TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- If part of the job of being a head coach includes deftly maneuvering around the tough questions with a politically satisfactory answer, Mark Stoops has already proven he's ready for it.
There aren't many opportunities for Florida State's defensive coordinator to face the media onslaught -- head coach Jimbo Fisher limits the availability of assistants -- but Stoops is a natural.
He offers glowing reviews of his best players and still faint praise for the disappointments. He mixes high-level discussion of Xs and Os with a healthy dose of coach-speak. And when the inevitable question is finally posed about how many offers he's received for other coaching jobs, Stoops sidesteps it with ease.
"I'm just working hard to do my job to prepare myself to be the best I can be, to be a better and better coach," Stoops said. "I appreciate the structure and the organization and the leadership that I've been afforded the opportunity to be a part of. It makes me a better coach to work here."
Indeed, Stoops' first two seasons at Florida State have helped to bolster his coaching credentials and allowed him to step out from the shadow cast by three older brothers, who are all college coaches.
But as Stoops has taken Florida State's defense from 108th in the nation the year before he arrived to the No. 4 unit in the country last season, there's not a whole lot more he needs to add to his resume.
Whether Stoops wants to offer detail or not, there were coaching jobs available, according to multiple reports, and more will certainly be on the horizon should the Seminoles' defense produce another elite season in 2012. And if Florida State lives up to expectations this year, there will be more -- and better -- offers coming Stoops' way.
It's an enviable position, but Stoops isn't looking ahead.
"It's a great situation for me here," Stoops said. "You don't worry about those things. You prepare yourself to always get better, but not worried about that whatsoever about when and where and why. I'm just worried about now and helping this team."
Should Stoops land a head coaching job next season, he'd be the third member of his family to do so.
Bob Stoops has won a national championship at Oklahoma and is considered one of the top coaches in the country. Mike Stoops spent parts of eight seasons at Arizona, giving Mark his first coordinator job.
While coaching runs in the family, Mark Stoops has managed to create his own style.
"I see Coach Stoops being like a laid-back type of head coach, not letting every situation get to him," said cornerback Xavier Rhodes. "He finds another way of getting things done. He's not a yell-at-you type of person, he's more of a mellow, ask-you-what-you-did-wrong type of coach."
That's a bit of a contrast with Fisher, who pulls few punches during practice, excoriating players for bone-headed mistakes and shouting encouragement with each big play.
And yet, Stoops is every bit as competitive as his head coach on the practice field. Fisher is an offensive mastermind, Stoops the defensive guru. It's a game of cat-and-mouse each day, and it's one that has helped prepare Stoops for taking the reins of his own program one day.
"I am concerned with executing the defense properly, and I'm concerned with our players having a great competitiveness about them to make plays, and so is Coach (Fisher)," Stoops said. "Coach wants his guys to execute the way he expects them to, and he expects guys to make plays. And so do we. It's a competitive game."
If his time with Fisher has shown Stoops the model for creating a competitive program, his years working under his brother at Arizona opened his eyes to the fact that not all coaching jobs are created equal.
"A lot of times, things aren't always what they're cracked up to be," Stoops said. "They're not as good as you'd like to believe. I saw the turmoil in how hard it was for myself and my brother Mike to build Arizona. We made a good run from where we took that and where we ended up. … But you've got to make sure you take the right job to have an opportunity to win."
For now, Stoops said, the right job, the one with the best opportunity to win a championship, is at Florida State. He's helped build a championship-caliber defense -- and he knows what a rare commodity that can be.
So Stoops isn't being coy when he dodges questions about the offers he declined after last season or declines to ponder the possibilities that may be ahead when this season ends.
He appreciates where he's at, and that's exactly what makes him such a valuable commodity on the coaching circuit.
"He’s very wise in how he approaches the game," Bob Stoops said. "He’s very dedicated and committed to it, and he’s passionate about it. I think he relates well to players and communicates well with them. And he has a lot of integrity."