Had he not migrated back to coaching, Tim Cramsey could have moved from his native Pennsylvania to senior citizen-laden South Florida to do what he did for a few years in the real world: working in the financial arm of nursing homes.
Instead, Cramsey comes from his football home of New Hampshire to football speed-laden South Florida to do what he did the past three years at the University of New Hampshire: coordinate a high-powered, hop-to-it offense.
“I used to stare at a computer all day long and that was no fun,” Cramsey said of the job he took in Philadelphia after graduating from UNH with a business administration degree in 1998.
So Cramsey went back to the school where he’d been a starting quarterback and long snapper. The guy who was the running backs coach, then the offensive line coach during Cramsey’s four years as a player, had since been elevated to offensive coordinator. His units rolled up 400 yards per game, among the most dynamic in Division I-AA. Name of Chip Kelly.
That’s the Chip Kelly whose Oregon offenses with speed afoot and of pace left defenses dragging off the field the past several years. After four years under Kelly and two years when current Boston College tight ends coach Sean Devine was offensive coordinator, Cramsey took over UNH’s offense in 2009 and kept the tradition going. Last year, the Wildcats were eighth nationally at 444.0 yards per game.
FIU needed a new offensive coordinator after Scott Satterfield went back to his college playing and coaching home, Appalachian State, following the 2011 season. Also, there was the feeling at FIU that the offense, explosive though it was, could have been more expansive and inventive.
So, FIU coach Mario Cristobal found himself at the American Football Coaches Association convention last January interviewing a train of candidates.
Which is why the first thing both Cristobal and Cramsey remember about the initial job interview is the lateness of the hour. Cramsey recalls it as around 9:30 p.m. when he went in to see Cristobal and offensive line coach Alex Mirabal.
“He was very precise,” Cristobal said. “He had a great presence about him. He had the system we felt fit us the best. The type of system that utilizes the personnel. We’re in South Florida where we feel we can get great players year in, year out, and one that can switch tempos on you effectively. The part that pushed it over the edge — we had a background check and everything said he was a great person — he has answers to go to immediately in his offense.”
What didn’t get discussed in the interview struck Cramsey. Remember, this fell two weeks after Cristobal listened to Pitt woo him and two weeks before Rutgers would also make its pitch for Cristobal.
“Everybody knows the stories of Rutgers and Pitt all that and opportunities,” Cramsey said. “When I talk to some other coaches, all they talked about was, ‘If we do well here, we’re going to be the next head coach here, the next guy there, the next guy here and that’s not me.’ When I talked to Coach Cristobal, it was, ‘This is what FIU is going to do, this is where FIU is going to be, this is what FIU is going to do down the road.’
“To me, that speaks volumes of the industry we’re in. The next good job … all coach talks about is how to make this here, how to make FIU the next good job.”
And Cramsey feels that offense might have found its home.
“The schemes are very similar. Different mentality for a different type of kid,” Cramsey said. “We’re a much faster team in terms of true speed. To me, you make that adjustment from some kids we were working with, who were great football players — don’t get me wrong I’m not saying that — but just a step here, a step there, you’ve got to be careful with some of the things you do with those guys.
“Now, with this, the scheme ability is unlimited,” he said. “You can do a lot of things you wanted to do — different routes, getting the ball downfield — that you kind of had to limit where I was before.”