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Clinic Talk: It’s never too early to look at Florida State

What Willie Taggart’s offense will look like at FSU

Capital One Orange Bowl - Miami v Wisconsin Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images

The rivalry between the Miami Hurricanes and Florida State Seminoles finally turned the ‘Canes way in 2017 but it took some minor miracles and the departure of Dalvin Cook to the NFL. Heading into 2018, the ‘Noles have a new coaching staff and a new star running back in Cam Akers. Yet FSU still has some holes to fill along their offense where wide receivers have been underachieving, tight ends underutilized, and the quarterbacks were sacked over 30 times on the season.

Willie Taggart likes to use the tight end as a pass catcher in midfield mismatches as well as run-pass options, the inside zone read play, and even runs power from his h-back looks. Here are a few things to look ahead to from a Willie Taggart offense.

Power with the H-Back

Power from 11 personnel (1 RB | 1 HB) is one of my favorite plays in football. Power is a traditional Wing-T play that’s become a staple of shotgun and pistol based offenses around the country. Coach Taggart’s scheme up in Eugene was benefitting from not only having a cerebral, athletic and accurate passer in Justin Herbert (when healthy) but also the pounding running of Royce Freeman.

Cam Akers will give Taggart more speed and less boom but he’s still a powerful runner. James Blackman, the anticipated starter in Tallahassee, isn’t quite Herbert but Taggart will adjust his scheme accordingly. He’s shown that at USF and Oregon and will continue to adapt with the times.

The point of power is to get an extra blocker at the point of attack by pulling the backside guard. The center will block down to pick up anyone that comes his way. The play side guard will block the nose tackle (0 technique), while the play side tackle will block the defensive tackle lined up on his inside shoulder (called a 4i technique).

The H-Back will “kick out” the defensive end, linebacker, or safety (you can define him however you’d like) and the back’s job is to run inside of the kick out and behind the pulling guard who “wraps” through the offensive line.

Mesh- Air Raid Passing Concept

Mesh is an old school Air Raid staple concept involving a deeper crossing route with a shallow cross that will force linebackers to switch coverage responsibilities, draw the attention of cornerbacks and lure safeties down into the box.

Thus, the crossers (wide receivers running the crossing routes) either come open completely, or allow other receivers to come open because of the focus being put on them.

In the clip we’re using as evidence, the corner is thrown open meaning Herbert puts the ball into the back corner where only his receiver can come down with it. Yet, the swing route with the running back and the shallow cross both come wide open on the play. Nebraska has no answer for mesh, and many teams fail to cover it properly.

Miami’s linebackers will have to play much better in space and the cornerbacks will have to look less lost in coverages to play disciplined football against mesh.

Play-Action Passing

I label my H-Backs as tight ends in personnel groupings, especially if they regularly line up in the slot, wing, or as a tight end. That’s why the personnel is labeled 12 instead of 21 here. However, Coach Taggart seems to have a main H-Back that serves as a fullback and wing while there’s a tight end that serves as an inline tight end and slot.

Then again he’s motioning, shifting, and lining guys up everywhere for schematic advantages so I’m calling it 12 personnel. The most important thing to say is I can see Tre’ McKitty and Naseir Upshur on the field at the same time like Jacob Breeland and Cam McCormick were at times in 2017 at Oregon.

With McKitty the more NFL prototype tight end and Upshur a fullback built they’re both going to be on the field. In the play-action clip shown, the purpose of the outside receivers is to run vertical routes that will turn the cornerbacks’ hips. That way the CB’s eyes are off the football and quarterback.

The “drag” route the tight end runs from the left to the right of the screen is ran at 10-15 yards and starts to turn upfield to avoid the safeties and find spacing. The “slip” or “flat” route from the fullback is a great outlet route.

The QB will read high to low, in other words he wants to hit the deep drag but will settle for the flat route and a safe completion. The play also leaves the flat defender to make a choice: play the quarterback or the fullback. Either way it’s a mistake.


Miami will know plenty about the Seminoles by October 6th as FSU plays Virginia Tech at home and Syracuse and Louisville on the road before the annual showdown against the ‘Canes. The ‘Noles will have to work out their quarterback issue and shore up the offensive line but Akers, wide receiver Nyqwan Murray, McKitty and Upshur will all be major players along with power back Jacques Patrick.

Coach Taggart has adapted to the times and to his surroundings having gone to a more spread-to-run based offense at USF with Quinton Flowers but settled into more of a pro style approach with Justin Herbert. It will be interesting to see the Seminoles and Hokies to start the season.