There’s a good reason why Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher isn’t worried about opening the season Saturday night with a new defensive coordinator for the third time in as many seasons.
Will 'Noles Defense Be Better in 2014 Than They Were in 2013?
Actually, there are two good reasons:
1. Fisher is confident in Kelly
Fisher is undoubtedly comfortable with Charles Kelly, whom he promoted to Seminoles defensive boss earlier this year following the surprise defection of coordinator Jeremy Pruitt to the same position at the University of Georgia. Kelly was promoted to his current post after coaching the ‘Noles linebackers for one season.
“The guy is hired to do a job and he knows how to do it,” Fisher said this week. “I’m very comfortable with what he’s done. I know who he is and what he’s done. We’ve got a great staff. Charles has been in a lot of battles and situations throughout his career and I have a lot of confidence in him.”
Despite the change in coordinators, the Seminoles’ overall defensive scheme hasn’t changed.
With Pruitt in charge, FSU was much more aggressive defensively than when Mark Stoops was calling the plays. Pruitt may have replaced Stoops when the latter was hired to coach Kentucky, but it was Fisher’s decision to emulate Nick Saban's Alabama formula for defensive success and transform into a more multiple and attacking style of scheme—a choice that paid off last year when the Seminoles proved to be one of the nation’s premier defensive teams.
|2014||Florida State||Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs|
|2013||Florida State||Linebackers/Special Teams|
|2012||Georgia Tech||Interim Defensive Coordinator (Final 6 Games)|
|2006-12||Georgia Tech||Defensive Backs/Special Teams|
|2004-05||Nicholls State||Defensive Coordinator|
|2002-03||Nicholls State||Defensive Backs|
|2000-01||Eufaula (Ala.) HS||Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers|
|1999||Henderson State||Defensive Coordinator|
|1997-98||Jacksonville State||Defensive Coordinator|
|1996||Jacksonville State||Offensive Coordinator|
|1995||Jacksonville State||Defensive Backs|
|1994||Jacksonville State||Running Backs|
|1990-92||Central (Ala.) HS||Assistant|
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With Kelly, that mindset hasn’t changed; only the person calling the plays.
"We were a very tight-knit group last year, and I feel we're the same way this year," Kelly said at FSU’s media day earlier this month. "When you have the camaraderie or whatever it is that you manage and you're on the same page, when you hear ideas from other people ... just the trust factor and the more you're together, that's important."
Helping make the transition from coordinator to coordinator is made all the more easier by the quality of the coaching staff as a whole. Kelly has his own 20-year career of experiences to draw upon as he embarks on this new chapter, but having longtime coaching veterans like defensive tackles coach Odell Haggins, linebackers coach Bill Miller and defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri collectively working together makes for an ideal ingredient in the recipe for success.
Oh, and the quality of players doesn’t hurt either...
2. Fisher’s defense is loaded with talent
Terrence Brooks, Timmy Jernigan, Lamarcus Joyner and Telvin Smith are all now in the NFL, but FSU has the chance to be even better defensively than it was a season ago when the Seminoles faced a staggering 963 total offensive plays but allowed just 12.1 points per game.
There are some key players missing from that excellent effort, yes, but Florida State still returns a group of players who combined to register 521 total tackles in 2013. Despite not having a single senior starter on defense, the Seminoles have more than enough talent and experience returning in 2014 to pose problems for opposing offenses.
Fisher’s defensive secondary returns three starters (four if you count the healthy return of Tyler Hunter) in Jalen Ramsey, P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby, who contributed to the country’s best pass defense a season ago. Williams and Darby are widely considered to be the best cornerback tandem in the nation, and Ramsey could be on the verge of solidifying himself as a college football superstar.
Terrance Smith is an underrated starter with a lot of experience at the linebacker spot, and Fisher’s defense also features Mario Edwards Jr., who at 300 pounds has the ability to play effectively inside or outside on the defensive line. DeMarcus Walker, Reggie Northrup, E.J. Levenberry, Nile Lawrence-Stample, Chris Casher, Nate Andrews and several more defenders are each expected to step up and play at a sustained high level as well.
“We have a lot of talented guys,” Goldman said. “Everybody knows what they are supposed to do and how they are supposed to do it. We definitely want to be better this year [than last year].”
Brandon Mellor is a Florida State writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of Seminoles.com. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.
Follow @BrandonMellor on Twitter.