Since arriving at Florida State three seasons ago, Mike Norvell’s coaching staff has largely remained intact. Former offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham left for the Oregon Ducks before being named the new head coach for the Arizona State Sun Devils this off-season. He was replaced by Tony Tokarz, promoted from within. Norvell now finds himself with another vacancy, this time on the defensive side of the ball, as defensive backs coach and defensive passing game coordinator Marcus Woodson has accepted a position with the Arkansas Razorbacks:
Mike Norvell originally hired TJ Rushing to coach the defensive backs, but Rushing was quickly poached by Jimbo Fisher and the Texas A&M Aggies. Norvell then pivoted to Woodson, who came to Florida State from the Auburn Tigers, where he coached for two seasons. Prior to his time at Auburn, he served as the defensive backs coach for two seasons under Norvell at Memphis.
From his FSU bio:
Marcus Woodson was named Florida State’s defensive backs coach and defensive passing game coordinator on Jan. 25, 2020.
Woodson, who spent the previous two seasons as Auburn’s defensive backs coach and added recruiting coordinator duties for 2019, reunited with Mike Norvell after coaching on his Memphis staff in 2016 and 2017. Woodson has also previously coached at multiple stops with FSU running backs coach David Johnson.
Six of Woodson’s defensive backs have been selected in the last three NFL Drafts, including 2020 first-round selection Noah Igbinoghene. Igbinoghene, who switched to defensive back from wide receiver when Woodson arrived at Auburn in 2018, was picked 30th overall by the Miami Dolphins.
His 2021 defensive backfield featured first-team All-ACC performer Jammie Robinson, who ranked first in the ACC and 14th nationally in interceptions. Florida State had eight different defenders grab at least one interception and forced 20 total takeaways. FSU made at least one interception in eight straight games to end the season, the longest active streak in America entering the 2022 season and tied for the longest streak in the country at any point during the 2021 season.
Akeem Dent’s first collegiate interception ended Boston College’s final drive and clinched FSU’s 26-23 victory. True freshman Omarion Cooper grabbed an interception at Clemson in his first career start and made another interception plus four pass breakups against Miami, the first true freshman nationally with those numbers in a single game since 2013.
Fellow true freshman Kevin Knowles II started seven games in 2021 while redshirt sophomore Jarrian Jones registered six starts and redshirt freshman Sidney Williams made four starts. Williams recorded a season-high 10 tackles in FSU’s 35-25 win at North Carolina, and Jones made his first collegiate interception in that game to keep FSU’s 11-point lead going into halftime.
During the 2020 season, Woodson helped first-team All-ACC selection Asante Samuel Jr. continue his development into one of the top defensive backs in the nation. Samuel, who became a second-round NFL Draft pick by the Los Angeles Chargers, finished the season leading all active ACC defenders with 29 career pass breakups. In records dating back to 2000, he was only the second FBS defender to grab three interceptions and have two fumble recoveries in his team’s first four games of a season. Samuel also became the first FSU defender since 2016 with at least one takeaway in four straight games and only the third Seminole since 2000 with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries in a season.
Florida State’s defensive back group was responsible for 10 takeaways and four forced fumbles. The defense held opponents to 46.2 percent on fourth-down attempts, which ranked as the fifth-best rate in the ACC and 31st nationally. The Seminoles posted three of their four lowest total yards allowed games over the final three weeks of the season and recorded four interceptions, six quarterback hurries and 19.0 tackles for loss in that span.
Woodson helped Auburn win 17 games, including five over ranked opponents, in his two seasons. In 2019, the Tigers won nine games and advanced to the Outback Bowl behind a defense that ranked eighth in the nation in third-down defense and red zone defense, allowing conversions on 29.9 percent of third-down attempts and 71.8 percent of red zone trips. Safety Jeremiah Dinson earned second-team All-SEC honors after posting the conference’s eighth-highest average with 7.3 tackles per game.
The Tigers returned three interceptions for touchdowns in 2018, the ninth-highest total in the country, and ranked 14th nationally in scoring defense by allowing an average of 19.2 points per game. Auburn’s nine rushing touchdowns allowed were the second-lowest total in the SEC and tied for the fifth-lowest total in the NCAA. The defense also ranked in the top-20 nationally with 96 tackles for loss and 38 sacks. Their season culminated with the fewest points allowed in a Music City Bowl since 2009 courtesy of a 63-14 win over Purdue.
Woodson joined Auburn after two seasons coaching Memphis’ defensive backs. Memphis won 18 games during those two seasons and forced a combined 60 takeaways, the second-highest total in the nation over that span. The Tigers made 32 interceptions over those two seasons and were one of only six teams nationally to grab at least 16 interceptions in both 2016 and 2017.
In 2017, Woodson tutored T.J. Carter to Freshman All-America recognition from ESPN and USA Today. Carter also was the conference’s Rookie of the Year after breaking Memphis’ freshman record with five interceptions. In only his second collegiate game, Carter ended a fourth-quarter UCLA drive that had advanced inside the red zone with an interception of Josh Rosen to help secure Memphis’ 48-45 victory.
Prior to joining the Memphis staff, Woodson coached defensive backs at Fresno State for two seasons. He helped lead the Bulldogs to the 2014 Mountain West Conference Championship Game and a berth in the Hawai’i Bowl and also tutored safety Derron Smith, who would be a first-team All-Mountain West Conference selection and was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. The 2015 team ranked second in the conference and 20th in the nation with 11 fumble recoveries.
From 2009-13, Woodson coached defensive backs and was the recruiting coordinator at Charleston Southern, tutoring five all-conference defensive backs. He also added defensive passing game coordinator duties for the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Charleston Southern finished the 2013 season with a school-record 10 wins and No. 22 final ranking.
Woodson began his coaching career at Millsaps College, where he was the defensive backs coach while Johnson was also on staff. The duo combined to help lead the Majors to three consecutive SCAC championships, including an 11-1 record and No. 12 final ranking in 2008. Woodson coached four all-conference defensive backs while at Millsaps.
Woodson played safety at Ole Miss, starting for two seasons before having his playing career cut short by an injury prior to his senior season. He was part of teams that advanced to four bowl games, including the Cotton Bowl, the Music City Bowl and two trips to the Independence Bowl. He went to Ole Miss after helping lead his high school to two Mississippi state championships.
A native of Moss Point, Mississippi, Woodson earned his bachelor’s degree in political science with an emphasis in criminal justice from Ole Miss in 2003 and was selected for the Senior Leadership Unity Council.
Woodson and his wife, Chastity, who holds a bachelor’s degree from Loyola University New Orleans and a master’s degree from Howard University, have two sons, Carter and Bryce.
Woodson was brought in with high hopes as both a coach and a recruiter, having served as the Recruiting Coordinator at Auburn and at another prior stop, Charleston Southern. He’s had mixed results as a recruiter and a talent developer, and it appears the separation between Woodson and FSU is mutual.
Now, Florida State will seek to hire a new defensive backs coach. The new hire will need to bring a strong work ethic and be a developer of talent and a contender on the recruiting trail. Stay tuned to Tomahawk Nation for more.