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Thursday, January 24, 2013
Fisher keeps command of FSU offense

By David M. Hale

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- For the sixth time in less than two months, Jimbo Fisher is looking for a new assistant coach, this time losing offensive coordinator James Coley to rival Miami.

Florida State
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher has drawn criticism for being too conservative with his play calls.
Coley's decision to depart FSU stemmed largely from his desire to have more control over the offense, something he didn't have under Fisher, who retained play-calling responsibilities even after taking over as head coach in 2010.

Fisher's role in designing the offense -- both during the week and on game day -- has been a source of continued speculation and criticism among the fan base, particularly following an October loss to NC State last season in which his conservative approach in a scoreless second half was largely blamed for the defeat.

At the time, Fisher suggested handing play calling and head-coaching responsibilities wasn't a problem, but he later said he had a plan to one day hand over the job of play caller to an assistant. He just refused to say exactly when.

The numbers, at least in 2012, suggest Fisher did a fine job in both roles.

But as the NC State game indicated, there were times when Fisher's play calls didn't work particularly well. And as other schools like Oregon, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State routinely employed up-tempo, aggressive styles with much success, the calls from fans for Fisher to adapt and evolve grew louder.

> Indeed, among the top 20 offenses in the country in 2012 (by yards per play), Florida State was one of the slowest in terms of running plays, averaging 27 seconds of possession time per play -- roughly 6.5 seconds more per play than Oregon. Consequently, Florida State ranked 92nd in the nation in offensive plays per game in 2012.

Of course, Fisher didn't particularly care for those comparisons either, at one point suggesting those aggressive offenses often resulted in worn-out defenses.

And that underscores the biggest problem in the negotiations with Coley. While FSU might have matched Miami's offer financially, and while Fisher could have agreed to hand over play-calling, the offense would still have been Fisher's by design. Coley could have called plays, but they would have been Fisher's plays.

As Florida State looks for a replacement now, the questions about Fisher's hands-on approach to the offense will continue to swirl, but there's probably minimal incentive for him to seek out someone to take over a big chunk of those responsibilities.

Two of FSU's new offensive assistants -- running backs coach Randy Sanders and tight ends coach Billy Napier -- have coordinator experience already, and Fisher could easily hand over the title to one of them. Bringing in an outsider to call plays, however, doesn't seem to fit with Fisher's stated philosophy for a planned transfer of power.

"I actually had an ultimate plan," Fisher said in November. "I wanted to get things established here … about where I want the program to be and how I want it to be. Eventually, I wanted to call for three, four, five (years), whatever it took to get established."

With three new offensive coaches and a first-year starter at quarterback, however, things appear less settled than ever for Florida State's offense. And as Fisher looks to build a foundation moving forward, his hands-on approach is one of the rare bits of consistency remaining.