Geoff Burke

Florida State coach search updates

Florida State needs to make two more offensive coaching hires.

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38 Total Updates since January 11, 2013
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Tim Brewster to FSU

FSU's coaching search spanned three months, but finally appears to be over.


FSU salaries: Randy Sanders, Billy Napier

With the official announcements of the coaching hires of RB coach Randy Sanders and TE coach Billy Napier comes the release of the salary figures.

Randy Sanders will make $225,000 in his first year, and $325,000 in his second, plus bonuses.

Napier also signed a two year contract. He will make $275,000 in both years, plus bonuses.


Florida State announces hire of Randy Sanders

Tallahassee, FL - Florida State head football coach Jimbo Fisher completed his coaching staff with the hiring of Randy Sanders.


Florida State announces hire of Billy Napier

Tallahassee, FL - Florida State head football coach Jimbo Fisher completed his coaching staff with the hiring of Billy Napier and Randy Sanders.


Charles Kelly salary details

Looks like their FOIA request came in.

Charles Kelly, Florida State's new linebackers coach and special teams coordinator, will make $275,000 annually as part of a three-year deal.

My take: that is a steal and shows how much he wanted to work at Florida State. I thought FSU would have to pay at least 30% more than that.


Burton Burns spurns Florida State, will stay at Al

The search for a running back coach continues.


FSU Contacts Alabama's Burns

Florida State has reached out to Alabama running backs coach regarding vacancy left by Eddie Gran.


FSU to hire Charles Kelly as linebacker coach?

With the news that Greg Hudson has found another job (Florida State was not going to retain him, but he and Fisher are close friends and a new hire wasn't going to be announced before Hudson found a landing spot), it is now time to talk about the linebacker coach position.

It appears that the new man may be Charles Kelly (according to a few reports), the interim defensive coordinator and defensive back coach at Georgia Tech.

What do we know about Kelly? This from our email string.

Here's his GT bio:
Special teams coordinator in 06 and 07, so presumably he'll fill that role.
Seems to be regarded as a good recruiter.
Only specifically an LB coach at a high school back in 00 and 01, but may have coached LBs during one of his DC stints.
Seemed to make GT's defense quite a bit better when he took over mid-season.
GT is a 3-4, but Kelly has been a secondary coach the entire time that GT has played a 3-4, so I'm not sure how much of a "3-4 guy" he is.

So there you have it.


Greg Hudson back to ECU likely, per report

Florida State's Greg Hudson is not expected to be retained by coach Jimbo Fisher. The question for several weeks now has been one of Hudson's landing spot. We may now have an answer, thanks to @FootballScoop:


Sunseri is official

Former Tennessee defensive coordinator will coach FSU in the Discover Orange Bowl.


Salary numbers for Jeremy Pruitt, Sal Sunseri

Florida State released the salary numbers Thursday from the offer letters to new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and new defensive assistant Sal Sunseri.

Pruitt will make $540,000 annually, roughly five-percent less than Mark Stoops made. That makes sense, given Pruitt's complete lack of experience as a coordinator. Earlier in the week, rumors circulated that Florida State was paying Pruitt close to $900,000.

Sunseri, who is expected to coach defensive ends (though he could also coach linebackers), will make $199,000 annually. That's roughly what former defensive end coach D.J. Eliot was making, before leaving for Kentucky. Sunseri is still being paid by Tennessee for the 2013 and 2014 seasons, in the amounts of $600,000 and $650,000 in 2014, respectively, to make up the difference between his original Tennessee salary and what he is making in Tallahassee.

Florida State did not release the length of the contracts, though both are slated to officially start January 5.

H/t Ferrante


Could Greg Hudson head to Louisiana Tech?

Multiple news outlets are speculating that Florida State linebacker coach Greg Hudson, who is not expected to return to Florida State, could head to Louisiana Tech.

Skip Holtz is the new head coach at Louisiana Tech after being fired by USF. Hudson was Holtz' defensive coordinator at East Carolina, and a very good one, before coming to Tallahassee.

The Louisiana Tech job would be a cushy landing for Hudson, who was rumored to be taking the football operations job vacated by Erik Korem, who left for Kentucky with former Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops and defensive end coach DJ Eliot.


Jeremy Pruitt hired as FSU's defensive coordinator

From Alabama to Tallahassee.


Who is Jeremy Pruitt?

I've received quite a few emails about Alabama's defensive backs coach Jeremy Pruitt for the Florida State defensive coordinator opening. I'll assume this is because Noles 247 floated his name a few days ago.

Here's what I know about Pruitt.

He's about 37 years old (I couldn't find a birth date, but his senior year of HS football was 1992).

Pruitt is a tremendous recruiter. He is young, connects well with kids, and owns lower Alabama and the Florida panhandle for the Crimson Tide. His track record as a recruiter is great.

His track record as a coach, however, is another matter.

Pruitt played defensive back for Middle Tennessee and Alabama, and was a very good high school player. With the exception of one year (1999, as DB coach at West Alabama), he coached high school, for almost a decade until he was hired at Alabama in 2007.

Bama picked him as "director of player development" which isn't exactly a coaching position, but a position on staff that has some coaching-like duties. He was then promoted in 2010 to be Alabama's defensive back coach.

There are a couple of ways one can view the promotion.

The first is that Saban has to trust Pruitt well enough to let him coach defensive backs.

The other is that Saban is still very hands on with the defensive backs, which are his specialty, as is Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, and that Pruitt might be on Alabama's staff to be a recruiter more than anything.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Alabama's defenses have been great while Pruitt has been there, but also great before he arrived. And there is almost no way to separate the play of Alabama's defensive backs and attribute certain things to Pruitt and not Saban.

What is a fact, however is that Pruitt has no experience as a defensive coordinator at any level of college or pro football. He does have experience as a DC at a very high level of high school football, but the amount of game planning and complexity of attack changes a bit in college.

I usually have an opinion one way or another about a coach, but I'm not sure what else to say about Pruitt.

When I explored the possibility of giving the job to DJ Eliot, FSU's defensive ends coach who had about as much defensive coordinator experience as Pruitt (Eliot has since left for Kentucky), I ultimately concluded that while Fisher's working relationship put him in a unique position to evaluate Eliot, it would probably be too risky to hire him given the strength of the position and that Fisher is an offensive-mined coach, which would be different if he could guide Eliot along the way.

For Pruitt, the same thoughts apply, except the relationship changes, as instead of Fisher evaluating Pruitt's coaching ability on a daily basis, he'd be relying on his pal Nick Saban to give him the good word.

I'm not saying that Pruitt would do a poor job, but rather noting the inherent risks of hiring someone with so little experience.


Randy Shannon?

Err. Umm.


Ellis Johnson to Auburn, per multiple reports

There are now multiple reports that Auburn has hired Ellis Johnson as its defensive coordinator.

Johnson was believed to be the top candidate for Florida State.

A source connected with Johnson and the search told me yesterday that Johnson knew that he would be pursued by Florida State, but that Auburn could pay considerably more.

This jives with what I wrote yesterday and last week:

Johnson will be 61 by Christmas. He is an excellent coach of defense, and isn't going to be getting a major head coaching job even if he had a great two-year run at Florida State.

And because of that, money is going to be more important to Johnson than it might be some defensive coordinators. Auburn, Tennessee and Arkansas could pay Johnson about 50-percent more than Florida State could. For that reason, don't expect Johnson to commit to Florida State before those are filled.

If the reports are true, this would be one of the first instances after the new TV deals of a mid-level (not a top-five job) SEC school being able to outbid Florida State for a coach (though I personally do not think this is a new phenomenon).

We'll be discussing this more in the off-season, and will have more DC discussion later today.


Ellis Johnson interviewing with Auburn, per report

Ellis Johnson, the defensive coordinator candidate I profiled for the Florida State opening recently, is in Auburn today interviewing to become Gus Malzahn's defensive coordinator.

Ellis Johnson interviewing for Auburn coaching staff, according to report -
Former South Carolina defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson is reported to be in Auburn interviewing for new coach Gus Malzahn's staff.

This could be one of the first instances of a mid-level SEC school being able to simply outbid Florida State for a coach, as I noted yesterday.

Johnson will be 61 by Christmas. He is an excellent coach of defense, and isn't going to be getting a major head coaching job even if he had a great two-year run at Florida State.

And because of that, money is going to be more important to Johnson than it might be some defensive coordinators. Auburn, Tennessee and Arkansas could pay Johnson about 50-percent more than Florida State could. For that reason, don't expect Johnson to commit to Florida State before those are filled.

Stay tuned.


Gene Chizik?

This rumor surfaced today. I have no reason to believe it is true.

Here is Gene Chizik's resume as a defensive coordinator, via Wikipedia.

While at Central Florida in Orlando, Chizik frequently visited practice sessions of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers studying the Bucs' defensive scheme developed by then-Bucs head coach Tony Dungy, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and linebackers coach Lovie Smith.[5]

Chizik later employed a very similar scheme at Auburn, where he served again as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach from 2002-04. During this time, he had some of the greatest successes of his career to date. He coached in three bowl games, the 2003 Capital One Bowl, 2004 Music City Bowl, and 2005 Sugar Bowl. His 2004 defensive unit led the country in scoring defense, giving up 11.3 points per game,[6] and the total defense ranked 5th, which is the same ranking the 2003 team recorded.[7] He garnered the 2004 Broyles Award, which is given each year to the top assistant coach in the nation. The 2004 Auburn Tigers football team finished 13-0 that year, won the SEC title, and defeated Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. It placed second in the final AP and Coaches polls.[8]

In 2005, Chizik was hired by Texas to serve as their co-defensive coordinator, assistant head coach, and linebackers coach.[9] During his time at Texas, the team won the 2005 NCAA Division I-A national football championship by defeating USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl.

He later coached Iowa State to a 5-19 record and was abysmal at Auburn without Cam Newton (19-19 record). He was recently fired and is receiving almost $200,000 per month for the next seven five years. [Editor's note: apologies, I did not source the original years calculation correctly.] He does not need to work a day again in his life.

I had not heard Chizik mentioned as a serious candidate, so today when this rumor exploded, I was surprised. It apparently came from the Tim Brando show, and their producer contacted me with the actual audio that was being misrepresented, to clear things up. Here it is:

All of the candidates I profile here are somehow relevant to the job, except Chizik. I'm discussing Chizik only to shoot down this rumor, as enough of you emailed about it and I have heard nothing to indicate it is at all likely.


FSU defensive coordinator candidate: Ellis Johnson

Tomahawk Nation continues its profile of potential defensive coordinator candidates.


Florida State DC candidate: Geoff Collins?

We continue to profile coaches who may be candidates for the vacant Florida State defensive coordinator job.

Well this is interesting. I have a pretty good list of names we'll be discussing over the next week or two, but this, from, was not among them.

Geoff Collins (Mississippi State - co-defensive coordinator / linebackers): Although Collins doesn't call the plays for the Bulldogs, he did an incredible job at FIU before coming to Starkville. He turned one of the nation's worst defenses at FIU into the best in the Sun Belt. He has spent time at UCF, so he has plenty of ties to the state, and he spent one year in an off-the-field role at Alabama under Nick Saban, so he knows how that operation works. He also knows people on the FSU staff.

As best I can tell, Collins has nine years of defensive coordinator experience at various levels as well as as experience coaching defensive backs and linebackers. He is 41 years old and a Georgia native. Here is his Mississippi State bio.

When head coach Dan Mullen had a spot to fill on his defensive staff, he set his sights on one of the rising stars on that side of the ball. Geoff Collins came to Mississippi State in 2011 as the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach after putting together a remarkable resume during stints at Florida International and UCF.

Collins immediately raised the bar at linebackers for the MSU squad, coaching Cameron Lawrence to 123 total tackles in 2011, ranking top five in the SEC. In addition, former walk-on Brandon Wilson reached 94 tackles last season under Collins' tutelage.

In his year before joining the Bulldogs, Collins' defensive unit led the Sun Belt in total defense, scoring defense, pass efficiency defense and turnover margin; all a remarkable accomplishment for a group that finished 119th nationally in total defense and 111th in scoring defense in 2009. The Panthers' sack totals nearly doubled, and the pass defense improved from 108th nationally to 32nd in 2010. For his efforts, Collins was a finalist for the Broyles Award - given annually to the nation's top assistant coach.

Collins made the move to FIU after a pair of seasons as the linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator at UCF. In his first season in Orlando, Collins helped UCF's defense rank second in Conference USA in total and scoring defense. Before joining the Knights' staff, Collins spent a year as the director of player personnel at Alabama. The previous year at Georgia Tech, Collins' efforts led to the Yellow Jackets best recruiting class in their storied history.

In 2002 Collins became the defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach at his alma mater, Western Carolina, and inherited one of the worst defensive units statistically in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. In 2003, under Collins' direction, the Catamount defense emerged as one of the best in the nation.

In 2005, the Western Carolina defense was ranked No. 1 nationally in pass defense along with being ranked 18th nationally in total defense. Collins' unit also finished ranked first in the Southern Conference in total defense and pass defense along with several other defensive categories.

Prior to returning to Western Carolina, Collins spent three years with current UCF head coach George O'Leary at Georgia Tech. Collins began his career on the Flats as the defensive graduate assistant working with the linebackers in 1999 and with the defensive backs in 2000.

Before his days at Georgia Tech, Collins spent two years as the defensive coordinator and linebackers and secondary coach at Albright College in Reading, Pa. In 1997, the NCAA Division III program boasted the leading defense in its conference and ranked in the top 10 nationally in all defensive categories.

In 1996, Collins served as an assistant coach at Fordham, working with the outside linebackers while also serving as the junior varsity defensive coordinator. He also spent one season (1995) as an assistant coach at Franklin (N.C.) High School while student teaching in the Macon County Public Schools.

During his playing days at Western Carolina, Collins tallied 194 tackles as an outside linebacker and defensive back from 1989-92. He was the team's fifth-leading tackler as a junior with 68, while registering 6.0 tackles for loss. As a senior, he helped Western to a 7-4 record, logging 62 total takedowns and 5.0 tackles for loss. He began his coaching career as a student assistant on the Western Carolina staff in 1993.

A native of Conyers, Ga., who attended Rockdale County High School, Collins earned a bachelor's degree from Western Carolina in sport management and exercise science in 1994, and then completed the education curriculum in 1995. He did postgraduate work in psychology at Fordham University and Georgia Tech.

Coaching Experience
2011- Mississippi State (Co-Defensive Coordinator/ Linebackers)
2010: Florida International (Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers)
2008-09: UCF (Linebackers / Recruiting Coordinator)
2007: Alabama (Director of Player Personnel)
2006: Georgia Tech (Recruiting Coordinator)
2002-05: Western Carolina (Defensive Coordinator / Defensive Backs)
1999-2001: Georgia Tech (Graduate Assistant)
1997-98: Albright College (Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers)
1995: Franklin (N.C.) High School
1993-94: Western Carolina (Student Assistant)

Personal Information
Birthdate: April 10, 1971
Hometown: Conyers, Ga.
Education: 1994 - Bachelor's degree from Western Carolina
Wife: Jennifer

Thoughts? I really don't know much about him.

Mississippi State had a very good defense last year, but not as good this year.

I do know that he runs a 4-3 defense with an emphasis on size, which fits with what Fisher wants at least in some respects (see depth chart below).

DE 92 KALEB EULLS 6-4 280 SO.
91 Preston Smith 6-6 245 So.
DT 97 JOSH BOYD 6-3 300 SR.
93 P.J. Jones 6-3 280 So.
74 Dewayne Cherrington 6-3 325 Sr.
DE 90 DENICO AUTRY 6-5 255 JR.
96 Shane McCardell 6-5 260 Sr.
12 Chris Hughes 6-1 225 Jr.
52 Ferlando Bohanna 6-0 225 So.
22 Matthew Wells 6-2 215 So.
24 Jamerson Love 5-10 175 So.
30 Jay Hughes 5-11 190 So.
20 Louis Watson 5-11 185 Sr.
38 Dee Arrington 6-1 215 So.
CB 9 DARIUS SLAY 6-1 190 SR.
37 Taveze Calhoun 6-1 180 RFr.


Florida State DC search candidate: DJ Eliot

We continue our look at candidates for the vacant Florida State defensive coordinator position.

If you follow Florida State football closely, you known who Darin "D.J." Eliot is. If you don't, let's have a quick recap.

Eliot is Florida State's defensive ends coach. He is 36, and in his 14th season coaching college football. At Florida State, his defensive ends have been excellent. They showed immediate improvement upon his hire, though that was to be expected as the previous coach was an unqualified Bowden cronie.

But coaching has not been the only thing he has excelled at. Eliot has also been an excellent recruiter. That really shouldn't that surprising, as Eliot is a young, good looking, personable coach.

Now, those of us in the media are not allowed to talk with assistants per Jimbo Fisher's policy, but those who have spoken with Eliot agree that he is a very bright coach and a rising star in the coaching ranks.

The question, though is whether Eliot should be considered for Florida State's defensive coordinator position.

On its face, the answer is no.

Florida State's defensive coordinator job is one of the best in all of college football. It pays well ($600K), and offers the opportunity to coach future NFL athletes against what is often fairly average competition in the ACC. That means the numbers put up are going to be ridiculous (see consecutive top-five defenses under Stoops). And with numbers like that, it's really easy to use the FSU DC job as a launching pad for a head coaching position.

Eliot has no experience as a defensive coordinator whatsoever. Granted, playcalling on the defensive side of the ball is not incredibly important, but running and designing a defense certainly is.

If Eliot was a coach at another school, there is no way he would be considered for the defensive coordinator position given his lack of experience. Fisher would be ripped for hiring someone with Eliot's qualifications.

But that's not the case, because Eliot is at Florida State. Jimbo Fisher would have had the opportunity to work closely with Eliot on a daily basis. The pair has no doubt had conversations about what sort of defense Eliot would want to run, given the opportunity. Fisher is in a good position to determine if Eliot could run his own defense, and if that defense jives with what Fisher is looking for in a unit.

As for what that defensive style would be, I really have no idea. It is safe to assume that Fisher won't hire someone with whom he has major philosophical differences.

It is worth noting that while Eliot is the defensive ends coach, he has done more than that. Eliot was a linebacker in college, and has plenty of experience coaching defensive backs. That's really important, because guys who are defensive-line centric don't usually get hired as coordinators, because of their lack of understanding and experience with coverages.

If Jimbo Fisher really likes what Eliot plans to bring as a defensive coordinator, I cannot completely dismiss the possibility of the move happening. Eliot is a rising star in the business and an ace recruiter. Florida State obviously wants to keep him, if it can. Other schools will soon come calling with defensive coordinator jobs, though not as good as Florida State's, that will offer a raise and a chance to further his career.

This is the sort of move that I can see working out, but it is considerably riskier than many other candidates, and if it were to fail, Fisher would come under enormous scrutiny because of the quality of candidate the job can attract. You don't make this hire to save a few recruits. If done, the hire must be made out of a sincere belief that Eliot can immediately do an excellent job of coordinating defense.


Promoting Greg Hudson a bad idea

I'm addressing Hudson's candidacy first because he is on staff and asked about quite frequently.

Florida State linebackers coach Greg Hudson came to Florida State with a lot of promise. The defenses he produced at East Carolina were among the best in Conference USA, and played at a level far greater than they should have, based on the level of recruited talent.

So it was with much excitement that Hudson arrived in Tallahassee, to replace Florida State's departed linebackers coach Chuck Amato, whose unit was embarrassingly bad and undisciplined.

"Hudson is considered a very good defensive coach and has produced multiple all-conference players in his time at ECU. He will join Florida State's staff after the January 1st bowl game.

Hudson comes to FSU following a 5 year stint at East Carolina, where his defenses are known for their physicality, toughness, and consistency in forcing turnovers. Prior to working at ECU, Hudson coached at Minnesota (2001-2004), Cincinnati (1997-2000), and UConn (1994-1996). He was also a graduate assistant for Notre Dame in 1993. He coached with Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher at Cincinnati.

Hudson's defenses have been instrumental in carrying East Carolina to back-to-back Conference USA Championships, defeating prolific offenses this year in Houston and last year's Tulsa attack. The Pirates held Houston to 5.9 yards per play, and Tulsa to 4.1. Those performances were by far the worst of the year for those two teams, courtesy Hudson's defense."

Most everyone, acknowledging that Mark Stoops would leave after a short tenure in Tallahassee, expected Hudson to be their heir apparent.

But somewhere along the way, everything veered off course. Hudson's linebackers haven't been bad, but they have certainly underachieved relative to size and athleticism. The linebackers under his tutelage have lagged far behind the play of the secondary and the defensive line units. At times, the play of Hudson's linebackers has been painful to watch.

This year, Florida State moved Christian Jones from strong-side linebacker to the weak-side spot. It's a move that a player like Jones probably should have been able to make. Jones wasn't terrible, but he didn't make many plays, either. And he was far less effective at WILL than he was at SAM. To some extent, Jones' failure to recognize plays developing before they are fully executed is on the coaching staff. Technique has not been especially good, either.

The failure to produce consistently excellent linebacker play has been a bitter pill to swallow.

And if a coordinator candidate isn't an excellent coach, he must be a tremendous recruiter. Hudson is not that. At all. Recruiting requires equal parts persistence, in terms of following up on recruiting leads, and tact, in figuring out the right angle to pitch to a recruit and his parents. During Hudson's three years, neither of those aspects of recruiting have been mastered.

Florida State's defensive coordinator job is one of the best in all of college football. It pays well ($600K), and offers the opportunity to coach future NFL athletes against what is often fairly average competition in the ACC. That means the numbers put up are going to be ridiculous (see consecutive top-five defenses under Stoops). And with numbers like that, it's really easy to use the FSU DC job as a launching pad for a head coaching position.

Given the desirability of the position, it would be a big mistake on Jimbo Fisher's part to promote Greg Hudson. Not because he couldn't do the job (certainly there is a chance that he could), but because of the large number of candidates with far better credentials. And, according to my sources, it is extremely unlikely to happen.

We will continue to review candidates for the Florida State defensive coordinator position throughout the process.


Mark Stoops expected to coach ACC Championship

According to multiple Kentucky news reports, Florida State defensive coordinator will hold his first press conference as head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats on Sunday, after Saturday's ACC Title Game, in which the Seminoles will face Georgia Tech.

That, paired with Stoops' attendance at Florida State's practice today, strongly suggests that Stoops will coach Florida State's defense in the ACC Championship.

Florida State fans, of course, will immediately scream "Richt'd," a reference to the awful job done by Florida State offensive coordinator Mark Richt in the 2000 Orange Bowl/National Championship loss to Oklahoma, after he had already accepted and prepared to become Georgia's head coach.

Of course, while Georgia Tech's is extremely difficult to prepare for, it is not 2000 Oklahoma. Still, if Florida State's defense turns in a sub-par defense, fans will blame the timing of Stoops' new position. And they might be correct.

It's hard to see Stoops coaching the bowl game, but there has been no announcement on the matter.

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