Taggart says Jim Leavitt will be someone Barnett, FSU staff can 'lean on'
Willie Taggart's signature announcement on social media when he lands a new commitment is, "Ring! Ring! Great phone call for the 'Noles."
That's his way of letting Florida State fans on Twitter know that the Seminoles have landed another coveted recruit.
Taggart didn't make any such posts this week, but he probably should have.
After reaching back out to former Oregon defensive coordinator and USF head coach Jim Leavitt to ask if he would join the Seminoles' staff as a defensive analyst -- Taggart originally made the offer during the summer -- the Seminoles' head coach finally got a positive response this week.
Leavitt has joined the Seminoles' staff, and his official title will be Senior Defensive Analyst.
"It was something we had talked about before," Taggart confirmed Thursday morning prior to the Seminoles' final practice before heading to Charlottesville, Va., to face the No. 25 Cavaliers. "Picked up the phone and called, and he said, 'Absolutely.'"
When asked what was different this time around, Taggart said it must have been, "the right timing."
Because FSU does not have an opening for an on-the-field coaching position, Leavitt will be an off-field analyst. That means he can help with video breakdowns and game-planning and participate in meetings, but he cannot actually do hands-on coaching during practices. He can attend the practices and talk with players outside of drills.
Leavitt is considered one of the top defensive coaches in college football and has more than 30 years of college and NFL experience.
"I think it's a great addition to our football staff, our football team, to get someone of that quality and that experience to be in the defensive room," Taggart said. "Someone that Coach [Harlon] Barnett and the other defensive coaches can lean on. I think it's a plus for our football team, and I think it's something that will help our football team."
FSU defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett has come under intense scrutiny after two poor performances by his defense to start the season. First, the Seminoles gave up more than 600 yards of offense in the season opener to Boise State, and then they surrendered 44 points in an overtime victory against Louisiana-Monroe.
Taggart said he told Barnett that he wanted to bring Leavitt on to help with the staff, and he said Barnett was happy about the addition.
"I talked to Coach Barnett and told him what my thinking ... what I wanted for our football team," Taggart said. "Asked him what he thought about it, and he was excited. He thought it would help our football team. Again, whenever we can help our football team and help ourselves get better, then we're gonna try to do that."
Leavitt was head coach at USF from 1997 through 2009 and later served as an assistant coach with the San Francisco 49ers before returning to the college ranks as defensive coordinator at Colorado and Oregon.
He worked for Taggart for one season at Oregon and stayed on last season under new head coach Mario Cristobal, but was dismissed earlier this year.
Leavitt was seen walking into FSU's practice Thursday morning. When asked if he will be with the team in an official capacity this weekend at Virginia, Taggart smiled and said, "We'll see."