College football’s landscape changes virtually every offseason between recruiting and the coaching carousel, and this one was no different. As such, there are a number of programs who haven’t been as successful as they’d have liked who are on the way up now.
Some of these squads put the building blocks in place last season and are looking to take another step forward in 2018. Others have made major coaching changes, and the new hires should propel them forward. Whatever the case, here’s a look at 10 college football teams who will begin the 2018 on the rise.
10) Florida Atlantic
The Owls began their rapid rise in 2017 when they brought Lane Kiffin in as their head coach. He promptly went 11-3 with a bowl win, setting Florida Atlantic up for another potential step forward in 2018. They have a legitimate star in running back Devin Singletary and an early test against Oklahoma. The Owls have real ambitions to at minimum challenge for the Group of 5’s New Year’s Six team.
Florida State is expected to begin the 2018 season without one of its starting offensive lineman, as sophomore left tackle Josh Ball has reportedly been suspended in the wake of allegations that he was violent toward his ex-girlfriend.
According to Warchant.com, an FSU judicial panel decided to suspend Allen after reviewing claims his ex-girlfriend, Florida State student Sandra Sellers, made against him when she filed paperwork last September seeking “protection against dating violence.” Sellers says Allen attacked her on more than one occasion, including an incident in December 2016 in which he allegedly slapped her in the face, a March 2017 incident in which he shoved her to the floor and an altercation in April 2017 where Sellers says she was left with a cut on her knee after Allen grabbed her and shoved her numerous times.
Sellers believes Allen is a danger to himself and others and stated that she witnessed incidents in which he became violent with other people. She shared a screenshot on social media Monday that claimed to show the FSU ruling against Ball.
“This long journey has finally come to an end! After two long days of testifying and two agonizing weeks of waiting for this letter, it’s finally here,” Sellers wrote in her post. “Thank you FSU for making campus a better place.”
Ball was never charged by Tallahassee Police or the state attorney’s office after Sellers filed the complaint.
It’s unclear how long Sellers has been suspended for, but new Seminoles head coach Willie Taggart may have to look at other options for a starting left tackle.
Deondre Francois has found himself in some legal trouble after police investigated a tip they received that the Florida State quarterback was selling marijuana out of his apartment in Tallahassee.
According to a search warrant obtained by the Orlando Sentinel, Tallahassee police received a tip from an anonymous male who said he was inside Francois’s apartment in February and saw a large bag full of marijuana, which was estimated by police to be about two pounds. Investigators got a warrant to search through Francois’s garbage on four separate occasions, and they believed the evidence supported the claim that Francois was involved with criminal activity.
Among the contents TPD found in Francois’ garbage and during their Thursday apartment search: multiple plastic bags with cannabis residue, innards of blunt cigars, a Bob Marley grinder, an instant drug test cup, three vials of pain medication, two iPads with broken screens, three iPhones and an FSU student ID card for running back Zaquandre White.A Leon County judge approved the eight-page search warrant on April 6.
Police conducted a search of Francois’s apartment last Thursday and found 17 grams of marijuana and other drug paraphernalia near his bed. The 21-year-old claimed the drugs belonged to his girlfriend Diamond Lindsey, who was in the apartment at the time, and told police he “can’t smoke right now.” He claimed the last time he used marijuana was in December.
Francois was not arrested and instead was offered the chance to participate in a pre-trial diversion program, which involves community service and probation for anywhere from three months to a year. He could also be asked to participate in a substance abuse program. Florida State head coach Willie Taggart said Francois is “still with our football team” and that he hopes the QB can make better choices going forward.
“He’s got to be smart about who he’s around and what he’s around, and make good decisions,” Taggart said. “I advise him to just make sure he’s around his teammates all the time.”
Francois was also accused of domestic violence back in January, but he was later cleared.
If you remember, Francois was at odds with Jimbo Fisher over the way Fisher left Florida State to take the job at Texas A&M. He now gets a fresh start with Taggart, but it doesn’t sound like he has gotten off on the right foot.
Willie Taggart has wasted no time embracing the culture and history at Florida State since taking the head coaching job for the Seminoles.
Taggart left Oregon after one season to take the FSU job following Jimbo Fisher’s departure to Texas A&M. He’s already had legendary coach Bobby Bowden at a team practice, and now he turned Saturday’s spring game into a reunion.
According to the Orlando Sentinel’s Safid Deen, there were over 300 former Seminoles players at the spring game.
“It was just good to see them all,” Taggart said, via the Sentinel’s Deen. “You’ve seen guys from the ‘60s, the ‘70s, the ‘80s, the ‘90s and the 2000s. This place is so special. We have so much tradition and so many great players.
“This is their program, and we always want them back. We want them involved.”
Deen says the alumni in attendance seemed pleased to be invited back and welcomed. A photo shows that Deion Sanders was among those in attendance. As for why Taggart held his reunion now instead of during the fall season, he said it was so they could really mix things up without having to worry about the pressure of a regular season game at the same time. That makes plenty of sense.
Some of college football’s traditional powers have really fallen by the wayside. Sometimes they fall victim to unrealistic expectations, and other times they simply don’t recruit or play well enough to match the talent on display. One season of poor play isn’t the end of the world, but if struggles continue, it can be very bad news for a program.
Here are ten programs that underwhelmed last year and could really use a quick turnaround.
A tumultuous season that began with off-field disciplinary issues ultimately led to the firing of coach Jim McElwain. The tumult meant the Gators fell from two consecutive SEC title game appearances to a 4-7 record. Bringing in new coach Dan Mullen should help, and the Gators have turned things around quickly before, but this was not a year to remember for them, nor is it a year the fanbase will tolerate much more of.
Butch Jones wasn’t exactly beloved in Knoxville even after back-to-back nine win seasons, so a four-win 2017 was the end of him. It’s been over a decade — 2007, to be exact — since the Vols finished atop their SEC division (they won a head-to-head tie with Georgia). That’s too long for this fanbase. Jeremy Pruitt is the new coach after a rather embarrassing search, which cost the former athletic director his job. Pruitt’s first job will be to get fan support behind them and have the Vols bowl-eligible again. Then they can go from there.
Bobby Bowden visited Florida State’s practice as a guest of new head coach Willie Taggart.
The Seminoles are making preparations for the upcoming season under Taggart. On Wednesday, the team welcomed the man who guided the program for over three decades.
Bowden had a standing invitation from Taggart to stop by and visit a football practice, which was extended when Taggart met with the coach. Bowden decided to take Taggart up on the offer this week. While his status at the university is legendary, Bowden made sure to emphasize he’s not looking over Taggart’s shoulder.
“I don’t want to be looking over Willie. I don’t want people to think I’m looking over his shoulder,” Bowden told The Orlando Sentinel. “I’m behind him all the way. He’s our man.”
Bowden made a point to not go to practices when Jimbo Fisher was Florida State’s head coach for the reason he stated. However, this is a different time for the Seminoles and there is not a dynamic between Bowden and Taggart like there was with Bowden and Fisher, who served as Bowden’s offensive coordinator.
Bowden spent 34 seasons as the Seminoles head coach. He led them to 417 wins and two national championships. It goes without saying that his presence will always be appreciated and welcomed around campus. It was a nice gesture by Taggart to open the doors of the practice facility to one of the game’s great coaches.
Willie Taggart has instituted a new policy regarding single-digit numbers for the Florida State football team.
As the program transitions from Jimbo Fisher to the newly-hired Taggart, it’s understandable that changes in philosophies would be part of the process. Included in that is how uniform numbers one through nine will be distributed.
In the past, players could carry their numbers over from one year to the next. Now, single-digit numbers will have to be earned during practice.
“I know when I was growing up the single digits went to the dudes. That’s kind of how we want it,” Taggart told the Associated Press. “Not everyone can be a single digit. Getting it is being one of the best.”
Florida State has enjoyed success over the past few decades that has been matched by few programs in the country. During that time, several players who had standout careers sported single-digit numbers on their jerseys. Deion Sanders, LeRoy Butler, Corey Sawyer, Sam Cowart, Peter Warrick, Jameis Winston, Jalen Ramsey, and Dalvin Cook are just a few who have have worn single-digit numbers.
The next crop of players to join that group will have to earn their way, including running back Cam Akers. Akers was the Seminoles’ leading rusher last season. He did so wearing No. 3. During spring practice he has been wearing No. 23.