FIU’s first spring practice of the 2019 season was postponed because of wet weather, but the Panthers still made news Tuesday as coach Butch Davis hired former Cleveland Browns assistant Jerod Kruse and promoted Jeff Kopp.
Kruse, who was Cleveland’s assistant secondary coach the past two years, and Kopp have been named FIU’s co-defensive coordinators.
Kopp, who will move from coaching defensive backs to linebackers, will be the play-caller. Kruse will coach the defensive backs, and his addition is an exciting one for FIU, according to Davis.
“He blew the roof off for the five or six hours he was interviewing,” Davis said. “We brought in six other candidates who had coached in the NFL, the SEC or the Big Ten. But [Kruse] got on the whiteboard, and his knowledge of schemes and technical things were significantly better than his competition.
“He’s going to bring a lot of fresh ideas, especially in terms of coverages on the back end.”=
Kruse and Kopp will replace Brent Guy, who was FIU’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach the past two years. Guy stepped down for personal reasons.
“It was a complete surprise to everyone,” Davis said. “He notified me a week before [National] Signing Day that he needed to take a year away from coaching. I hate changing when there’s no need, but I didn’t pin him down for a reason beyond that it was personal.
“Brent did a very solid job for us. In fact, last year was probably his best coaching job, having to replace eight starters.”
While FIU’s offensive staff remains virtually intact for 2019, Davis has made other defensive changes since last season ended. Bryn Renner, who had been the recruiting coordinator, replaces Eric Thatcher as the cornerbacks coach. Kenard Lang has joined FIU as defensive line coach, replacing Kenny Holmes in a switch of former Miami Hurricanes and NFL players.
Davis still needs to hire a new recruiting director, but he said he’s talked more football the past couple of months than he did his first two years at FIU.
“When you come in as the new head coach, there are a million balls in the air regarding fundraising, facilities, staff and other details,” Davis said. “But now, in Year Three, I’ve really gotten a chance to focus more on analytics and listening to new ideas. It’s been fun.”