James Coley grew up so close to the Orange Bowl that fans used to park on his lawn while they attended Hurricanes and Dolphins games.
Now, he will be coaching for one of the teams that used to call the Orange Bowl home.
On Thursday morning, the 39-year-old Miami High graduate turned in his garnet and gold for green and orange, accepting the offensive coordinator position at the University of Miami. Coley also will be the Hurricanes’ quarterbacks coach.
“We’re excited about adding James Coley’s leadership, expertise and passion to our staff and Miami Hurricane Football,” UM coach Al Golden said in a statement. “I’ve been an admirer of his offenses’ output and execution, his commitment to student-athlete development as well as his relentless approach to recruiting in Dade and Broward counties.
“Coach Coley will be a great asset to the University of Miami and we welcome him, his wife Kenia and their two children back to South Florida.”
Coley was offensive coordinator at Florida State, his alma mater, the past three seasons. But taking the UM job comes with a new opportunity Coley badly wanted: calling plays on game day and having full control of the offense. He couldn’t do that at FSU even though he spent the entire week game-planning because head coach Jimbo Fisher wanted to maintain play-calling duties.
A few UM players were so excited by the news that they took to Twitter to celebrate.
“Welcome to the U Coach Coley,” freshman All-American tailback Duke Johnson posted.
“Welcome Coach Coley … let’s get this started,” receiver Phillip Dorsett wrote.
HEFTY PAY RAISE
Coley will receive a significant bump in salary of more than $100,000, according to a source who said the Hurricanes offered Coley $500,000. Coley was offered the offensive coordinator position at Kentucky in December, but he turned down the Wildcats.
Coley last called plays while at FIU during Mario Cristobal’s first season as coach in 2007. (Cristobal was hired as a UM assistant this month after being dismissed at FIU.) Coley then moved on to FSU, where he has worked as tight ends coach, recruiting coordinator and most recently quarterbacks coach in addition to his duties as offensive coordinator.
Coley has strong recruiting ties to South Florida, and his addition to UM’s staff is a boon two weeks before National Signing Day. He was the lead recruiter for Florida State in an attempt to lure two Miami Booker T. Washington High All-Americans — linebacker Matthew Thomas and offensive lineman Denver Kirkland. They are two players the Hurricanes covet.
“I’m thrilled to hear he’s coming home,” said Booker T. assistant Eddie Arza, Coley’s quarterbacks coach at Miami High. “If you ask anybody, Coley was by far the smartest player we had on our football team. He was the kind of kid that any route he would have taken — whether it was to football, the arts, being an attorney, James would have been successful.
“He’s built great relationships with every single inner-city coach in the area, and he’s not the type to skip any schools. James is the kind of guy who will walk into Mater Academy, Southwest High, Coral Park and find a kid. I think what this means for Miami is now they have somebody else — including Al Golden and Mario Cristobal — that if you’re good, they’re going to find you. James opens up many avenues.”
READY FOR NFL
As an assistant at Miami High from 1998 to 2000, Coley coached future UM and NFL wide receivers Roscoe Parrish and Andre Johnson. He also served as offensive coordinator at Miami Norland when current NFL wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and the Vikings won a state title in 2002.
He was then a graduate assistant at LSU under Nick Saban for two years before moving on to the Dolphins with Saban for two more seasons.
At FIU, the Golden Panthers finished just 1-11 in 2007, but the team was coming off an 0-12 season and was in the process of rebuilding when Coley left to join the Seminoles.
Coley is the sixth assistant to leave Fisher’s program since the season ended. Running backs coach Eddie Gran left to become the offensive coordinator at Cincinnati; defensive ends coach D.J. Eliot left to become defensive coordinator under Mark Stoops (FSU’s former defensive coordinator); quarterbacks coach Dameyune Craig went to Auburn to become co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach; and linebackers coach Greg Hudson left to become defensive coordinator at Purdue.
“Coley was basically responsible for 37 percent of FSU’s starting lineup this season,” Charles Fishbein of Elite Scouting Services said. “He recruited fullback Lonnie Pryor, who was the MVP of the Orange Bowl. He brought in receiver Rodney Smith, tight end Nick O’Leary, offensive guard Josue Matias, center Brian Stork, [defensive end] Bjoern Werner, [cornerback] Xavier Rhodes, [safety] Lamarcus Joyner and [kicker] Dustin Hopkins.
“Werner and Rhodes are projected to be first-round picks this year. The guy knows how to evaluate talent.”