Thursday, September 20, 2018
Colleges

Time for Jimbo Fisher to shake up his supporting cast

A day after a Florida State fan set up a GoFundMe page for his buyout, Seminoles defensive coordinator Charles Kelly got an interesting vote of confidence from coach Jimbo Fisher.

"I have extreme confidence in Charles …" Fisher said Monday. "We'll continue with Charles being our coordinator, and go through this year, and hope to finish the year very strong."

Through this year.

Maybe it's reading too closely into three words, but it sounds like change is coming to Tallahassee — one year too late.

Kelly deserves some of the blame for FSU's first 1-3 start since Bobby Bowden's inaugural 1976 season. A talent-laden defense with four of Sports Illustrated's top 100 players in the country has forced only three turnovers, ranks No. 66 nationally in sacks and gave up two touchdown drives in the final seven minutes Saturday against Miami.

But the blame starts with Fisher for allowing his coaching staff to grow stale.

Four of the Seminoles' 10 coaches (including Fisher) have been in Tallahassee since at least 2007. Eight were around for the 2013 national championship, and the entire staff has remained the same for three consecutive seasons.

Analysis: Would Jimbo Fisher's message be better received elsewhere?

While the loyalty is admirable and rare in the profession, it can also be detrimental to the program Fisher rebuilt into a national power. Programs stagnate without the infusion of new ideas into the playbook and new messages and messengers in the locker room. That's one explanation for FSU's slide from a preseason College Football Playoff contender to a team hoping to make it to the Belk Bowl.

Consider the area where coaching matters the most: close games. From the middle of 2012 through the first half of 2015, FSU won all 12 of its one-score games.

"We always found that one extra play," Fisher said.

Not anymore — and not just this season.

Starting with the 2015 heartbreaker at Georgia Tech, the Seminoles are 4-5 in one-possession games. That includes a 1-2 mark this year, with home losses to North Carolina State and Miami sandwiched around the last-minute win at Wake Forest.

Some of that dip is a natural regression to the mean caused by bounces going the other way. But Fisher accepts — and deserves — his share of responsibility for players failing to find the inches that win games, either through schemes, techniques or effort.

"We should be making that one other play in those games," Fisher said. "We've got to find a way to do that. Coach it better."

He can start by rebooting his staff in the offseason.

There's a Go Fund Me page for FSU defensive coordinator Charles Kelly's buyout

Injury updates: Fisher didn't sound optimistic that WR Keith Gavin (leg) would be available Saturday at Duke. The Seminoles are thin at receiver, and their top target (Wharton High alum Auden Tate) is playing through a shoulder injury.

Gators WR Tyrie Cleveland (ankle) could miss his second straight game, and WR Kadarius Toney is "highly questionable" against Texas A&M with multiple injuries, Florida coach Jim McElwain said. Cleveland leads UF with 450 all-purpose yards, and Toney is fourth (240). Starting DB Nick Washington (shoulder) will be out.

Number of the day: 60.8. That's the number of offensive plays the Gators average per game; only five teams in the country run fewer. UF had only 54 Saturday against LSU, which McElwain attributed to third-down failures on both sides of the ball.

Audible: "It was a little bit of everything." — McElwain on K Eddy Pineiro's costly missed extra point against LSU. After reviewing the film, McElwain said both the snap and hold were imperfect.

Contact Matt Baker at [email protected] Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

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