- David M. Hale, ESPN Staff Writer
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — For the second time in as many years, Florida State is looking to replace a defensive coordinator who bolted for the SEC.
ESPN reports that Jeremy Pruitt has accepted a job as the defensive coordinator at Georgia, leaving Florida State after just one year on the job and one more national championship on his resume.
Jimbo Fisher hired Pruitt to replace Mark Stoops in December 2012 after Stoops took the head-coaching job at Kentucky. At the time, it seemed a risky hire. Pruitt had spent just three years as an assistant at the college level, running the secondary at Alabama. Prior to that, he’d been an off-field assistant for Nick Saban and coached the defense at Hoover (Ala.) High School.
It turned out, the hire was a stroke of genius for Fisher. Pruitt restructured Florida State’s defense, moving more heavily to a 3-4 scheme that helped mask a litany of departures on the defensive line. He also integrated a more aggressive approach that allowed Florida State ramp up its takeaway numbers. The Seminoles led the nation in interceptions, passing defense and scoring defense in 2013.
Where Florida State goes from here is a big question, particularly with national signing day just three weeks away.
Defensive line coach Sal Sunseri is an obvious candidate. He was defensive coordinator at Tennessee, and he worked extensively with Pruitt while both were assistants at Alabama. He would provide some stability for the current Florida State defense, as would linebackers coach Charles Kelly, who served as Georgia Tech's interim defensive coordinator in 2012.
But Fisher might not be overly concerned with stability, as he showed with his hiring of Pruitt last year.
Money could play a role in a hire, too. Pruitt earned a base salary of $540,000 at Florida State, though that was expected to increase — both with bonuses from this year’s national-title run and increases in compensation Fisher reportedly negotiated in his latest round of contract talks.
Recruiting will be another key piece to the puzzle. Pruitt stepped in as one of Florida State’s top recruiters, helping the Seminoles land several key late additions to their 2013 signing class, including Nate Andrews, FSU’s leader in interceptions, and Jalen Ramsey, a freshman All-American, after just a few weeks on the job.
Fisher was forced to replace seven assistant coaches during a three-month frenzy following the end of the 2012 regular season, and he said at the time that he keeps a running list of top candidates for every job.
“I have those lists, and I know what my process is going to be,” Fisher said last year.
Now, less than 13 months later, Fisher is digging into his lists once again.