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An open letter to FSU’s next coach from Seminoles’ win over Alabama State

The Seminoles rout the Hornets on senior day.
Florida State defensive back Hamsah Nasirildeen tackles Alabama State wide receiver Tyrek Allen in the second half of an NCAA college football game in Tallahassee. Florida State defeated Alabama State 49-12. [MARK WALLHEISER  |  AP]
Florida State defensive back Hamsah Nasirildeen tackles Alabama State wide receiver Tyrek Allen in the second half of an NCAA college football game in Tallahassee. Florida State defeated Alabama State 49-12. [MARK WALLHEISER | AP]
Published Nov. 16
Updated Nov. 16

TALLAHASSEE —Dear Coach … Franklin? Norvell? Venables? Stoops (the other one)?

You probably heard that Florida State’s always-slim chances of landing Bob Stoops as its next head coach apparently ended Friday. Now the Seminoles’ search can truly begin.

That’s where you come in. Whoever you are.

RELATED: Kirk Herbstreit has three criteria for FSU’s next coach. Who checks those boxes?

I’m sure you were too busy coaching your current team to watch FSU top Alabama State 49-12 Saturday in a home finale that was closer than the final score suggests. So let me tell you what you need to know about the bowl-eligible Seminoles (6-5) you’ll be taking over, probably soon after the regular season ends in Gainesville on Nov. 30.

If you believe the recruiting rankings, the roster you’re inheriting will be the least talented FSU has fielded in years. Thank Jimbo Fisher for leaving the 2017 class in shambles and Willie Taggart for signing FSU’s second-worst class of the Rivals era in his first full recruiting cycle.

Your defense needs work — a lot of work. Alabama State (5-5) entered Doak Campbell Stadium ranked No. 76 in Division I-AA with 205.6 passing yards per game. The Hornets topped that mark in the first 35 minutes Saturday and finished with 270.

You won’t like what you see along the lines, either. FSU didn’t generate much of a pass rush, and the offensive line allowed one first-half sack and almost had another, too. Remember, this was against Alabama State, not Alabama.

Now for the good news: You might have some key pieces to build around.

On FSU’s first offensive snap, receiver Tamorrion Terry streaked for a 69-yard touchdown —his eighth of the season and his seventh that covered at least 36 yards. One of your first jobs should be to convince him to stay instead of heading for the NFL draft.

The same goes for safety Hamsah Nasirildeen, FSU’s top tackler for the last two seasons. He led the ’Noles with 11 tackles (one for a loss) and broke the game open with a meandering 80-yard pick-six in the third quarter.

I don’t think you can talk star running back Cam Akers (who was out Saturday with an injury) out of turning pro, but you seem to have a nice replacement in Khalan Laborn. The former five-star recruit rushed for a pair of touchdowns in his first career start.

Florida State running back Khalan Laborn cuts back against Alabama State defensive back Irshaad Davis in the first half. [MARK WALLHEISER | AP]

You’re probably wondering about the quarterback situation. So do I.

James Blackman and Jordan Travis both saw meaningful action Saturday. Blackman played well enough (13-of-22 for 246 yards, three touchdowns and an interception). Travis followed his first career pass (a 5-yard dump-off) with a dazzling 61-yard rush.

But Blackman has been benched earlier this season, while Travis remains unproven. And because Taggart failed to sign a prep quarterback in his two recruiting classes, they’re your only current options.

There’s one more thing you should know about Saturday: There were a lot of empty seats.

The announced senior day attendance (52,857) dropped the average Doak Campbell Stadium crowd to just under 54,000. That’s the program’s worst figure since 1987.

Don’t mistake the blank bleachers for a sign of apathy. They’re a sign of just how much this proud fan base has been bruised by the last three years.

Their national-championship coach bolted for a team that hasn’t won a title in 80 years. Their worst stretch since 1974-76 includes the end of an NCAA-record bowl streak and the dismissal of a coach who grew up wearing garnet and gold. A program that was once the hallmark of stability will be on its third full-time head coach in four seasons.

The fans will return, and their wounds will heal. All you need to do is win.

The Seminoles’ tradition proves you can do it. Their recent history shows you have a lot of work ahead of you.

Contact Matt Baker at mbaker@tampabay.com. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

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