What's Next For Florida State Football?

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What's Next For Florida State Football?
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As the Florida State University football team enters the next part of the football season, including bowl games and recruiting for next season, they are met with a challenge they have not seen in quite a long time. Even though FSU prepared for head coach Bobby Bowden’s eventual retirement with offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher designated as the head-coach-in-waiting, there are still a number of factors FSU has to be prepared for in the coming weeks.

This is essential if they plan on being more competitive in 2010. Let’s take a closer look at the key areas of interest Florida State has to deal with as the country awaits seeing Coach Bowden in action one last time.

Bowl Game

6-6 still gets you to a bowl game, though a minor one at best. Nevertheless, Florida State still earns the right to play one more game for the 28th consecutive season. Coach Bowden, along with retiring defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews, will dress in the garnet and gold one last time wearing those titles.

The game will ultimately be an emotional one for players, fans, and coaches alike. Sometime within the next week or two, FSU will officially receive their bowl game invitation and can plan their coaching schedule accordingly.

Current rumors have the Gator Bowl, who picks third in the bowl selection process for ACC teams, possibly selecting Florida State. This would be a huge boon for the bowl and FSU alike. The Gator Bowl is played in Jacksonville, which provides good travel opportunities for FSU fans to see Coach Bowden take the field for the last time.

Along those lines, the Gator Bowl is considering selecting West Virginia as FSU’s opponent, pitting Coach Bowden against the only other team he has coached. It would be a fitting tribute, but there are other factors at play.

According to the ACC Bowl regulations, the Gator Bowl and all bowls with ACC tie-ins, can only select a team that has a one loss differential. Gator Bowl officials are arguing that only matters when they are selecting the ACC Championship Game loser, which they are obligated to do once every four years (they selected Georgia Tech in 2007).

After the two ACC title contenders, the next team in line for a bowl position finished 5-3. This allows the Gator Bowl to select the 4-4 Florida State Seminoles, stating they fall within the one loss regulation because they are not obligated to select the ACC Championship loser.

I don’t know how this one will fall out, but when Florida State plays will have a direct effect on the remaining steps of Jimbo Fisher’s new regime, which also includes:

Coaching Changes

As of right now, only Jimbo Fisher and offensive line coach Rick Trickett have contracts that extend beyond this season. With the retirement of Mickey Andrews, finding a new defensive coordinator needs to be Fisher’s first step. Based off of rumors of animosity between Fisher and executive head coach Chuck Amato, I highly doubt Amato will be interviewed for the job.

There will be much speculation over the next few days and weeks on who will be looked at for the position, but I’m sure that Coach Fisher and Athletic Director Randy Spetman will be meeting with a short list of coaches in mind. Look for behind the back negotiations and talks to take place during FSU’s bowl preparation, with the hope that a new coach will be signed following the bowl game.

Finding a defensive coordinator quickly is imperative, as it gives the new coach time to put together his staff prior to the final recruiting run before signing day. At the very least, do not expect Amato or defensive ends/special teams coach Jody Allen to be on the FSU Staff in 2010.

Defensive tackle coach O’Dell Haggins future will undoubtedly be determined by the new defensive coordinator and Fisher together. Remember now, Fisher has final say on all this, but I cannot see him hiring someone he does not have ties to.

Offensively, look for Fisher to keep most, if not all of his staff. Being the head coach now, it would be more beneficial to pass the offensive coordinator duties off to one of his current position coaches. Tight ends/recruiting coordinator James Coley, is the only member of the offense Fisher brought in, so he looks to be the top option to take the position.

Considering the success the FSU offense had this year, I would imagine wide receivers coach Lawrence Dawsey to be safe. It is possible he could be looking for a new running backs and quarterbacks coach (Dexter Carter and Fisher took those roles, respectively).

For those interested in looking at rumors, Tomahawk Nation does a great job breaking down potential prospects, but again, this is all rumors until a signature is made. Having a coaching staff complete as soon as possible is key if it will improve FSUs efforts in:

Recruiting

According to Warchant , Florida State has 16 verbal commitments, leading to the February 2010 signing period. Of those 16, only one commitment was brought in by Jody Allen, who is not expected to be on staff next season. The rest are brought in by Fisher and members of his staff who should still be in place in 2010.

The idea of the “in-waiting” position was to allow recruits to feel there would be no change when Bowden eventually retired. Fisher and Coley took the reigns of the recruiting business, no longer making FSU a late player (FSU is notorious for its frenetic signing of big recruits on the first day of the signing period). Instead, FSU is now a major player for verbal commitments and because of this, should keep most if not all of their current commitments. Any wavering will come if Fisher cannot have a staff together by January.

There are a number of potential recruits FSU is in the hunt for and in order to sign these prospects away from other top-caliber BCS schools, having a solid coaching staff in place, especially one with knowledge and ties to the areas FSU focuses on, will be a huge gain.

There is also a possibility these coaches can bring in recruits they were hunting for their previous school. No guarantee to grab a big number of prospects that way, but a few could change their mind and rock the garnet and gold. The final concern is:

Current Players

FSU brings back a huge number of players on both sides of the ball next year and have plenty of top quality athletes waiting in the wings. As is the case when the head coach leaves, some players decide to seek playing time elsewhere.

By FSU having the “in-waiting” plan, much like with recruiting, Fisher and Coley brought in a huge number of the current staff and therefore, I expect most of the current players to continue to play for FSU. There may be one or two players that played exclusively for Amato and Allen who might move, but it would depend on if those coaches got new jobs.

Losing the head coach is never easy and while Florida State did their best to plan for this, there will be some growing pains. However, Fisher and the men he employs are prepared for this and I fully expect the cogs of the Florida State football machine to continue to turn without any major interruptions.

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