ACC: Mark Stoops

3-point stance: UCLA's growing pains

October, 29, 2013
1. UCLA started eight true freshmen against Oregon, including three on the offensive line, and played 18 overall against the Ducks. If you are looking for a reason that Oregon scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, it might be physical (how long can 19-year-olds play guys two or three years older?) and it might be mental (close game, big stakes, who’s been there before?). Either way, the Bruins will get a dividend on this investment in, oh, 2015.

2. If you congratulate No. 3 Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher for voting his conscience on his USA Today ballot -- he sounded as if he voted Alabama No. 1 -- and if you applaud him for sitting his starters in the second half against North Carolina State after leading 42-0 at halftime, you may as well congratulate him for getting his team on the field for the opening kickoff. That’s how a coach should act. As the saying goes, Fisher is acting as if he has been there before. Which he has, as an assistant under Nick Saban.

3. Kentucky is 1-6, 0-4 in the SEC, and Wildcats first-year head coach Mark Stoops is trying to remain patient. Only the 48-7 loss to No. 1 Alabama could be considered a blowout. “I think we all see us resembling a good football team from time to time,” Stoops said at his press conference Monday, “but that’s not going to cut it and win you a lot of games in the SEC. You’ve got to be good top to bottom, and you’ve got to be good in critical situations, and most importantly when you’re under pressure situations, our habits, bad habits, come right to the surface.”

Video: Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher

July, 31, 2013

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher discusses the QB competition, TE Nick O'Leary's recovery following a motorcycle accident, the depth at tight end and expectations for the defense following the departure of coordinator Mark Stoops.
It is no secret that Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris is a man on the rise in the coaching ranks. He already was in hot demand last season for several head-coaching jobs but ultimately decided to stay with the Tigers.

For how long?

ESPN Insider Travis Haney believes Morris and Alabama assistant Kirby Smart are the top assistants as next-in-line head-coaching candidates.

No brainer right there.

Haney ponders what it would take for Morris to leave Death Valley:
The Texas Tech job would have been ideal if Kliff Kingsbury were not available or interested. So, let's say Texas goes after Art Briles or Gary Patterson when Mack Brown retires, whenever that happens. Baylor or TCU -- or the like -- would be pretty logical spots for Morris, a native Texan.

Two more ACC assistants make the list:

No. 7 Jeremy Pruitt, Florida State defensive coordinator

No. 8 Brent Venables, Clemson defensive coordinator

Pruitt just arrived in Tallahassee, but his track record at Alabama speaks for itself. If he puts in a few years with the Noles with the same type of success, he will find himself in hot demand. Just look at where former Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops landed after a solid job performance.

Venables is more interesting. Haney writes one of the big reasons Venables wanted to leave Oklahoma was so he would not be pigeon-holed as a life-long assistant. His defense has plenty to prove this season. The hope is this group will continue on with the strides it made toward the end of last season. Venables has a good résumé and knows how to recruit. If the Tigers are as good as anticipated, perhaps Dabo Swinney has to worry about losing both of his coordinators.
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.

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

He still is one of the ACC’s best recruiters.

Only now, he’s bringing the talent home to Miami.

Want a head coach? Look to Miami

January, 14, 2013
The Miami football teams of the early 2000s churned out NFL prospects left and right, producing 20 first-round picks between 2001-04.

Do you know what else Miami produced in the early part of that decade? Head coaches. The Miami coaching staffs of 2000 and 2001 -- staffs that had a huge role in the recruitment and development of those pro prospects -- have produced both NFL and college head coaches.

Not just one or two, either.

With the Cleveland Browns' recent hire of Rob Chudzinski, the 1999-2000 staff under Butch Davis produced six head coaches -- three of them now in the NFL.
  • Rob Chudzinski, tight ends coach. Interestingly enough, his former boss (Davis) left Miami after the 2000 season to coach Cleveland.
  • Greg Schiano, defensive coordinator. Left for Rutgers after 2000 season and now Tampa Bay Bucs head coach.
  • Larry Coker, offensive coordinator. Succeeded Davis after the 2000 season, now head coach at UT-San Antonio.
  • Chuck Pagano, defensive backs. Now coaching Indianapolis Colts, and became an inspiration for his battle with leukemia.
  • Curtis Johnson, receivers coach. Entering his second year as Tulane head coach.
  • Mario Cristobal, graduate assistant. Spent six years as FIU head coach before rejoining Miami staff last week.

As for the 2001 staff, which helped Miami win the national championship and produced arguably the greatest team in college football history:
  • Mark Stoops, defensive backs. Replaced Pagano and is now head coach at Kentucky.
  • Randy Shannon, defensive coordinator. Succeeded Coker and served as Miami coach from 2007-10.
  • Chudzinski and Johnson. Both remained on staff.

Lots of folks mention the Nick Saban coaching tree, but when you look at the staff Davis assembled, the group he had around him in the late 1990s and 2000 is pretty impressive.

We can sit here and debate Davis and his abilities as a head coach, and go back and forth on his role in what went down at North Carolina. But it's hard to ignore the fact he has a pretty good eye for talent -- both among players and coaches.

Discover Orange Bowl keys

January, 1, 2013
Here are three keys for Florida State against Northern Illinois in the Discover Orange Bowl:

1. Don’t forget Mark Stoops. Florida State’s defensive coordinator left to become head coach at Kentucky, but the Seminoles can’t forget everything he taught them. They’ve got to continue to do what has made them so successful all season, and that’s win up front. Unfortunately for FSU, the Noles also have to do that without defensive line coach D.J. Eliot, who followed Stoops to Kentucky as his defensive coordinator. Florida State’s defensive line has got to put pressure on NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch and fluster him into mistakes. Lynch leads the nation in total yards (4,733) and ranks third in total yards per game (364.08).

2. Win the quarterback battle. FSU quarterback EJ Manuel has hardly been a flop this season, but he has been inconsistent. He looked like a Heisman contender against Clemson, but struggled through an emotional game in a loss to rival Florida. The Noles tend to go as Manuel goes, and he is going to have to make good decisions in order to overshadow and outplay Lynch. Lynch has the more impressive numbers, but Manuel has the better supporting cast and big-game experience.

3. Play disciplined. This is not the time for a mistake-laden game filled with turnovers and penalties. One of the reasons NIU won the MAC is because it has been a disciplined team that takes care of the ball. FSU is No. 96 in the country in turnover margin while Northern Illinois is tied for No. 29. FSU has lost the ball 26 times this year -- 16 fumbles and 10 interceptions.

Pregame: Discover Orange Bowl

January, 1, 2013
Northern Illinois (12-1, 8-0 MAC) vs. Florida State (11-2, 7-1 ACC)

WHO TO WATCH: The quarterbacks. Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch leads the nation in total yards (4,733) and ranks third in total yards per game (364.08) behind Baylor’s Nick Florence and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel. FSU quarterback EJ Manuel could become just the second quarterback to win four straight bowl games, joining former West Virginia quarterback Pat White. In just his second season as a full-time starter, Manuel is FSU’s career leader for completion percentage at 66.8 percent -- which is significantly ahead of No. 2 Charlie Ward (62.3).

WHAT TO WATCH: Florida State’s defensive line vs. NIU’s offensive line. Florida State defensive line coach D.J. Eliot was hired at Kentucky as Mark Stoops’ defensive coordinator, but Eliot stayed in Tallahassee to help the Noles prepare for Lynch. FSU’s defensive line has been one of the best in the country, despite season-ending injuries to star defensive ends Brandon Jenkins and Tank Carradine, who tore his ACL in the loss to Florida. FSU is No. 26 in the country with 2.54 sacks per game. NIU is tied for No. 16 in the country in sacks allowed with 1.08 per game, a total of 14 all season. FSU defensive end Bjoern Werner leads the ACC and ranks seventh nationally with 13 sacks this season.

WHY TO WATCH: Because No. 13 FSU might actually lose. The Noles are the more talented team, but the No. 15 Huskies will be playing to prove they belong in a BCS bowl. This will be the first BCS bowl game for a member of the Mid-American Conference. It is also the first bowl game between the ACC and MAC. NIU is the only program in the country to win 21 of its past 22 games, and joins Oregon as the only schools with three straight 11-win seasons. The Huskies' seniors are the winningest class in school history with 41 victories. FSU is 1-5 all-time in BCS bowls since playing in the first-ever BCS national championship game (1999 Fiesta Bowl).

PREDICTION: Florida State 31, Northern Illinois 17: The Huskies will come out fired up and ready to prove they deserved their title as BCS Busters, and they’ll keep it uncomfortably close in the first half. FSU fans will prematurely panic, an upset watch will look possible, but then reality will set in. Florida State has too much talent and speed, and the gap will continue to widen in the third quarter. The Noles will win the battle up front, and the defense will fare well in its first game without former coordinator Mark Stoops. The Noles will finish with 12 wins, including an ACC title and a BCS bowl win -- not a bad consolation prize for a team that had hoped to win a national title.
As the youngest member of Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher’s staff, defensive ends coach D.J. Eliot said he never lost sight of the fact that Fisher took a chance on him when he hired Eliot from Rice.

Now Eliot is trying to pay Fisher back for that opportunity with a win against Northern Illinois in the Discover Orange Bowl, the last game Eliot will coach with the Seminoles before joining former FSU defensive coordinator Mark Stoops’ staff at Kentucky.

[+] EnlargeKarlos Williams
AP Photo/Chuck BurtonKarlos Williams and FSU are ranked No. 2 nationally in total defense heading into the Orange Bowl.
“I always looked at Florida State as a place where they weren't lucky to have me, but I was lucky to have Florida State, and that's the way I approached work every day,” said Eliot, who is FSU’s acting defensive coordinator for the Orange Bowl. “Coach Fisher took a chance on me. I was a young D-line coach at Rice that did a good job in an interview, so I tried to repay him every single day with my work.”

Eliot still has a job to do -- his biggest yet -- but he has already had some on-the-job training for it.

In preparation for the ACC title game against Georgia Tech on Dec. 1, Eliot was in charge of the game plan and called most of the plays because of his knowledge and familiarity with the Jackets’ spread option.

Florida State’s defense was once again the difference down the stretch, as the Noles held off Georgia Tech for a 21-15 win and the school’s first ACC title since 2005. One day later, Stoops left to become the head coach at Kentucky, and he hired Eliot as his defensive coordinator. The Seminoles were left to prepare for Northern Illinois without their top two defensive assistants, but those within the program say it has been a smooth transition during bowl practices. Eliot came back to campus to lead the defense, and Fisher hired two new assistants, defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri.

For Eliot, it was a no-brainer to stick with the Noles through the bowl game.

“My players mean a tremendous amount to me, so I want to make sure that I finish this thing off for them,” he said. “They bought in early to what we were doing, and they've been very successful, and they've always respected me and done exactly what I've told them to do. So I want them to know that I was going to be here until the end for them, as well.”

Under Stoops, FSU’s defense was one of the best in the nation. This season, FSU was No. 5 in the country in rushing defense, No. 6 in scoring defense, No. 2 in total defense, and No. 3 in pass defense. FSU defensive end Bjoern Werner said the Noles won’t miss a beat with Eliot leading the defense instead of Stoops.

“I always knew he wanted to be a defensive coordinator, and I’m so happy for him that it worked out,” Werner said. “I’m so happy he didn’t go with coach Stoops, because they were really close. I’m so happy for him and I’m happy that he’s staying. He coaches exactly the same way as coach Stoops, so it wasn’t a big change for us. They play the same technique and all the same stuff. I’m happy for him, and I can see that he’s happy for us that we’re doing so good. He’s going to leave on a good note.”

That’s Eliot’s game plan, anyway.

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.
ESPN Insider Travis Haney has ranked the top 15 coaching hires in the country this offseason, and NC State's hire of Dave Doeren from Northern Illinois checked in at No. 10.

Here's a snippet of what Haney wrote on Doeren:
A Kansas native, what's concerning about Doeren is that he has no direct ties to the area or league. We've seen that work on lower levels but rarely at a BCS level. Let's face it: Doeren would have made a lot more sense -- a lot more -- at Wisconsin. The fact he'll be coaching the Wolfpack next season and not the Badgers has a lot to do with timing, whether anyone admits that or not.

Sorry, Boston College fans, but Steve Addazio is nowhere to be found on the list. Former Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, though, was ranked the No. 2 hire in the country at Kentucky. Here's an excerpt:
The more I learn about the youngest of the three college-coaching Stoops brothers, the more I like about what Mitch Barnhart did in luring him to Lexington. Stoops turned around Florida State's defense in short order, which was impressive (and why he got the job), but I really like the way he's gone about hiring a young, respected staff. As Lexington columnist John Clay noted, Stoops is 45 and his staff has an average of 39.4 years old.

The hire of Addazio at Boston College didn't exactly send waves of enthusiam through the BC fan base, but the Eagles did get a solid defensive coordinator in Don Brown. Off all of the coaching changes in the ACC this offseason, the hire of Ryan Day as offensive coordinator at BC was the biggest snoozer. Coaches are recycled constantly, but to come back to BC after being passed over for the job to begin with? There wasn't a more experienced coordinator out there? Day left BC for Temple because he was passed over for the OC job at BC. He was Addazio's coordinator at Temple, so it's no big surprise Addazio wanted to keep him around. But BC needs a fresh start, from top to bottom. Day was BC wide receivers coach for the Eagles between 2007-11 and as an offensive graduate assistant from 2003-04. BC's offense has been at the heart of its problems in recent years. Day has a lot to prove in this role, and he's got to be part of the solution this time around instead of part of the problem.
Alabama secondary coach Jeremy Pruitt has been hired as Florida State's new defensive coordinator, the school announced on Thursday. This is not unexpected, as it had already been reported, but FSU made it official. Pruitt becomes just the third defensive coordinator in the last 28 years at FSU and replaces Mark Stoops who was named head coach at the University of Kentucky.

“I’m very excited to add Jeremy to our staff,” Fisher said in a prepared statement. “He brings a lot to the table. He’s one of the bright young coaches in college football. He’s done an outstanding job at Alabama and in the past as a great high school coach. He’s also a good recruiter, but most importantly of all, he’s a great person. I’m really looking forward to him coming to Florida State and helping us to continue achieving the success that we’ve had and will continue to have. We’re very fortunate to be adding him to our program.”

On the surface, this looks like a good hire for FSU. Pruitt has developed a reputation as a solid recruiter, he has ties to the Mobile, Ala., area. It's also a chance for him to get coordinator experience at a big-time program. Both FSU and Pruitt should benefit from this move, but he has big shoes to fill.

“This is a great opportunity for me to join another one of the top college football programs in the country and take over as defensive coordinator for one of the best defenses out there,” Pruitt said, according to the release. “I really appreciate coach Fisher and his staff in welcoming me to the Seminole family. I’ve enjoyed my time at Alabama and am grateful to coach Saban and my Crimson Tide family for their support in preparing me as I begin the next chapter in my coaching career.”

An excerpt from the release:

Pruitt, 38, has spent the last three seasons directing one of the best defensive backfields in the country for one of the nation’s best defenses. Since Pruitt has coached the secondary at Alabama, the Crimson Tide has ranked in the top 10 in pass efficiency defense and top 15 in pass defense in all three seasons while also ranking in the top five in total defense and scoring defense. Pruitt also has been recognized as a tremendous recruiter. He was named as “National Recruiter of the Year” by last year in helping Alabama land the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation.

“Jeremy did an outstanding job for us and the opportunity for him to become the defensive coordinator at Florida State is well deserved,” Alabama head football coach Nick Saban said. “We always want our coaches to grow and advance in the profession and Jeremy has worked very hard through the years to earn this opportunity and put himself in this situation. We appreciate all that he has done to contribute to the success we’ve had at Alabama and wish him the best in his new role.”

Pruitt has made an impact in Tuscaloosa his last two seasons. In 2012, Alabama ranks No. 6 in pass defense yielding just 166.23 yards per game and No. 8 nationally in pass efficiency defense (101.56) while also leading the nation in total defense (246.00 ypg), rushing defense (79.77 yards per game) and ranking second in scoring defense (10.69 points per game). In 2011, Alabama not only led the nation in pass defense (111.46 ypg) and pass efficiency defense (83.69 ypg), but the Crimson Tide led the nation in rushing defense, total defense and scoring defense on its way to winning the BCS National Championship.


2012 bowl upset watch

December, 18, 2012
It’s time for your bowl edition of the upset watch. Now remember, these are not predictions. It’s a look at which teams in the ACC are the most likely to pull off a stunning upset, or be the team to be knocked down. Teams don’t have to be ranked to be considered for the upset watch. The ACC only has six teams bowling this year, but three of them have a legitimate chance to be involved in an upset. Here they are, starting with the most likely:

1. Duke vs. Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl: The Blue Devils will be motivated by playing in their first bowl game since 1994, and they’ll have the advantage of playing near home, in Charlotte, N.C. Duke’s biggest asset in this game will continue to be its pass offense, and the Blue Devils will have the edge at quarterback with Sean Renfree and receivers Jamison Crowder and Conner Vernon. Cincinnati’s pass defense has been kind this year, and it’s one weakness Duke coach David Cutcliffe should be able to exploit.

2. No. 14 Clemson vs. No. 8 LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl: The Tigers should have learned a lesson from their loss to South Carolina, as they will face a similar challenge against LSU’s stingy defense. Equally as important, though, is the fact that Clemson’s defense has a chance to make a statement and help fans forget about that dreadful performance in last year’s Discover Orange Bowl. LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger has already given Clemson’s D some bulletin board material when he said “they give up a lot of big plays in the passing game.” Them’s fightin’ words.

3. No. 12 FSU vs. No. 15 Northern Illinois in the Discover Orange Bowl: It’s easy to forget the MAC champs are the No. 15 team in the country, according to the final BCS standings. The Huskies haven’t been given much credit in the court of public opinion, but they’re going to be playing to prove they belong in a BCS bowl. And they’ll be facing an FSU team in the midst of transition on its coaching staff, as three assistants, including defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, have left for other jobs. FSU should win this game, there’s no question about it. But FSU also should have beaten NC State, and it didn’t look too convincing in the ACC championship game, or at Virginia Tech. The Noles have been inconsistent, and if they’re not ready and focused, anything can happen in this game.

Coaching turnover continues in ACC

December, 18, 2012
ACC fans often search for a big-picture explanation as to why the conference has struggled so much in recent years, but one of the most overlooked answers is obvious: coaching.

That’s not to say the ACC doesn’t have quality coaches -- Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer is the winningest active coach in the country. Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe is underrated, and Duke coach David Cutcliffe finally got the Blue Devils to their first bowl game since 1994. Turnover, though, has run rampant through the league at the head coach and coordinator positions, and this year is no exception. Boston College and NC State -- both in the Atlantic Division -- will be breaking in first-year head coaches and new staffs in 2013. Maryland’s Randy Edsall will be entering his third season, but it will also be the program’s last year in the conference. Florida State has had to replace its defensive coordinator, Mark Stoops, who left to become head coach at Kentucky.

Considering the work that needs to be done in both Raleigh and Chestnut Hill, there’s a good possibility we can see the balance of power shift in 2013 back to the Coastal Division, but even there tenure is hard to come by.

Al Golden at Miami is entering his third season, and Larry Fedora will only be in his second season at North Carolina. Virginia fired defensive coordinator Jim Reid and will be turning to a new, more aggressive philosophy. Every year it seems like there is at least one school starting from scratch. The ACC is certainly not alone in the coaching carousel -- it’s common practice in college football. The conference has made it a trend, though, and there is something to be said for continuity. It takes time to build recruiting classes and develop them. FSU fans should not be so quick to criticize Jimbo Fisher, and Miami fans should be thankful there was nothing to the rumors connecting Golden with other head-coaching vacancies. When trying to get back to national relevance, one of Miami’s biggest setbacks has been a lack of staff stability.

That might be a microcosm of the entire conference.

Take a look at the tenure of current ACC head coaches and their winning percentages:

Steve Adazzio, Boston College: 0 years at school

Dave Doeren, NC State: 0 years at school

Larry Fedora, North Carolina: 1 year at school (.667)

Randy Edsall, Maryland: 2 years at school (.250)

Al Golden, Miami: 2 years at school (.542)

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State: 3 years at school (.750)

Mike London, Virginia: 3 years at school (.432)

Dabo Swinney, Clemson: 5 years at school (.650)

David Cutcliffe, Duke: 5 years at school (.350)

Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech: 5 years at school (.606)

Jim Grobe, Wake Forest: 12 years at school (.497)

Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech: 26 years at school (.673)

2012 top Atlantic Division assistants

December, 17, 2012
The head coaches get all the money and all the ink. Not today. Today Andrea Adelson and I are recognizing one assistant coach from each staff in the ACC for a job well done this year. The Atlantic Division is up first:

BOSTON COLLEGE – Wide receivers coach Aaron Smith. In his first season with the program, Smith helped junior Alex Amidon develop into one of the ACC’s best. Amidon’s 1,210 yards receiving at the end of the regular season ranked second in the ACC, just four yards behind DeAndre Hopkins of Clemson. The entire group, including Johnathan Coleman, Bobby Swigert and Spiffy Evans, had one of its more productive seasons.

CLEMSON - Offensive coordinator Chad Morris. There’s a reason he was on the short list for many head coaching jobs this offseason. Clemson enters the Chick-fil-A Bowl ranked sixth in the nation in scoring (42.33), ninth in total offense (518.3) and 13th in passing (319.6) -- all record numbers for the program. Clemson has scored at least 37 points in 10 of the 12 games this year, and quarterback Tajh Boyd showed measurable improvement and mobility in his second season as a starter.

FLORIDA STATE – Defensive ends coach D.J. Eliot. There’s no question he will be missed on FSU’s staff, as Eliot was hired as Mark Stoops’ defensive coordinator at Kentucky. FSU’s defensive line didn’t miss a beat despite season-ending injuries to two of the group’s top players, Brandon Jenkins and Tank Carradine. Bjoern Werner has 13 sacks this season, leading the ACC and ranking second nationally in total sacks. Carradine went from backup to first-team All-ACC. He has 11 sacks this season, second in the ACC and 14th nationally.

MARYLAND – Mike Locksley, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks: No quarterbacks coach in the country had to deal with what Locksley did this year, as the Terps were down to their fifth-string quarterback -- a freshman linebacker in Shawn Petty. After injuries to every scholarship quarterback on the roster, Maryland still never quit and somehow managed to score 38 points on the road against North Carolina. Many wrote off Maryland before the season even began, when C.J. Brown tore his ACL. But the Terps hung in until the very end thanks to great coaching by Locksley.

NC STATE – Offensive coordinator Dana Bible. He was named interim coach for the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, and has been a rock on the sideline for the often inconsistent Pack. He has been integral in the development of quarterback Mike Glennon, who finished first in the ACC in passing yards per game (304) and second in total offense (292 yards per game). Despite numerous injuries and shuffling on the offensive line, NC State’s passing game was always a threat.

WAKE FOREST – OLB coach Derrick Jackson. Not only was he instrumental in the development of the linebackers, he was also a key recruiter for the Deacs this year. Linebacker Justin Jackson, who led the team with 80 tackles, including 8.5 for loss and four sacks, also had two pass breakups, one blocked kick and a forced fumble, and was the star of the group. Zachary Allen, Kevis Jones and Steve Donatell also showed significant progress this year under Jackson.