Willie Taggart’s debut season at Florida State did not go as planned, to put it nicely. Virginia Tech routed the Seminoles 24-3 in the opener, and it didn’t get much better from there; the record 36-year bowl streak ended with a 41-14 home loss to Florida, dooming Florida State to its first losing campaign since 1976.
After watching his offense finish 110th in yards per play and 113th in scoring, Taggart essentially wiped the slate clean on that side of the ball. Kendal Briles and Randy Clements were hired away from Houston to serve as the offense’s architect and general contractor, and former Seminole player and GA Ron Dugans was scooped up from Miami to coach the ‘Noles wide receivers.
Which is where Taggart ran into a problem.
In moving from Oregon to Florida State, Taggart brought David Kelly with him and named him FSU’s assistant head coach and wide receivers coach. Kelly was Taggart’s assistant AD for football recruiting operations at Oregon and his director of player personnel at South Florida, which put him under the umbrella of the IAWP rule. If you can recall back to the controversy of the day from two years ago, the IAWP rule prohibits head coaches from hiring high school coaches or other “individuals associated with a prospect” for a 2-year period before and after said prospect’s enrollment — unless that person is hired to an on-the-field coaching role.
The intent of the rule was to prevent coaching staffs with deep pockets from hiring a 5-star’s high school coach as an analyst and stashing him in a corner somewhere as a quid pro quo for said 5-star’s enrollment. However, programs were free to hire high school coaches and other IAWPs directly to their on-the-field staff. If you’re that big a fan of this guy, the NCAA said, hire him straight to your coaching staff.
The NCAA classified Kelly as an IAWP, which meant he had to remain on Florida State’s on-the-field staff for 2019.
Taggart wasn’t going to unhire Dugans, so Florida State applied for a waiver to move Kelly to an off-the-field role, which would then allow FSU to hire a 10th assistant on the defensive side of the ball, where Taggart currently has only four assistants instead of the preferred five.
The NCAA denied Florida State’s appeal.
“We tried to get a waiver with Coach Kelly and unfortunately the waiver didn’t come through for us moving him off the field,” Taggart told Noles247 on Monday. “If that happens then a couple of our players will be ineligible. That’s one of those unintended consequences and we thought we’d get the waiver, considering the fact Coach Kelly has been with me at two other spots, not just out out of high school.”
Still, Taggart has no need for two wide receivers coaches, so Kelly will transition to recruiting coordinator while still counting as one of Florida State’s 10 on-the-field assistants. Coupled with Mark Snyder’s move to special teams coordinator, Florida State’s 2019 staff will look like this:
Kendal Briles — Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Donte’ Pimpleton — Running backs
Ron Dugans — Wide receivers
Telly Lockette — Tight ends
Randy Clements — Offensive line
David Kelly — Recruiting coordinator
Harlon Barnett — Defensive coordinator/defensive backs
Odell Haggins — Associate head coach/defensive tackles
Raymond Woodie — Linebackers
Mark Snyder — Special teams coordinator/linebackers
There’s nothing stopping Kelly from pitching in on-the-field where he can, but clearly Florida State will spend 2019 with an imbalance on its staff.
There’s no dedicated defensive ends coach (Haggins will likely take over duties there, but nothing’s been announced yet), while Barnett is wholly responsible for four-to-five players on top of coordinating the defense. Snyder, who coached defensive ends in 2018, will handle the special teams and help out with linebackers — all while the offense employs two wide receivers coaches by trade and a tight ends coach.
It’s not an ideal scenario any way you slice it, but it’s one Florida State will have to live with for the upcoming season.