since childhood.
"I want to start by telling everyone, do not be afraid to pursue your dream," said Taggart, a Bradenton native. "When I grew up playing football every day, at home, if I was not a fan of Noles, I would not stay in that house."
In his appearance at Florida State on Wednesday, Taggart named a list of former Seminoles who were his favorite players growing up, from Deion Sanders, Charlie Ward to Warrick Dunn. Taggart said he always leaned toward the Seminoles when he was training elsewhere, except in his days in South Florida.
"It's very surprising how life can put it where it should be, there are different ways to get there, crazy ways to get there," said Taggart. "All those years, I wanted to be a Nole, now we're here today and I'm the coach of the Seminoles of the State of Florida, I can officially say that I'm here now, & # 39; & # 39;
One of the immediate challenges that Taggart faces is the initial period of recruit signing that will take place from December 20 to 22. Taggart said he was eager to hit the road and recruit. Taggart's experience at USF should serve him well in the recruiting game because he focused on Sunshine State during the recruitment. During the last week, six commitments of the FSU announced that they were reopening their searches of where to attend the university.
"The best football in the country is here in the state of Florida, we have to go around the state of Florida and try to keep our best soccer players here," said Taggart. "But we're also a national brand and Florida State University does not have to settle for anything and we can pursue the best of them across the country, but we're going to take care of things at home."
Taggart said he would lead the "Gulf Coast offensive," a style he popularized at the USF.
"I like explosive plays, I like to score fast," said Taggart. "As long as we can score quickly and often, I'll be happy."
The 41-year-old coach trained in South Florida for four seasons before going to Oregon. Taggart has a record of 47-50 in his career, including 7-5 this season, but is known as a rebuilder. He arrived in Eugene after four years in South Florida, where he guided the Bulls from a 2-10 record in his first year to a 10-2 record last year and a place in the Birmingham Bowl.
Prior to that, he spent three seasons as head coach at his alma mater, Western Kentucky, inheriting a winless program that went around with consecutive winning seasons.
Taggart and Odell Haggins, Fisher's replacement on an interim basis, are the first African-American soccer coaches in the state of Florida. Haggins will hold the position for two games before handing over the reins to Taggart.
Haggins led the Seminoles (6-6) to a 42-10 victory over Louisiana-Monroe at the end of Saturday's regular season. He will coach the Seminoles at the Independence Bowl on December 27 against Southern Mississippi.
This was the first time that the state of Florida had to conduct a coaching search since 1975.
Bobby Bowden was the coach of the Seminoles for 34 seasons and put the program on the map with two national championships. Fisher was hired as an offensive coordinator in 2007 and was also named head coach. He took over in 2010 after Bowden's retirement.
When Taggart was hired by Oregon, he said he had three basic principles: "There are no excuses, do not blame anyone, do something," the tenants reiterated during their introductory press conference. "Doing something" became his motto for his first season with the ducks.
Oregon started last season 4-1 and even jumped briefly to the AP ranking, but starting quarterback Justin Herbert broke his collarbone and the Ducks failed, going 1-4 without him.
Herbert returned for the final two games of the season, both victories that led the Ducks to a bowl game in the only Taggart season. Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Mario Cristobal will be the interim coach when Oregon faces Boise State at the Las Vegas Bowl on December 16.
Taggart will have the task of restoring a program from the State of Florida that has not lived up to expectations in the last two seasons.
Since winning 33 of 34 games between 2013 and 2015, including a national championship, the Seminoles are 20-12, including 10-10 in the ACC.
Florida State ranked third in the pre-season Top 25 but lost quarterback Deondre Francois in the first game against Alabama and was hit by other injuries. The Seminoles won their last three games to finish 6-6 and extend their bowl streak to 36 consecutive seasons.
Taggart's contract with Oregon was for $ 16 million over five years that included a purchase of $ 3 million if he left before January 31, 2018. He was offered a four-year extension and $ 20 million made a week when it seemed that the state of Florida the work would be open.
Copyright 2017 by WJXT News4Jax. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material can not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed.