Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline claimed on last Saturday’s live CFB blog that he “wouldn’t be surprised if Willie Taggart was fired before the weekend was over.” After a 9-12 start at Florida State, Willie Taggart was let go on Sunday. The firing followed a blowout loss to rival Miami. With a head coaching vacancy at one of the premier college football programs, who are the top options FSU Seminoles could go after to replace Taggart and his staff?
Urban Meyer & Bob Stoops
If Urban Meyer comes out of retirement, it will likely be for USC or maybe even Notre Dame. While FSU is a blue-blood program, there doesn’t seem to be enough connecting Meyer to FSU for me to buy it.
Bob Stoops is also retired from coaching at the collegiate level. The XFL lets him enjoy coaching without any pressure. A long-term rebuild isn’t what Bob would want, and I don’t think FSU would commit to him, preferring someone younger. Could it happen? I wouldn’t rule it out, but it would be strange for Stoops to do. Rumors have come out about it, but I’d be hesitant to buy them.
Potential head coaching hires:
Mark Stoops, Kentucky: Mark Stoops has done a phenomenal job building the Kentucky football team over the years. He’s very familiar with the Florida area, having spent three years on the FSU staff under Jimbo Fisher and another three years at Miami. He has done a great job recruiting and developing talent in the SEC East, and his teams are always well-disciplined and well-coached. His buyout from Kentucky is rather cheap at $2 million. If they can’t get the elder Stoops brother, the other one would make a lot of sense.
Luke Fickell, Cincinnati: I’m a huge fan of Luke Fickell as a coach. He has done a phenomenal job at Cincinnati and has a proven track record at a successful program (co-DC/LBs coach for Ohio State from 2012-2016). While he doesn’t have many ties to the Florida area, he is a proven coach and brings a ton of energy.
Matt Campbell, Iowa State: It’s doubtful that Campbell would want to leave Iowa State, but Florida State is a blue-blood program, and rebuilding it would bring massive prestige to Campbell’s name (and fill his wallet). If the Seminoles could poach Campbell from Iowa State, that would be a slam-dunk hire.
Tony Elliott, Clemson co-offensive coordinator/RBs coach: Elliott has coached under Dabo Swinney for many years and is a former Broyles Award winner. Clemson’s offense hasn’t skipped a beat since Chad Morris left, and Elliott is a big reason why. He’s a proven offensive mind, and the offense is what’s sexy these days. An added bonus with this hire is poaching from ACC Atlantic Division rival Clemson.
Mike Norvell, Memphis: Norvell is somewhat of a wild card name, but if Florida State is searching for an offensive guru, Norvell would fit the bill. He’s been wildly successful at Memphis and has done a great job developing players in his program. Norvell is only 38 years old and could be the young offensive star to institute a rebuild in the FSU program.
Josh Heupel, UCF: Would Heupel leave UCF just two years into his tenure there? If FSU offered him the job, he should certainly be tempted. The UCF team has fallen off the tracks this season, but it’s important to note that star quarterback McKenzie Milton has been injured. UCF is still second in total offense and fifth in scoring offense. Heupel would be an intriguing option.
Other names to consider:
- Brian Harsin, Boise State Head Coach
- Willie Fritz, Tulane Head Coach
- Jason Candle, Toledo Head Coach
Coordinators are sometimes the more important hire than the head coach. A program in need of a rebuild needs good coordinators. As mentioned, the offensive side of the ball is where it’s at these days. The FSU Seminoles have plenty of coaching options for this spot, with bright minds all over the country.
Kendal Briles, current FSU OC: While a search for the new staff may likely lead to a complete regime change, Briles staying on board as offensive coordinator makes sense. He has organized top-flight offenses in the past, and the Florida State Seminoles’ offense has improved under his tenure. Briles is also relatively young at 36 years old.
Joe Brady, LSU passing game coordinator/QBs coach: The hottest commodity in coaching and a virtual lock to win the Broyles Award, Brady has turned the LSU offense into a firework show. His work in developing Joe Burrow and transforming the identity of LSU’s offense has turned Brady into one of the fastest-rising coaches in college football. A team would likely have to make him their HC to bring him aboard, but OC would still be an upgrade at a blue-blood program like FSU.
Ryan Silverfield, Memphis co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach: I mentioned Mike Norvell’s name above, but Silverfield is another influential member of the Tigers’ staff. Their run game and development of offensive talent has been strong, and Silverfield is a big reason why. It’s an under-the-radar name, but the clout of a big-name program like the FSU Seminoles could win him over.
Brian Hartline, Ohio State wide receivers coach: Hartline’s job developing WRs at Ohio State has been nothing short of outstanding. They’ve churned out several talented players there under his tutelage. It’s only a matter of time before he becomes a full offensive coordinator, and his work under Ryan Day this season is only going to accelerate his job offers.
Rhett Lashlee, SMU offensive coordinator/QBs coach: The SMU Mustangs are now 8-1, but their potent passing game has brought their program to new life. SMU’s offense has been explosive under Lashlee this season, with QB Shane Buechele improving under a new system. If FSU wants to go with an under-the-radar coaching option with a high ceiling, Lashlee fits the bill.
Other offensive coordinator names:
- Graham Harrell, USC OC
- Keith Heckendorf, Arkansas State OC
- Charles Huff, Alabama RBs coach
- Tom Manning, Iowa State OC
- Bodie Reeder, North Texas OC
The Florida State defense has had tremendous talent over the years, but under coach Willie Taggart, the defense finished 80th in total defense last season and currently sits at 99th. The FSU Seminoles need a new coaching option calling the defensive plays.
Marcus Freeman, Cincinnati defensive coordinator/linebackers coach: Freeman was a personal favorite target of mine for the Oklahoma Sooners to go after to fill their defensive coordinator spot last season. He’s an excellent disciplinarian who has always had his defense confident and hungry. He could be in line to take over if Fickell leaves Cincinnati, but if FSU opens up the checkbook, he could be won over.
Gerald Alexander, Cal secondary coach: Another personal favorite of mine, Alexander has the Cal secondary playing lights out. He’s a successful former player whose resume includes working with Justin Wilcox and Tim DeRuyter, as well as Jimmy Lake at Washington. Funny enough, Alexander was signed to the Jets as depth after starting safety Jim Leonhard went down with an injury. Leonhard is now the (very) successful defensive coordinator of the Wisconsin Badgers.
Clayton White, Western Kentucky defensive coordinator/cornerbacks coach: Want a shot in the dark on an up-and-coming coach? White has had the Hilltoppers’ defense consistently ranked in the upper echelon in the country. In his 3rd season at Western Kentucky, the Hilltoppers currently rank 7th in third-down defense and 24th in total defense.
Bob Bostad, Wisconsin Inside Linebackers coach: I name-dropped Jim Leonhard above as the Wisconsin defensive coordinator, but Bob Bostad is another decorated coach to be considered. In his time at Wisconsin, Bostad has coached and developed star linebackers like T.J. Watt, T.J. Edwards, and Ryan Connelly. He’s also a former run-game coordinator for the Badgers and has helped produce offensive linemen like Travis Frederick, Kevin Zeitler, and Rick Wagner. He has ties to the Florida area, as he worked two seasons in Tampa Bay. Would he leave Wisconsin?
Corey Raymond, LSU secondary coach: Out of every coach on this list, only Urban Meyer and Bob Stoops have a more impressive resume than Raymond. Take a look at the players he has produced: Eric Reid, Alfonzo Dennard, Jalen Mills, Tre’Davious White, Jamal Adams, Rashard Robinson, Greedy Williams, Donte Jackson, Kristian Fulton, Grant Delpit, and soon to be Derek Stingley. Raymond is a reason why LSU is known as DBU. Raymond leaving LSU is doubtful, but anything is possible.
Other defensive coordinator names:
- Phil Parker, Iowa defensive coordinator
- Bert Watts, Fresno State defensive coordinator
- David Reeves, UAB defensive coordinator
- Roy Manning, Oklahoma linebackers coach
- Jim Leavitt, FSU analyst
There should only be one name the FSU Seminoles consider as a coaching option for special teams: Justin Lustig from Syracuse. His teams always rank near the top of every special teams stat, and you get to poach him from another conference opponent.