Florida State Football: Top 5 Potential Candidates to Replace Jeremy Pruitt

Perry Kostidakis@perrykosContributor IJanuary 14, 2014

Florida State Football: Top 5 Potential Candidates to Replace Jeremy Pruitt

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    One year after losing seven coaches to other programs, Florida State has lost another. 

    Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt will be headed to Georgia to replace Todd Grantham, who left for Louisville, the school announced on Tuesday.

    "This is an outstanding professional and personal opportunity," said Pruitt. "I'm looking forward to meeting the current players and getting on the road to visit with recruits."

    Pruitt, who was only with the Seminoles for a year, helped maintain one of the nation's best defenses, ranking high in each category, namely total defense, which the Seminoles ranked third in. He was also a skilled recruiter, and replacing that along with maintaining the relationships he had with the 2014 commits he currently had convinced to come to Florida State, will be difficult. 

    Jimbo Fisher has proven that he knows what kind of coach to hire, and here's a few that may be on his radar already. 

Charles Kelly

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    Kelly is entering in his second year as Florida State's linebacker coach, having come over from Georgia Tech, where he spent seven years. 

    According to his official bio on Florida State's website

    Kelly was elevated to interim defensive coordinator after the sixth game in 2012. After taking over the Georgia Tech defense after a 2-4 start (1-3 in the ACC), Kelly helped the Yellow Jackets improve significantly in every defensive statistical category. Georgia Tech finished the season with a 7-7 record after defeating USC in the Hyundai Sun Bowl...the final national rankings showed the Yellow Jackets' improvements with Kelly running the defense as compared to the first part of the season. Through the first six games of the season, Georgia Tech ranked 83rd in scoring defense (30.17 points per game), 68th in rushing defense (163.3 yards per game), 98th in passing defense (267.7 yards per game), 89th in total defense (431 yards per game) and 78th in sacks (1.67 sacks per game). The Yellow Jackets finished the year with an improvement in scoring defense (65 th, 28.3 points per game), rushing defense (41st, 144.2 yards per game), passing defense (68th, 229.8 yards per game), total defense (43rd, 374.0 yards per game) and sacks (59th, 2.0 sacks per game).

    Promoting from within may be one of the smartest options for Fisher, who has been said to be much more relaxed and comfortable with his current staff. The main advantage in hiring Kelly, aside from his familiarity with the program, is that Fisher has a desire to have a defensive coordinator who specializes in defensive backs. Kelly spent three years working with defensive backs at Georgia Tech, as well as playing the position in college. 

Sal Sunseri

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    Another option for promoting within is current defensive end coach Sal Sunseri, who has an impressive resume under his belt. Sunseri's most recent position was defensive coordinator at Tennessee in 2012, and before that, he was the assistant head coach under Nick Saban at Alabama. 

    Sunseri also spent time as the defensive line coach for the Carolina Panthers, coaching in the Panthers' appearance in the Super Bowl. 

    His complete resume is as follows:

    2013: Florida State, Defensive Ends

    2012: Tennessee, Defensive Coordinator

    2009-11: Alabama, Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers

    2002-08: Carolina Panthers, Defensive Line

    2001: Michigan State, Linebackers/Special Teams

    2000: LSU, Linebackers/Special Teams

    1998-99: Alabama A&M, Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers

    1995-97: Louisville, Linebackers

    1994: Illinois State, Defensive Coordinator

    1993: Iowa Wesleyan, Assistant Head Coach/Def. Coordinator/Special Teams

    1985-92: Pittsburgh, Defensive Line/Linebackers/Assistant Head Coach (1992)

    What Sunseri brings to the table is experience. 11 different stops from the coach adds into his knowledge of defense, and a good majority of the teams he has worked for are top name programs. Though he doesn't have the defensive back pedigree that Fisher so desires, he does have wisdom and is familar with the system already in place. 

Kirby Smart

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    Take this one with a grain of salt: It's not very likely that Smart leaves Alabama, where he is expected to stay for a long time, possibly in hopes of replacing Nick Saban. Smart makes $1.15 million a year, which is much more than Pruitt was making. So one has to believe that Florida State wouldn't pony up that kind of money. 

    Still, Smart once coached at Florida State, serving as a graduate assistant under Bobby Bowden and earning his master's degree, so if one were to have any hopes of making a connection, that would be it.

    Fisher and Smart have studied under the same Saban school of thought, so ideally, this matchup would make sense, but fiscally and logically, the hire doesn't hold too much ground. 

Ed Orgeron

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    Coach O, as he has become affectionally known as, revitalized the University of Southern California this last season, completely turning it around after Lane Kiffin's firing. Though a fan and player favorite, Orgeron was not retained as head coach and then decided to leave the program. 

    If FSU wants to ease the pain of losing a good recruiter, hiring Orgeron would be ideal. Players flock to him, evidenced by his brief tenure at USC, and he isn't too bad of a defensive coach, either. He has the experience, having been a coach since 1989. 

    Though his defensive ideology is different from the one already in place at Florida State, his prowess as a recruiter is interesting enough to get some traction going. Players commit to a coach as much as they commit to a school, and Fisher is known for his emphasis on recruiting.

    His resume is as follows

    2010-2012: USC, Defensive Coordinator, Recruiting Coordinator & Defensive Line Coach

    2009: Tennessee, Defensive Line Coach, Assistant Head Coach & Recruiting Coordinator

    2008: New Orleans Saints, Defensive Line Coach

    2007: Ole Miss, Head Coach

    2005-2006: Ole Miss, Head Coach & Defensive Coordinator

    1998-2004: USC, Defensive Line Coach

    1995-1997: Syracuse, Defensive Line Coach

    1994: Nicholls St.,Linebacker Coach

    1989-1992, Miami, Defensive Line Coach

Manny Diaz

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    Diaz, who was fired in September 2012 by Mack Brown, is another longshot potential hire with former ties to Florida State. He started his career with the Seminoles, coaching with Mickey Andrews when FSU made two straight BCS title games in 1998 and 1999. He also earned his degree from Florida State, serving as the sports editor of the FSView during the fall of 1993 and the spring of 1994. 

    His resume isn't as padded as the others, making stops at five different schools in his career: Texas, Florida State, Mississippi State, Middle Tennessee and NC State. But a coach with experience as a coordinator is always welcome.

    Like Orgeron, his defensive ideology is different from the one already in place, but Diaz is an interesting possibility if only because his pedigree as a Seminole. If that qualifies him enough to be a fan favorite is to be seen, but it still brings about some intrigue.