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January 22, 2013

Seminoles deal with coaching turnover

MORE: Class of 2013 Rivals100

Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

Emerging from the figurative rubble, Jimbo Fisher peeked out to find a nearly empty coaching office.

When the dust settled from the upheaval caused by the coaching carousel, Florida State had managed to hold on to its head coach but his staff was down five assistants.

It was a major loss as Mark Stoops left his post as defensive coordinator for the head coaching job at Kentucky; D.J. Eliot followed Stoops, vacating his duties coaching the defensive ends to become the Wildcats defensive coordinator; running backs and special teams coordinator Eddie Gran followed his friend Tommy Tuberville to Cincinnati and became an offensive coordinator; Greg Hudson went from the Seminoles linebackers coach to the defensive coordinator position at Purdue; and perhaps the greatest loss from a recruiting aspect was quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator Dameyune Craig taking the co-offensive coordinator position at Auburn.

While Florida State suffered through the greatest staff turnover that didn't involve a change in head coaches, the 'Noles may be better off for it because with the hires Fisher made FSU could be expanding its boundaries.

Michael Langston covers Florida State recruiting for WarChant.com. He said the major changes have been difficult but the situation is leveling out.

"There is more positive about all of this than negative," Langston said. "I think that there are a few kids who are looking around because of the bonds they had with some of the assistants but only one that I think Florida State is totally out on.

"What I think has helped is the new coaches who were brought in are all strong in areas that FSU has struggled in, so being able to maintain some strong points but get into some other areas will only help in the long term."

Jeremy Pruitt took over as defensive coordinator from his defensive backs position at Alabama. Sal Sunseri will coach the defensive ends after being the defensive coordinator at Tennessee. Interim Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Charles Kelly will coach linebackers and special teams. Billy Napier moved back to the South as the recruiting coordinator and offensive assistant after being an assistant head coach at Colorado State. Randy Sanders joined the staff as the running back coach after electing to leave Kentucky.

"Pruitt is a known commodity in Alabama and the South," Langston said. "Sunseri is more in the Virginia area and the Northeast, Kelly is really great in Atlanta, Sanders did some of his best work in Georgia, and Napier was fantastic in the Carolinas and that is a place where Florida State really has had a tough time getting a strong foothold.

"I think pairing Sunseri and (defensive tackles coach Odell) Hagans in the Baltimore-D.C.-Virginia area will pick up a spot that Florida State is already strong in, and then with Kelly and Sanders covering Georgia, that beefs up a backyard area that the program has not been faring well in recently."

Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said Napier may be the most important hire because he is going to fill in for Craig, whom he called the most dynamic recruiter that Florida State lost.

"Craig was a home run hire for Auburn and a major loss for Florida State, with Gran being a close second because he had been doing a great job in recruiting," Farrell said. "Napier will have to fill that role, and I think he can.

"He did an amazing job when he was at Clemson and was just out in no-man's land coaching at Colorado State this last year. He is a young, aggressive assistant coach who can sell kids and make parents comfortable. He has been on our Top 25 recruiters list before, and I figure he will be again."

Napier was named to the Rivals.com Top 25 recruiters list in 2007 as a 28-year-old assistant at Clemson. His placement came just before Fisher was named in 2008 and 2009.

Many of these moving parts are all very active in recruiting.

Gran was in the Rivals.com Top 25 recruiters for the Class of 2008 and Sunseri in 2010 and 2011. Pruitt and Craig were listed in 2012.

Three retained Florida State assistants have also been named Rivals.com Top 25 recruiters: Hagans in 2011 and 2012; Lawrence Dawsey in 2010 and 2011; and James Conley in 2010.

The completed staff will have to get to work immediately because National Signing Day is just a few weeks away.

Langston believes there are three targets who will need to be reeled back in and one who may have gotten away with the turnover.

"I think Austin Golson and Davin Bellamy are taking visits and looking around because they were really close with Dameyune, and Marquez White could be wavering but I think Pruitt will close on him," Langston said. "Alex Collins is lost right now. He felt really good about Coach Gran, and I think Florida State will have to look in a different direction altogether now."

Golson is an offensive tackle from Prattville (Ala.) High, White is a cornerback from Dothan (Ala.) Northview, and Collins is a running back from Plantation (Fla.) South Plantation. Each is a four-star prospect inside the Rivals250.

Bellamy is a three-star defensive end from Chamblee (Ga.) High.

All but Collins still are listed as commits for Florida State.

Those outside of the commitment list have noticed the change as well, and the new hires have been met with approval.

Matthew Thomas is a five-star linebacker from Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington, and he has an official visit scheduled to Florida State this weekend. Thomas said he has liked getting to know Pruitt.

"He was a really cool guy, and we had a very good conversation. He told me some really good things, and I'm looking forward to meeting him," Thomas told Rivals.com. "We talked about me as a player and the fact that I can play all three linebacker positions and specifically how I could help the defense.

"We talked about how he helped win championships at Alabama and how now he's changing his surroundings and he wants to have that same mindset and production at Florida State and that he wants me to help lead them there."

With just over two weeks until National Signing Day, Florida State has the No. 11-ranked recruiting class in the country.

Gene Williams, the publisher of Warchant.com, said he expects to see the staff close strong.

"Every guy that Fisher brought in is a talented recruiter with a history and track record of success," Williams said. "The program couldn't have a drop-off in recruiting, and I don't think it will."



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