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Four thoughts on FSU football adding Jim Leavitt

It took longer than expected, but Willie Taggart has finally reunited with another former USF coach.
Then-USF coach Jim Leavitt argues a call with referees against UCF during the third quarter of a 2008 game. USF won 31-24. [Tampa Bay Times]
Published Sep. 12

Florida State coach Willie Taggart made a high-profile staff addition Wednesday night by adding another former USF head coach, Jim Leavitt, to the Seminoles as an analyst. Four thoughts:

RELATED: Reports: Jim Leavitt to reunite with Willie Taggart at FSU

The move, in some ways, had been a long time coming. Leavitt was Taggart’s defensive coordinator at Oregon and was expected to follow Taggart to Tallahassee. That, of course, didn’t happen. Taggart instead hired Harlon Barnett away from Michigan State. Leavitt won’t be the defensive coordinator, but the move still allows him to have some influence with the game-planning and schemes. It brings a coach Taggart knows and respects into the discussions.

The move makes sense for another reason, too. FSU’s defense is struggling. A lot. The Seminoles have allowed 1,040 yards of offense through two games. That’s the most FSU has allowed in back-to-back regular-season games since 1984. Something clearly had to be done to fix the product and provide optimism to a restless fan base. Adding a respected defensive mind and former Division I-A head coach to the room is a strong way to address the concerns.

RELATED: Another grim stat from Florida State’s overtime win over ULM

So what, exactly, will Leavitt do? Different schools can use analysts in different ways, but the job typically requires a lot of watching film, breaking down plays and offering feedback for the week’s game plan. After that, it’s up to the coaches themselves to make the calls. Taggart told reporters in Tallahassee on Thursday morning that just having him in the defensive coaches’ room “as someone Coach Barnett can lean on and talk to is a plus for our football team.”

There’s another side to that question: What won’t Leavitt be able to do? I’m reminded of what Steve Sarkisian said before the College Football Playoff national championship at Tampa in January 2017. He joined Alabama’s staff as an analyst but had just been elevated to offensive coordinator after Lane Kiffin’s abrupt departure for Florida Atlantic.

“I think it was challenging prior to this, being in the analyst role, because you still get to work on the game plan side of things,” Sarkisian said then. “You still get to work with the coaches on giving suggestions and tips when we’re watching the tape. “But it is frustrating as an analyst when you go out to practice and you’re not coaching. I mean, that’s what you love to do. But in my situation, when you’re not allowed to do that, it’s a lot of note taking. It’s a lot of watching coaching, watching the other guys coach.”

So Leavitt won’t be coaching, exactly, but he’ll still be trying to make the Seminoles better. How much better? We’ll find out soon.


  1. Florida State coach Willie Taggart reacts during the first half against Boise State in Tallahassee on Aug. 31. MARK WALLHEISER  |  AP
    New quarterbacks and coordinators might explain the conference’s struggles at the outset of 2019.
  2. CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times
Quarterback Kyle Trask (11) practices throws at Jesuit High School in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, December 29, 2016. University of Florida held practice for the Outback Bowl at Jesuit High School.  Times
    The former Gators coach who recruited Trask to Florida isn’t surprised that Trask didn’t transfer.
  3. Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins (3) celebrates 2-point conversion with wide receiver Terrell Chatman (9) during the team's NCAA college football game against Florida State in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. Virginia won 31-24. ANDREW SHURTLEFF  |  AP
    Florida State is in the red zone at the end of the game but can’t capitalize.
  4. USF, Florida, FSU and more games on the air.
  5. Kentucky quarterback Sawyer Smith (12) throws the ball during the NCAA college football game between Kentucky and Eastern Michigan, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Lexington, Ky. BRYAN WOOLSTON  |  AP
    Miami’s starting quarterback has a weird role in whom the Gators will face Saturday at Kentucky.
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    Florida State's Cam Akers (3) runs for a touchdown during the first quarter of the season opener against Boise State. MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
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  7. Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen (41) takes aim for Florida Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks (13) during the third quarter of last year's game in Gainesville. MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Matt Baker: The marquee game is apparently Iowa-Iowa State. Hooray. Plus, our week 3 predictions.
  8. Sep. 12• Florida State Seminoles
    Then-USF coach Jim Leavitt argues a call with referees against UCF during the third quarter of a 2008 game. USF won 31-24. Tampa Bay Times
    It took longer than expected, but Willie Taggart has finally reunited with another former USF coach.
  9. Former USF coach Jim Leavitt, seen here during his days as Colorado defensive coordinator, is headed back to Florida. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)
    The former USF coach is joining the Seminoles staff as a defensive analyst.
  10. Florida State coach Willie Taggart, center, confers with officials concerning a call in the fourth quarter against Louisiana-Monroe. STEVE CANNON  |  AP
    Some coaches are upset after ugly wins. Taggart wasn’t that way at USF.