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. 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.
6-6 still gets you to a bowl game, though a minor one at that. 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. FSU has officially received their bowl game invitation, and can plan their coaching schedule accordingly, with practice starting the Monday following finals for the January 1st Gator Bowl against West VirginiaConsidering tickets sold out in two hours, it’s not a far cry to say how important this game is, records be damned. Coach Bowden, as most are aware, originally coached West Virginia before coming to FSU in 1976, and when FSU went to their first bowl game under Bowden, in 1978, it was against West Virginia.
While Bowden refuses to call this a “final bow” it really is that. Why else would the Gator Bowl pick a 6-6 FSU team that went 4-4 in conference play, especially with Miami, Clemson, and Boston College, who all had superior records and beat FSU this season? Nevertheless, the Gator Bowl exercised the option to pick FSU, invoking the right to pick a team within a one-game record differential (all three teams went 5-3 in the ACC).
West Virginia won’t lay down for this game, and Florida State will have to summon all that they have, especially on their horrific defense, to stop RB Noel Devine, and let Coach Bowden walk out on top as a winner. A lower tier bowl might have guaranteed a win, but the Gator Bowl wanted to sell out the stadium, and they did just that. It remains to be seen whether or not it’s at the expense of Coach Bowden’s final season as head coach.
As the teams prepare, the coaches have to deal with a multitude of other factors, including:
As of right now, only Jimbo Fisher and Offensive Line Coach Rick Trickett have contracts that extend beyond this season. Four coaches have all been told they will not be retained following the bowl game. They are Linebackers Coach/Executive Head Coach Chuck Amato, Defensive Ends/Special Teams Coach Jody Allen, Running Backs Coach Dexter Carter, and Strength and Conditioning Coach Todd Stroud. Once the official announcement of Bowden’s retirement came down, I’m sure most, if not all, had seen the writing on the wall concerning their future.
Those being retained include Tight End/Recruiting Coordinator James Coley, Defensive Tackles Coach O’Dell Haggins, Wide Recievers Coach Lawrence Dawsey, and Trickett. Now, Trickett has interviewed for the Marshall Head Coaching position, but with his son an FSU commitment, I highly doubt Trickett gets the job, if he is even offered. I would expect Fisher to remain the offensive playcaller for 2010, turning it over to Coley following the end of next season.
Now, FSU has already made one signing, agreeing to a contract with former Tennessee Running Backs/Special Teams Coach Eddie Gran. This is a huge get for the Seminoles. Gran is a big name in South Florida recruiting (a hotbed for top prospects), and has a penchant for turning running backs into NFL stars. He has coached many current NFL players, including Ronnie Brown, Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, and Brandon Jacobs. There is little doubt he will do magic with the Florida State backfield. It is also expected he will take on the Special Teams role, replacing the departed Jody Allen.
So far, no announcement has been made regarding a defensive coordinator. Names being thrown out include Alabama DC Kirby Smart, Alabama Linebackers Coach Sal Sunseri, East Carolina University DC Greg Hudson, and Arizona DC Mark Stoops. Apparently, interviews with personnel have taken place, but an announcement has not been made. Rumors have come out stating an announcement in the coming weeks, and at that time, look for the DC, with Fisher, to make the final additions, including Linebackers Coach and Secondary Coach. These new coaches would not begin until the bowl games are complete, leaving a six week period for the new staff to put their efforts into:
According to Warchant, Florida State has 19 verbal commitments, leading up to the February 2010 signing period. Of those 19, only one commitment was brought in by Jody Allen, who is one of the coaches not being retained. The rest are brought in by Fisher and members of his staff who should still be in place in 2010.
Of these commitments, seven have come since the announcement of Coach Bowden’s retirement, three for 2010, and four for 2011. Of those seven, six are defensive players, and three of those six will suit up in 2010. Two of those signed for 2010 are the nation’s number one in their position: five-star recruit CB LaMarcus Joyner and four-star recruit ILB Jeff Luc. These signings have also helped FSU jump into 14th on the Rivals team rankings.These signings would be huge for Florida State’s present and future. Despite not having a full staff, the team was able to show these kids the bright future they have suiting up in the Garnet and Gold. With a number of top recruits left on the board, the eventual addition of a full staff will undoubtedly help during the home stretch.
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. While some commitments are soft, and are taking their other visits, I would only expect some to change if they either a) had an amazing visit at another program, or b) a solid coaching staff is not in place by the end of the bowl season.
With many top recruits still on FSU’s radar, and Coley’s breakneck pace of recruiting (you can follow it on his Twitter page), the Seminoles have a very strong chance to be a top five team when the final recruiting rankings come out.The season following the regular season is just as important, and Florida State has already taken some strong steps in their coaching hires and recruiting to help bring the Seminoles back to national prominence. These next few days and weeks should be exciting for those who bleed Garnet and Gold.