Florida State head coach Mike Norvell finds himself in somewhat unfamiliar territory in his Seminoles tenure: seeking to replace an assistant coach after defensive backs coach Marcus Woodson was hired by the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Norvell has only been in this position three times before in Tallahassee, having to quickly replace TJ Rushing, his initial DB coach hire, when Rushing was poached by Jimbo Fisher’s Texas A&M Aggies. That vacancy was filled by Woodson.
Last season, Norvell elevated Alex Atkins to offensive coordinator and Tony Tokarz to quarterback coach to fill vacancies when Kenny Dillingham left to be Oregon’s offensive coordinator. In addition, linebacker coach Chris Marve left to be the defensive coordinator at Virginia Tech, with Randy Shannon being promoted from an off-field analyst role.
In all those instances, Norvell either promoted from within, or relied on direct staffing ties from the past.
Will he repeat that route, or will this be a true national search?
Tomahawk Nation’s Three Stars are temporarily stepping out of the recruiting realm. Josh Pick, Tim Scribble, and NoleThruandThru are here to offer up some names to watch and why each name might and might not be the next DB coach for FSU.
Defensive Back Coach Hot Board
- Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, Associate Head Coach/DB coach/Defensive Passing Game Coordinator, Boston College Eagles
Why Abdul-Rahim might be the next FSU defensive back coach?
NT&T: I’ve been banging this drum for almost as long as Jajuan Seider, as far as assistant coaches I’d like to see at FSU. “AAR” is 46 years old and learned under Nick Saban at Alabama and Mike Locksley at Maryland, so he knows how to recruit effectively. He’s also a proven developer, as his defensive backs at Boston College constantly play above their prep rankings.
Why Abdul-Rahim might not be the next FSU defensive back coach?
Tim: Currently we haven’t been able to find any connection between the current Florida State staff and Abdul-Rahim. Would Norvell branch out and connect with an unfamiliar coach?
- Torrian Gray, DB coach, South Carolina Gamecocks
Why Torrian Gray might be the next FSU defensive back coach?
NT&T: At 48 years old, Gray already has over two decades of experience coaching defensive backs at Virginia Tech, Florida, and South Carolina, and professionally for the Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins. The Lakeland, FL native is an effective recruiter with deep ties to the Sunshine State and has developed over a dozen NFL defensive backs.
Why Torrian Gray might not be the next FSU defensive back coach?
Tim: Similar to Abdul-Rahim, there’s not an immediately noticeable crossover of Gray and Norvell or his staff. If Norvell operates as he has previously, Gray wouldn’t fit. Additionally, although the Gamecocks saw improvement in their secondary, Gray was previously let go at Florida after his unit was consistently torched.
- Chip West, CB coach, Syracuse Orange
Why Chip West might be the next FSU defensive back coach?
Tim: When the opening was announced, the first thought I had was which of FSU’s opponents have shown a strong defensive backfield? The team that immediately popped in my head was Syracuse. They have two big names in the portal (safety Ja’Had Carter and cornerback Duce Chestnut) that teams are pursuing and before his injury, Garrett Williams was considered one of the top cornerbacks in the ACC. In his first two seasons at Syracuse, West had every starter (at corner) earn All-ACC honors. In his time at Virginia, he was named the 247 Sports ACC recruiter of the year in 2011. Is there an FSU connection? Yes, shared time with current FSU offensive coordinator Alex Atkins at Charlotte in 2018.
Why Chip West might not be the next FSU defensive back coach?
JP: Because Norvell watched his Seminole wideouts stiff-arm West’s corners all the way to Ithica when they played earlier this season.
- TJ Rushing, DB coach, Texas A&M
Why TJ Rushing might be the next FSU defensive back coach?
JP: Norvell liked him enough from their time together at Memphis to hire him for his initial staff before Jimbo Fisher snatched him. Maybe Rushing wants to work under Norvell again after experiencing the toxic culture in College Station.
Why TJ Rushing might not be the next FSU defensive back coach?
NT&T: At Texas A&M, Rushing is close to his hometown in Oklahoma and at the top level of competition in the SEC. His top recruiting hits have come from Texas and Oklahoma, and he undoubtedly has serious monetary resources at his disposal on the trail.
- Mike Treier, Assistant DB coach, New York Giants
Why Mike Treier might be the next FSU defensive back coach?
NT&T: Past familiarity. Treier spent a couple of weeks on Mike Norvell’s initial FSU staff before leaving for Colorado State, then ultimately the Giants. He overlapped with current FSU defensive coordinator Adam Fuller at Marshall, with Fuller coordinating the defense and coaching safeties, while Treier coached the corners in 2018.
Why Mike Treier might not be the next FSU defensive back coach?
JP: Norvell probably wants to have a coach hired sooner rather than later, and with Treier working in the NFL, and the Giants in the playoff mix, that’s not feasible.
- Demarcus Van Dyke, Analyst, Miami Hurricanes
Why Demarcus Van Dyke might be the next FSU defensive back coach?
Tim: DVD played under Randy Shannon at Miami and would be a recruiting presence in South Florida.
Why Demarcus Van Dyke might not be the next FSU defensive back coach?
JP: Can DVD recruit? No doubt. But can FSU get a better balance of an experienced teacher and on-field recruiter. Absolutely.
- Greg Moss, Analyst, Florida State; Corey Fuller, Director of Football Relations, Florida State; Keiwan Ratliff, Director of Player Relations, Florida State
Why any of the FSU assistant staff might be the next FSU defensive back coach?
Tim: It’s no secret Norvell has displayed a preference to hire from within. Readers only have to look to the last Florida State vacancy where he promoted Tony Tokarz to quarterback coach. With his track record, an internal promotion cannot be ignored. Moss has previous secondary coaching experience at Charleston Southern and FIU. Ratliff worked with defensive backs with the Miami Dolphins. Fuller coached cornerbacks at FAMU.
Why any of the FSU assistant staff might not be the next FSU defensive back coach?
JP: None of these guys are ready for prime-time (at least in this role).
- Travis Fisher, DB coach, Nebraska Cornhuskers
Why Travis Fisher might be the next FSU defensive back coach?
Tim: Fisher’s from Tallahassee (Godby) and played his college ball in the state. At Nebraska, his defensive unit has shown consistent progress under his direction.
Why Travis Fisher might not be the next FSU defensive back coach?
NT&T: Quite simply, there are bigger and more-established names ahead of him, and he doesn’t have any real ties to Norvell or his staff. In his time with UCF and Nebraska, he hasn’t overlapped with any current Seminole coaches, leaving Orlando just prior to Randy Shannon’s arrival as DC.
- Terrell Buckley, Head Coach, XFL Orlando Guardians; Antonio Cromartie, Analyst, Texas A&M
Why Terrell Buckley/Antonio Cromartie might be the next FSU defensive back coach?
JP: T-Buck & Cro both starred on the field at FSU, and...wait, you actually thought I was going to bat for one of these two guys? Nah, we’re good.
Why Terrell Buckley/Antonio Cromartie might not be the next FSU defensive back coach?
NT&T: We know many FSU faithful have clamored for one of the school’s all-time greats to come back and coach defensive backs. However, Terrell Buckley was recently hired for his first head-coaching position and has filled out his staff. It’s unlikely he’d walk away from being THE guy in Orlando to being just A guy in Tallahassee without ever having coached a game in the XFL. Maybe another day, Seminole fans. As for Cromartie? Maybe as an analyst, but he shouldn’t be a serious candidate for a position coach at this time.