ACC: Eddie Gran

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Over the past four months, Florida State won an ACC championship, a BCS game, reeled in another top-10 recruiting class and sent a handful of players into the NFL draft with first-round promise.

Given the recent spate of unsightly 7-6 seasons, Florida State seems to be in pretty fantastic shape. That, of course, is not the storyline that has taken shape since December. No, the convenient storyline has focused mainly on the coaching turnover that has left the Seminoles with six new assistants heading into the 2013 season.

What does the unusually large turnover say about coach Jimbo Fisher? What does it say about the program itself?

At this point, the storyline has become rote. Fisher already has his answers before the questions are asked, prepared to bat down the notion that this very strange offseason has been, well, strange.

He begins.

“You know,” he says, “we were one of four teams in the entire country that did not lose a single assistant in my first two years here.”

Pretty astounding, when you consider just how frequently assistants change jobs year to year. But what is more astounding is hiring seven different assistants in a two-month span. One of those assistants, Billy Napier, lasted a handful of weeks before moving on to Alabama.

As Fisher tried to defend the staff turnover, he proved the point others have made. Coaching change is common in this profession, especially at winning programs. But the type of coaching change Florida State just experienced is as rare as scoring a safety on consecutive plays.

[+] EnlargeJimbo Fisher
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesFSU coach Jimbo Fisher says he wasn't surprised by the amount of staff turnover this offseason.
Among programs that did not have a head coaching change, only Marshall had to replace more assistants than Florida State this past offseason. Point this out to Fisher and he shrugs.

“We took the attrition of three years and put it in one,” Fisher says simply.

Was he surprised that he lost so many assistants?

“Not really. Last year was a big year,” Fisher begins. “You go back and look at all the major jobs. When’s the last time you saw four major SEC schools open?”

Not since 2004. His defensive coordinator, Mark Stoops, got the head coaching job at Kentucky and took assistant D.J. Eliot with him. Another assistant, Dameyune Craig, left for a co-offensive coordinator job at Auburn. Counting Napier, four assistants left for the SEC.

Fisher continues.

“The NFL has nowhere else to draw coaches from,” he says. “And we had a lot of success. We’re graduating players. Guys aren’t getting in trouble. People want to know how you’re having success. We had to have a proven commodity.

“We’re the eighth-winningest team in the last three years. We were 30th the previous three years. We’ve jumped more than any team in the country. So people say, ‘Wait a minute.’ We all do research and look at who’s doing good and ask, ‘Why are they doing good? Are they doing something we’re not doing?’ People are saying, ‘Let’s get some of those guys and see why they’re having success and are able to change the culture and change a program.”

The other three coaches who left -- Eddie Gran (Cincinnati), Greg Hudson (Purdue) and James Coley (Miami) -- took coordinator jobs as well. Fisher points this out, too, and makes it clear he has never stood in the way of an assistant getting another job. After all, he allowed Stoops to interview at Kentucky in the middle of the season.

While all of the change may not look so great on the surface, the staff Fisher has assembled may in fact be better than the one he had his first two seasons with the Seminoles. When asked what he likes most about this staff, Fisher says, “No. 1, the experience. No. 2, their undaunting ability to work and put in hours. A lot of staffs you get recruiters or coaches. I think everybody on our staff can do both. We have a staff that’s very solid recruiting and very solid coaching. It’s hard to find nine guys capable that way.”

Perhaps that is a slight dig at his past staff. But there is no questioning the credentials of the men tasked with elevating Florida State from ACC champ into yearly national title contender. All of them have won conference titles; three have won national titles.

Fisher keeps a running list of potential candidates with him, so he knew exactly whom to call when all these jobs came open. How they arrived in Tallahassee plays like a game of Six Degrees of Jimbo Fisher.

  • You have quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders, who crossed paths with Fisher when both were assistants in the SEC some years ago. He also coached new running backs coach Jay Graham at Tennessee in the 1990s. The two have known each other since Graham was 17.
  • You have defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri and defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who come from the Nick Saban tree that also produced Fisher. Sunseri and Fisher were on the same staff at LSU in 2000.
  • You have recruiting coordinator/tight ends coach Tim Brewster, who never worked with Fisher but recruited against him when he was at Texas and Fisher was at LSU.
  • Then you have special teams coordinator, linebackers coach Charles Kelly, who was a graduate assistant at Auburn in 1993 when Fisher was there. Kelly also played against Fisher the past several seasons while working at Georgia Tech. When Kelly was with the Jackets, and Pruitt with the Tide, the two shared ideas.

“Florida State has always been one of the schools I’ve always wanted to work at,” Sanders said. “When I first got married and was first coaching, my wife asked me. I said this was one of the four schools in the country I’d love to work at some day. When the opportunity came along, I was excited to come to Tallahassee.”

He echoed what all the other assistants said during their only media availability this spring: the desire to win a national title. Indeed, the intensity during spring practice seemed to be turned up a notch. Both Sunseri and Pruitt are quite boisterous and have no qualms about getting up close and personal with their players -- face to face mask.

On one particular afternoon last month, Sunseri kept getting after defensive end Giorgio Newberry. At one point, Newberry just slung his big arm around Sunseri’s shoulder and chuckled.

“I give him a hug every once in a while,” Newberry said. “I love Coach Sal. I love how he coaches me. He doesn’t let us take plays off. We have to go hard every time, and we’ve got to do it his way. I like that. He’ll chew me out and I’ll be like, 'Yes sir' and I try to fix it.”

Graham is not as in-your-face, but he demands excellence. That was not so easy to get adjusted to for some of the backs.

“He wants you to be great, so he has very high expectations,” James Wilder Jr. said. “It was hard getting used to it at first. He wants everything perfect.”

Fisher has described the staff transition as seamless. He has veteran coaches that share his same philosophies and players who have embraced the changes. But the questions will linger on until kickoff in Pittsburgh on Sept. 2.

Perhaps even longer.

FSU's revamped staff ready to roll

March, 20, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- It has been the most dominant and recurring headline of the offseason for Florida State, but Jimbo Fisher insists the task of replacing seven assistant coaches in the span of three months was no big deal.

[+] EnlargeDerek Dooley
Randy Sartin/US PresswireSal Sunseri (right) is one of the new hires at Florida State that has experience at the coordinator level.
The departures were expected after three years of success. The new faces were battle tested and required little time to adjust. The whole process, Fisher said, was relatively painless.

"It's not been hard because those guys come off the same tree," Fisher said of his new assistants. "They've been in the same system, been in the same environment. They hit the ground running easier than the old group did."

Fisher's optimism, along with a strong push on the recruiting trail before national signing day, has helped to calm a nervous fan base, but as Florida State and its six new assistant coaches begin spring practice, questions still remain about the direction of the program after such massive turnover and the reasons why so many marquee jobs would be vacated in such a short time.

Even before defensive coordinator Mark Stoops bolted for the head-coaching job at Kentucky in December, Fisher expected defections. With three straight winning seasons and two calm offseasons without a coaching departure, the odds were stacked against the Seminoles this time around, and Stoops spent much of 2012 as one of the nation's hottest candidates for a head-coaching job.

To read the rest of this story, click here.

FSU OC fine with not calling plays

December, 28, 2012
There have been times this season during which Florida State's play-calling has been called into question (see: against NC State, fourth quarter).

Don't blame the Noles' offensive coordinator -- he's got nothing to do with it, and James Coley said on Friday he's perfectly fine with that arrangement.

Coach Jimbo Fisher is the one who calls the plays for Florida State, and it's a set-up that has been a source of angst for some Florida State fans. Those within the program, though, know their roles. When asked on Friday at his news conference for the Discover Orange Bowl if he was OK with being the coordinator and not calling the plays, Coley said, "yeah, absolutely."

"Coach is he's the head coach," Coley said. "He's called plays for a long time. He's very successful. He knows a lot. He walks into meetings and he'll bring up stuff that he hasn't done in a while or stuff people are doing now, he's done it before, and it's an ongoing  we're all learning around him.

"He's got a lot of head-coaching duties that he does, and we, especially myself, I try to get all the information to him so when he walks into these meetings it's very productive and we're not sitting around there and there's not a lot of wasting time. His questions get answered right away with regards to schemes and how  what our opponent is doing. And then during the week I script the practice to the things he wants to see, and I kind of organize the week out for him so that on Saturdays he's ready to go."

It's not a situation unique to Florida State. At Virginia Tech, Bryan Stinespring is the offensive coordinator, but quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain calls the plays. Coley also coaches the tight ends.

"It's worked out well," Coley said.

And the Noles have their first ACC title since 2005 to prove it.
Cincinnati has hired Florida State associate head coach Eddie Gran as offensive coordinator, coach Tommy Tuberville announced Thursday.

Gran spent the past three seasons with the Seminoles, coaching running backs and serving as special teams coordinator. He previously coached with Tuberville at Auburn and Ole Miss for 14 seasons.

“I’m pleased and excited Eddie has agreed to join us here in Cincinnati,” Tuberville said in a statement. “We have a lot of history together and have won a lot of football games at Auburn and Mississippi. He has proven himself to be a great coach and outstanding recruiter. He knows this area well from his previous coaching stop here, so it was a natural fit.”

Gran previously served as Cincinnati receivers coach from 1992-93. He has most notably made his name on the recruiting trail, as one of the top recruiters in the South Florida area. He helped the Seminoles attract the nation's No. 1 recruiting class in 2011, and was named one of's Top 25 Recruiters of the Year in 2011.

Florida State has now lost three of its top assistants, as defensive coordinator Mark Stoops is now the head coach at Kentucky. Stoops hired Florida State defensive ends coach D.J. Eliot as defensive coordinator/linebackers coach.

Gran will coach the Seminoles in the Discover Orange Bowl against Northern Illinois before joining the Bearcats.

ACC's lunchtime links

December, 11, 2012
Good tidings to you!
Karlos Williams admitted he did not digest all of Florida State's playbook during his freshman season last year.

"He didn't," Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher confirmed Wednesday. "And he's still learning a lot right now. He's getting better."

[+] EnlargeKarlos Williams
AP Photo/Don Juan MooreFSU's Karlos Williams is looking to make an impact at safety and as a kick returner in 2012.
Williams, a sophomore safety, said that approach has changed this spring, as he enters with a chance to crack the two-deep at strong safety, fighting with Tyler Hunter to relieve starter Terrence Brooks.

Even with a new outlook, though, the second go-round is not without its challenges.

"It's good. Still getting that work in and trying to learn the playbook, it's difficult," Williams said. "Coach [Mark] Stoops runs a complex defense. Still trying to learn to slow things down and take my time and make plays when they come to me and don't go after them."

Having older brother Vince, entering his fifth year as an FSU linebacker, has paid dividends for Karlos.

"I knew I was coming into a difficult situation," he said. "There were two guys in front of me but I'm lucky to have my brother here. He told me to learn from the guys in front of me and to take my time and develop as a man first before a football player so I can mature."

That may be easier now that he knows where he will line up once his number is called.

Having played running back in high school, Williams was almost used by the staff in the backfield last season, but the crowded race ahead of him ultimately resulted in safety being the more comfortable option for him.

"I'm more comfortable playing on defense and I've built relationships with the guys on defense," Williams said. "Also, at running back it was a little uncomfortable, plus there was a lot of guys that will get a lot of reps. It was just a situation I felt uneasy."

It is not like Williams will not have the chance to make plays with the ball in his hands anyway. Last season he averaged better than 23 yards on eight kickoff returns, and he is hoping the opportunities will still come his way, even if new rules — kickoffs are from five yards closer now — may decrease the likelihood of huge returns.

"I’m very excited. It's a different game now," Williams said. "I tell recruits coming in that you're now looking for guys to hit. In high school you had guys that don't want to be on kickoff, they run down slow but now it's an assignment and it's a big part of the game. Games change on kick off and kick returns. Running down the field is exciting. Be out there and pumping the crowd on kick off. Over the season, [special teams coordinator Eddie Gran] and I talked about it that most of my excitement overplayed me this year. I got too excited running down, I'd miss a tackle or I'd get myself blocked in some situations, but overall it was a great experience and I loved it."

ACC's lunchtime links

May, 24, 2011
Don't forget about the chat today. Remember, at least one question from all 12 schools is the goal. You in?

Recruiting honor for former Miami assistant

February, 10, 2011
Former Miami assistant Clint Hurtt, now the coach at Louisville, was named's recruiter of the year, and with good reason. If you look at his commitment list for this year, you'd think he was still recruiting for the Canes. The former defensive line coach at Miami helped the Canes lure in three straight top 10 classes, and this year, he used that knowledge to help beat Al Golden in surrounding Dade and Broward Counties.

Golden did an outstanding job, considering the timing of his hire. He got cornerback Thomas Finnie to flip from South Carolina and Ricardo Williams from Homestead -- two guys Miami wouldn't have signed without him. He also got Miami back in for Louisville-bound Gerald Holliman and Andrew Johnson -- two guys that former coach Randy Shannon had discounted long ago. Miami seemed to have backed off Eli Rogers, but if you look at Hurtt's commitment list for this year you'll notice several players from Miami Northwestern High and the surrounding areas. Those will be areas that Golden and his staff will have to concentrate on and win over the next few years if the Canes are going to once again build their classes with the talent in their own backyard -- especially when recruiters like Florida State's Eddie Gran are also having so much success in the South Florida area. The Seminoles made than an emphasis in this year's recruiting class and Gran was named one of the country's top recruiters this year for it.

Other ACC coaches who made the list with Gran include:
  • Lawrence Dawsey, Florida State
  • Sam Pittman, North Carolina
  • Anthony Poindexter, Virginia
  • Jeff Scott, Clemson
Florida State running back Chris Thompson, a native of Greenville, Fla., grew up a Miami fan. Miami defensive back Ryan Hill, a Tallahassee native, was raised a Florida State fan.

Ever heard the saying familiarity breeds contempt?

“As much as we say we hate that school, to hate a school you have to have much respect for them,” Hill said. “That’s my take on it.”

[+] EnlargeRyan Hill
AP Photo/Wilfredo LeeCanes DB Ryan Hill, a Tallahassee native, says the Miami-FSU rivalry is based on animosity and respect.
Familiarity runs deep in the Florida State-Miami series, which began in 1951 and has been played every season since 1969. That’s 41 straight games entering Saturday’s game. A total of 31 former high school teammates will face each other on opposite sidelines, and there are also direct coaching ties. FSU defensive coordinator Mark Stoops was the Hurricanes’ secondary coach from 2001-03, and special teams coordinator/running backs coach Eddie Gran was a graduate assistant at UM in 1990-91. FSU defensive ends coach D.J. Eliot was a graduate assistant at Miami in 2002, and assistant strength & conditioning coach Chris Harvey is a Miami graduate and was a long-snapper for the Canes.

And of course, Miami coach Randy Shannon was a starting linebacker on the Canes’ 1987 national championship team.

“With these types of games, each team might be 010 and you may get a high scoring game, it might be a last-second field goal game,” Shannon said. “You can throw everything out the window when you play Florida State. It’s two teams who are going to play hard and get after each other. It’s also a respect factor. It’s a rivalry, but we respect them and they respect us and we play that way. I can’t tell you what will happen, but it’s a game that you watch and there’s a reason the TV networks put it on primetime. They see two teams that are fairly even and it’s a state game with old time tradition.”

FSU quarterback Christian Ponder, whose father, David, was a defensive tackle for the Noles, doesn’t need any history lessons.

“Obviously you can’t forget the wide left and the wide right,” Ponder said. “It’s an intense rivalry. It’s got a lot of history. A lot of players come out of this rivalry and go to the NFL. It’s different than Florida. It’s a mutual respect for each other, almost a friendly rivalry. But it’s always been intense. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Even some of the younger players remember some of the old school games.

“I was a big Miami fan there for a while,” Thompson, a sophomore, said. “I just remember those big games, most of the ones that were up in Miami, and even a couple down here, like the one when Roscoe Parrish was here, I remember that one. And then when I came here my freshman here, it was kind of a surprise coach (Dexter) Carter actually let me play in that game. It was a real great feeling to be out there and be a part of what I’d been seeing my whole life.”

That sentiment is likely to be shared by many of the players who will be featured Saturday night. Hill said Florida State was always a “dream school” of his.

“You don’t go to [a] school because you’re a fan of that school, you go to that school because you fit in personality-wise and your playmaking ability,” he said. “That’s why I chose the University of Miami.”

He also chose it to beat Florida State.

“Obviously this is a big game for us,” Hill said. “This is why you come to the University of Miami, and it’s why you go to Florida State.”

ACC recruiting: FSU lands top offensive lineman

July, 19, 2010
ESPNU 150 offensive tackle Bobby Hart has committed to the Seminoles, giving Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher his sixth ESPNU 150 recruit in the Class of 2011. Hart was rated the No. 6 offensive tackle nationally. He reportedly had over 30 offers, including from half of the ACC.

"It feels like a big burden is off my back knowing where I'm going to college. The last visit is what sealed the deal for me. Everything felt good, felt right. Coach (Eddie) Gran is a great recruiter and person, but coach (Rick) Trickett made everything feel right," he told ESPN affiliate Web site

"When I told Jimbo he was screaming and he told me I'd have an equal opportunity to start like everyone else. The only visit I'm going to take is FSU, I'm 100 percent done."

Also in the ACC this past weekend, Wake Forest lured athlete Sherman Ragland, the sixth commitment for the Deacs. According to ESPN Recruiting, Ragland was recruited as a defensive back/receiver and was also recruited by NC State, Duke, Virginia, South Carolina and East Carolina.

FSU hires Mark Stoops

December, 11, 2009
Florida State has hired Arizona defensive coordinator Mark Stoops to replace longtime defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews, sources confirmed Friday. Stoops is in his sixth year at Arizona and has two decades of coaching experience. FSU fans can rest easy. This was a good hire.

Stoops joins Tennessee running backs/special teams coach Eddie Gran as Jimbo Fisher’s first two hires, but the staff changes won't take place until after the Gator Bowl.

Fisher has already told four members of the staff they will not be retained. Defensive line coach Jody Allen, running backs coach Dexter Carter, linebackers coach Chuck Amato and strength coach Todd Stroud must all be replaced. Offensive line coach Rick Trickett interviewed earlier today for the head coaching job at Marshall.

ACC's lunchtime links

December, 11, 2009
I know, I know, we have the Army-Navy game, but ...
  • Georgia Tech's defense has shut out its critics, but there are a few legitimate reasons for the group's struggles this year.
  • North Carolina could have put itself in a better postseason position than going back to the Meineke Car Care Bowl for the second straight year, but it could have been worse, which is why no one is complaining.
  • Maryland quarterback Chris Turner is ready to move on, but he'll do so leaving his name scattered about the record books.
  • The State handed out a few awards to Clemson.
  • Tennessee assistant Eddie Gran, who will join Jimbo Fisher's staff, has already received one rave review. Despite the succession plan, a staff overhaul was unavoidable for Fisher.
  • Miami left tackle Jason Fox is expected to play in the Champs Sports Bowl after missing the season finale with an undisclosed illness.
  • Virginia Tech expects to sell out its allotment of tickets for the Chick-fil-A Bowl by early next week.
  • NC State coach Tom O'Brien sounds optimistic his star quarterback will return in 2010.

Chick-fil-A Bowl

December, 6, 2009
Chick-fil-A Bowl: Virginia Tech (9-3) vs. Tennessee (7-5)
Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Virginia Tech take by ACC blogger Heather Dinich: Virginia Tech is no stranger to the city of Atlanta, as this is the third time this season the Hokies will play there, and the second time they’ll face an SEC team in the Georgia Dome. Hokies fans are probably hoping the third time is the charm, as Virginia Tech lost to both Alabama and Georgia Tech in the city during the regular season. Tennessee, though, hasn’t seen that kind of success under Lane Kiffin yet, and No. 12 Virginia Tech should be favored heading into this game.

That’s due in large part to the Hokies’ defense, which is holding opponents to just 15.75 points per game, and the offensive star power of redshirt freshman Ryan Williams, who is fifth in the country in rushing yards per game, third in total rushing yards and tied for third in rushing touchdowns. He has had nine 100-yard rushing games this year.

Tennessee is one of four 7-5 teams in a muddled group in the SEC East, and statistically, the Vols have been average in just about every category but one this year -- pass efficiency defense. Tennessee is No. 8 in the country, allowing just 99.98 yards per game. Vols running backs coach Eddie Gran better get used to seeing this defense, as he’ll be joining Florida State offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher’s staff eventually.

ACC coaching news: UVA, FSU

December, 6, 2009
Tennessee assistant Eddie Gran, who coached the running backs and special teams this season, has agreed to join Jimbo Fisher's staff at Florida State, multiple sources have confirmed.

This is a good hire for the Noles, as Gran has done a good job of recruiting South Florida during his short stint at Tennessee, and also when he was at Auburn. Of course, with Gran in, that obviously means Dexter Carter is out.

In other coaching news, Virginia officials have reached out to Richmond coach Mike London, according to a recent report. London, the Cavaliers' former defensive coordinator, would be a smart hire and make for a smooth transition.