The Florida State Seminoles had a lot of coaching holes to fill when Mickey Andrews decided to step down from his defensive coordinator duties after 26 seasons in Tallahassee. With Jimbo Fisher taking full reigns of the FSU staff, the future head coach hired former University of Arizona defensive coordinator, Mark Stoops.
Stoops certainly has the experience working with some great defensive minds over his college-coaching career. Stoops coached defensive backs under head coach, Jim Leavitt at South Florida in 1997 and served under Randy Shannon, while Shannon was the defensive coordinator at the University of Miami, from 2001 to 2003. Stoops developed greats such as Antrel Rolle, Mike Rumph, and Ed Reed. He also has the pedigree being the brother of Oklahoma head coach, Bob Stoops, as well as Arizona head coach, Mike Stoops. But is Mark Stoops truly what the Seminoles need to revitalize a lagging defense?
The defensive side of the ball was a Florida State staple for many years. Teams took close notice of FSU’s fast-paced, all out blitz style defensive schemes that rendered opposing quarterbacks paralyzed with fear. Today’s offensive linemen are too athletic and wide receivers are too speedy for this strategy to work anymore. The spread offense, which is designed to confuse defenses and get the ball out as quickly as possible, annihilates this form of old-school “bump and run.” Stoops pilots a “bend don’t break” version of the zone system, similar to what Monte Kiffin runs in Tennessee. This ought to keep opposing offenses from throwing 50 yards down field past the safeties, something FSU defenders did on a weekly basis.
We have to look at Stoops body of work while he was at Arizona the past few seasons. I’ll give him credit that he’s coming from an offensive-minded conference in the Pac-10 and he fared very well, having a top 20 defense the past two seasons, although his scoring defense was ranked 46th in ‘09. How did he do against teams that run the Spread Option? I ask because folks in Tallahassee are tired of losing to the hated Gators and Stoops will be judged almost solely on what he does against the boys from Gainesville. I know it doesn’t sound fair, but FSU’s defense was atrocious last season. They compete in the ACC where they came very close to playing for a conference championship with zero cover. I have no doubt Stoops will make the ‘Noles defense better because it couldn’t get any worse, but against Florida is where he’s going to make his money.
Oregon plays nearly the exact same style of offense the Gators play. In 2009 against Oregon at home, Stoops’ defense allowed 31 points in regulation (Arizona lost in overtime) and 459 total yards of offense. It isn’t any better in ‘08, allowing 508 yards of total offense and 48 points (Oregon scored 55 points, but one of the Ducks’ touchdowns was a pick 6) while in Eugene. This shouldn’t strike FSU fans with confidence and I’m sure Gator fan is smiling knowing that seven in a row is almost a sure thing.
The old adage, “time will tell” fits perfectly in this situation whether Stoops is the right hire or not. Personally, I think he’ll be a guy that’s on Florida States staff for a couple of season then bolts for a head coaching gig and I certainly cannot fault him for it. For the sake of FSU fans, I hope Jimbo knows what he’s doing. He’s already going to be under a very condensed microscope this upcoming season.