TALLAHASSEE -- In each of his first three seasons, Jimbo Fisher has had one constant when it came to recruiting — his coaching staff.
With his staff unchanged for nearly three years, something almost unheard of in this age of constant coaching turnover, Fisher brought in several top five classes and began to fill the Florida State coffers with talent again for the first time in a decade.
That continuity came to a screeching halt in December when defensive coordinator Mark Stoops and defensive ends coach DJ Eliot left for Kentucky. In the weeks that followed, coaches continued to leave nearly as quickly as Fisher could replace them.
Running backs coach and special teams coordinator Eddie Gran was next to leave when he took the offensive coordinator job at Cincinnati. Linebackers coach Greg Hudson left for Purdue’s defensive coordinator job after the Orange Bowl and quarterbacks coach Dameyune Craig headed for Auburn.
It seemed as if everything was settled and the coaching vacancies were adequately addressed last week. The Seminoles appeared poised to make their last recruiting push when the final (and perhaps biggest) loss was announced a few days ago though.
Offensive coordinator James Coley, a coach with fantastic South Florida recruiting ties, was headed to the University of Miami to assume the same position (along with play-calling duties) for the Hurricanes.
Now in the days before National Signing Day, when things are always the most frantic at any major program, the Seminoles are scrambling to replace one of their top recruiters in addition to trying to lock down several key recruits in order to ensure another top class.
Right now, per ESPN, Florida State has the tenth ranked recruiting class in the country and there are still several high profile targets in play.
Targets like Miami’s own Matthew Thomas, a five-star linebacker out of Booker T. Washington, four-star defensive tackle Keith Bryant from Atlantic Community High in Delray Beach. Four-star South Plantation running back Alex Collins and highly-sought after UM target, four-star wide receiver Stacey Coley out of Northeastern High.
But there’s also a lot working against Jimbo Fisher and the Florida State staff, too. With little time to name a replacement, questions about the Seminoles’ lack of an offensive coordinator — and the amount of coaching turnover at Florida State in general — are being used against FSU by every school they’re recruiting against.
Not to mention Florida State lost valuable relationships with coaches and recruits in South Florida when Coley bolted for rival Miami.
Already two high-profile recruits have decommitted from Florida State. Four-star offensive lineman Austin Golson from Prattville, AL is now rumored to be leaning towards Ole Miss. On Monday night, four-star defensive end Davin Bellamy decommitted from the Seminoles’ 2013 class and could be headed to Georgia.
Now more than ever Florida State needs a big final week to secure another top class.
Despite the six coaching losses, Fisher was not caught completely off-guard. The Seminoles’ head coach was able to add new staff with a very strong recruiting background to replace the key recruiters he was losing.
Chief among them may be new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt — who just hours after winning a BCS championship as Alabama’s defensive backs coach had already flipped a key prospect from Alabama to Florida State.
Demarcus Walker, a four-star defensive end from Sandalwood High (Jacksonville), decommitted from the Crimson Tide hours after they won the BCS title and is already enrolled at Florida State. Walker, along with Bartow’s Freddie Stevenson (4-star linebacker), both have designs on making a freshman impact in 2013 and will be eligible to practice this spring.
As for the rest of Florida State’s class, this weekend will be key as Fisher and his staff looks to close on several key recruits and keep the Seminoles high in the recruiting rankings.