On Tuesday, Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt left Tallahassee to work under another former Florida State offensive coordinator, Mark Richt at Georgia. The change came as a huge surprise as Pruitt spent just one season at FSU in what was his first ever season as a collegiate defensive coordinator.
In that one season however, Pruitt’s defense was absolutely dominant. The Seminoles yielded the fewest points in the country, led the nation in interceptions and ranked third in total defense. The change came after Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham left Athens to join new head coach Bobby Petrino’s staff at Louisville.
At this point, any name thrown around as a potential replacement for Pruitt is purely speculation. Current Florida State assistants like Sal Sunseri and Charles Kelly may get some consideration, but perhaps head coach Jimbo Fisher and FSU should look to a former foe — Randy Shannon.
Shannon is currently the linebackers coach for Bret Bielema at Arkansas, but Shannon spent the overwhelming majority of his career as both a player and a coach at the University of Miami.
Shannon played linebacker at Miami during the Hurricanes’ hey day and was a member of the 1987 team that won the national championship. After a brief stint in the NFL, Shannon returned to Coral Gables where he would spend 11 years as an assistant and four as a head coach.
Though Shannon’s record as a head coach was only 28-22, his time served as Miami’s defensive coordinator came during a run of dominance for the Hurricanes. Shannon ran the defense from 2001-2006 and during that span, Miami won three Big East titles and played for two BCS National Championships, winning it in 2001.
As good as Shannon’s defenses were on the field, his ties to one of if not the most heavily recruited regions in the country — South Florida — could really help the Seminoles keep a stranglehold on the state of Florida’s premier high school talent.
While Tallahassee is in the northern part of the state, FSU had a number of players from South Florida play key roles for the 2013 national championship squad. All-American cornerback Lamarcus Joyner hails from that area as does tight end Nick O’Leary, running back Devonta Freeman and BCS National Championship hero, Kelvin Benjamin among others.
Under Randy Shannon, Miami’s defense was loaded with stars with names such as Ed Reed, Jonathan Vilma, Dan Morgan, Antrel Rolle, D.J. Williams and Sean Taylor among many, many more. If he were able to bring that caliber of talent to Tallahassee, Shannon would almost certainly find himself as a part of another dominant team as the Hurricanes were at the turn of the millennium.
After only one year of Pruitt’s 3-4 scheme, there are also already a number of pieces in place for FSU to revert back to a 4-3 look. Defensive ends Mario Edwards Jr. and Chris Casher are traditional rush-ends and were originally recruited to run current Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops’ system and would likely be in a position to excel under Shannon.
Perhaps the lone issue with Shannon would be the fact that FSU would be without a defensive backs coach, a role also assumed by Pruitt. Shannon has never coached defensive backs and if he were unable to fill that role, that may force Fisher to make two hires as opposed to one.
Nevertheless, what Shannon would bring to Florida State would be experience as a defensive coordinator and a history of coaching national championship caliber defenses. Shannon was always regarded as an excellent recruiter and while he went just 28-22 as a head coach, he was credited with helping to clean up the Miami program. Perhaps most important, Shannon’s long history in South Florida would help the Seminoles grab a stranglehold on what is likely college football’s largest recruiting hotbed.