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Thursday, January 24, 2013
James Coley joins Miami staff

By David M. Hale
NoleNation

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The exodus from Jimbo Fisher's staff at Florida State continued Thursday as quarterbacks coach James Coley accepted a job as offensive coordinator at Miami. The Hurricanes made the announcement.

While Coley also held the title of offensive coordinator at FSU, he was not the team's playcaller -- a role Fisher has maintained since joining Bobby Bowden's staff in 2007. Coley had been the Seminoles' tight ends coach until former quarterbacks coach Dameyune Craig departed for Auburn earlier this month. Along with Coley and Craig, four other FSU assistants have left for other jobs since Dec. 1.

"We're excited about adding James Coley's leadership, expertise and passion to our staff and Miami Hurricane football," Hurricanes coach Al Golden said in a statement. "I've been an admirer of his offenses' output and execution, his commitment to student-athlete development as well as his relentless approach to recruiting Dade and Broward counties."

Fisher had largely avoided significant blowback from the other coaching departures -- all received promotions by leaving -- but Coley's loss may be the most significant. Coley is a Miami native who has worked with the Dolphins and was offensive coordinator at Florida International, and he's widely considered among the best recruiters of high school talent in South Florida. His loss to both an in-state and conference rival could have lasting implications on the recruiting trail.

Reports suggest Coley was offered $500,000 by Miami along with full control over play calling. The financial aspect is something Florida State likely could have matched, as the current staff will actually earn less, in total, than what Fisher's assistants were paid in 2012.

The bigger stumbling block in retaining Coley was likely his role in designing the offense.

Fisher has maintained tight control over play calling as Florida State's head coach, but after earning heavy criticism for his conservative approach in a loss to NC State in 2012, he suggested he'd long planned to cede control to a full-time offensive coordinator eventually -- suggesting he had a "five-year plan" for turning over the play-calling duties.

"I've always done it," Fisher said. "I feel our offense. I know it better than anybody. And we've been doing a great job as far as moving the ball and things. That's what we do."

Coley, who attended FSU, will replace Jedd Fisch who headed to the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason.

Coley is a former recruiting coordinator at FSU and could have a positive impact at Miami in this area. He helped the Seminoles land top-10 classes in 2008 and 2009. He has also spent two years as an assistant with the Miami Dolphins under Nick Saban.

No one on Fisher's staff had a better working knowledge of his offense than Coley, but there were obvious problems with simply handing over play-calling responsibilities as a form of leverage in negotiations.

While Coley will have some leeway to create his own offensive style at Miami, a similar position at FSU would likely have simply involved implementing Fisher's offense. Moreover, Fisher's looming presence on the sideline could certainly cast a long shadow over Coley if he had struggled in a new role in the early going.

With his departure, Fisher's decision to eventually hand over play-calling duties will be further complicated. To bring in a top-caliber assistant, he may need to be negotiable in how he'll delegate responsibilities; however, he may be more reluctant to give such a significant role to someone with little familiarity with his offense. Both of Florida State's recent offensive assistant hires -- Billy Napier (tight ends) and Randy Sanders (running backs) -- have previous coordinator experience.

While Fisher's role as the team's playcaller has been criticized at times, the results are hardly an indictment. Florida State averaged 7.01 yards per play in 2012, the fourth-best mark in the nation and by far the best average during Fisher's six-year tenure with the Seminoles.

Information from ESPN college football reporter Joe Schad was used in this report.