Al Golden just beat Jimbo Fisher at his best game -- recruiting.
Golden hired one of the country’s best recruiters -- and he plucked him right off of Fisher’s staff. Golden somehow managed to lure Florida State’s top remaining assistant, Miami native James Coley, in what was hands down the ACC’s best hire of the offseason.
Golden, who lost offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch last week to the Jacksonville Jaguars, was put in a tough spot, having to make such a critical hire just weeks before signing day. Not only did Golden dodge a bullet, but he fired it right back at Miami’s biggest rival. Miami has been beaten and overshadowed by Florida State’s recent success, but this is the kind of move that can tilt that scale back in favor of the Canes -- and quickly. Coley will also benefit tremendously from it, assuming Golden will allow him to call the plays -- something he didn’t do on Fisher’s staff.
As much as this move helps Miami, it hurts Florida State. And, to be quite honest, it looks bad for Fisher. Coley is a 1997 Florida State graduate. He just finished his fifth season at his alma mater. He worked with Fisher as a graduate assistant when they were at LSU. They’ve got history. The chance to call plays, though, and move back to his hometown easily explains what was probably a difficult decision.
Would calling the plays have changed Coley’s mind? Would he have stayed if Fisher would have relinquished that authority to him?
Coley wasn’t immediately available for comment, but it’s hard not to wonder.
The Noles have now lost six assistants since winning the ACC championship game, including their top two in former defensive coordinator Mark Stoops and now Coley. Because of the impact this will have in recruiting -- both for Miami and against Florida State -- Coley’s departure is arguably the program’s most significant loss. Staff turnover is nothing new, but now Fisher is the one in a bind with signing day rapidly approaching on Feb. 6. Fisher’s desire to continue to call the plays could complicate his hire of the next offensive coordinator. How many top-notch recruiters and coordinators are out there still looking for a job who will be willing to do everything but call the plays?
Miami, meanwhile, just got an outgoing recruiter who grew up next to the Orange Bowl, one who knows the high schools and area as well as his own living room. He also spent two years as an assistant with the Miami Dolphins under Nick Saban.
As the recruiting coordinator at Florida State in 2008 and 2009, Coley helped the Noles bring in back-to-back top-10 signing classes, which have helped restock FSU's talent pool. He was named the top recruiter in the ACC in 2010 by ESPN.com.
He still is one of the ACC’s best recruiters.
Only now, he’s bringing the talent home to Miami.