TALLAHASSEE — Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops' goal is to become the third brother in college football's famed coaching family to lead his own program.
And as the leader of nation's top-ranked defense, his resume may be more sparkling than ever.
"Sure, I have aspirations to be a head coach someday," Stoops, 45, said before the season. "I'm just always trying to improve myself to be the best coach I can be."
The opportunity could come sooner than later.
The year before Stoops' arrival, FSU gave up 30 points and 434.6 yards a game. This year, it's 236.3 yards and 13.1 points.
"I know I'm more prepared right now than when I walked in the door," said Stoops, who is wrapping up his third season with coach Jimbo Fisher.
Whatever the future holds for Stoops, he and the Seminoles have some unfinished business, starting with Saturday's home showdown with No. 6 Florida. After that is the ACC Championship Game against Georgia Tech on Dec. 1 and a bowl game.
The Gators (10-1, 7-1 SEC) have managed a lone touchdown in successive losses to the Seminoles (10-1, 7-1) the past two seasons, avoiding a shutout last year in Gainesville only because of a fourth-quarter fumble.
FSU athletic director Randy Spetman said Stoops' personality and contacts as a member of college football's famed coaching family would also be valuable for any school.
"He's done an incredible job for us and works very well with Coach Fisher, very loyal," Spetman said. "We obviously don't want to lose him."
Stoops said he's perfectly satisfied with his $550,000 role and sees no need to rush into a coaching position.
"I'm in a great situation here," Stoops said. "I'm in a situation here where it's one of the top coordinating jobs in the country, we get great players."
Stoops' coaching resume includes several stops: USF, Wyoming and Houston before three seasons at Miami then onto Arizona as defensive coordinator for brother Mike for six seasons.
"I've been around Coach Stoops so much, I know what he expects out of us," middle linebacker Vince Williams said. "When he makes a call, I anticipate what he's thinking the offense is going to do."
Stoops said he has learned a lot from Fisher.
"It's always great to learn other things," Stoops said. "There are some things I've learned here that I'll take with me the rest of my life."
But, that said, Stoops wants to be a head coach and probably isn't going to have to wait much longer for an attractive opportunity. There are always vacancies in today's coaching world, where seven-figure salaries lead to expectations of instant success in the fan base. Some schools, including a few in the neighboring SEC, are already looking.
Fisher, who spent more than two decades as an assistant himself, knows he'll probably lose Stoops to another program, possibly at the end of this season.
"He's earned that right," Fisher said. "He's a heck of a coach."