It’s only Year 2 for Willie Taggart, but the 2019 season is shaping up to be an important one for Florida State’s coach.
Taggart inherited a roster with potential, but one that also had problems that were perhaps more sizable than most of us — including Taggart — realized. Disorganization on and off the field, as well as key injuries at positions that lacked depth, all contributed to a 5-7 campaign in 2018. Now, Taggart’s team will need to show sizable growth as the coach’s blueprint will be closely scrutinized throughout the 2019 season.
Part of Taggart’s plan includes infusing youth — his recruits — into more prominent roles. His hope is that last season’s youth movement will help expedite the growth process this year. These are the players he’s leaning on to turn the culture around and fulfill his vision for FSU.
With that in mind, Noles247 begins its annual list of the 40 Most Important Players with an underclassman poised to take on a bigger role as a sophomore: RB Anthony Grant.
Here is how we assembled our list of FSU’s 40 Most Important Players: We tried to blend overall talent and projected contribution in 2018 with how vital a player’s success is to the team’s success. This list isn’t solely based on the mindset of “who is the best” talent, although that’s a factor. So a player at a position of more significance — like quarterback — will be given more consideration than a player at a less impactful position. Additionally, we focused on depth and stability at each position to determine just how “important” a player will be for FSU this season.
As a recruit:
2018: Played in all 12 games. …Led team with 11 kick returns for 247 yards, an average of 22.5 yards per return. …Rushed 5 times for 3 yards (0.6 YPC). …Totaled 9 tackles on special teams.
Grant carved out a role for himself on special teams as a rookie, making an impact as a returner as well as on coverage units. Essentially, he established himself as a tough and athletic football player. It sounds simple, but this is something FSU needs more of moving forward.
Last year was about showing that he belonged. Now Grant is aiming to earn more reps within the offense. FSU has two other scholarship backs ahead of him — Cam Akers and Khalan Laborn — but we’re often reminded of Grant’s upside when he stands out in ‘Nole Drill or when coaches/players bring him up unprovoked. Grant runs with natural balance and patience, and adds power to the end of his carries. FSU needs a bruiser who can also create for himself in space, and Grant has shown the ability to do both during practice. New coordinator Kendal Briles traditionally likes to utilize three running backs to various degrees, and Grant is positioned nicely to be the third member of FSU’s ground game.
Why No. 40
Grant is going to be a factor within FSU’s the season. Just how much of factor? That remains to be seen…but he’ll almost assuredly take on a bigger role within the offense (in addition to his duties on special teams.)
I’m high on Grant and have him on this list because he elevates FSU in a few key areas. First is on special teams, as he’s a good returner and an excellent coverage man. Second, he’s poised to get into the rotation on a more consistent level this year…and I’m bullish enough on his skill set to predict that he’ll produce enough early in the season to earn an increased workload. He’s skilled at finding creases and creating space for himself, and that could be an important trait if FSU’s line doesn’t show improvement this season. Finally, I think he’s the type of player who can push teammates to play with more intensity. There’s considerable value to that dynamic, and I think FSU will be a better program if it finds a way to get Grant more reps this season.
I probably had 4-5 guys penciled in at No. 40, and they didn’t make the list…but ultimately, I think Grant’s value as a “program guy” is important even if he’s projected to be RB3.