Florida State Seminoles: Jeremy Pruitt

Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation senior analyst Tom Luginbill a question about your team? Tweet it to @TomLuginbill using the hashtag #AskLoogs.

The answer to that question depends on what the criteria is for five-star cornerback Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover), the No. 15 player in the ESPN 300. What does he value most? Is it the school or the program or the academics or the social environment? Or, is it an individual relationship?

As much as we would all like to believe that there is proper substance to a prospect's decision of where to attend school, the reality is most prospects have married themselves to a particular coach throughout the process. Depending on Marlon Humphrey’s relationship with Jeremy Pruitt himself, in comparison to other established relationships that are still in place at FSU, this could certainly give cause for Humphrey to re-evaluate.

I would not believe at this time that Pruitt’s move has removed FSU from its status as a finalist. I think Humphrey is smarter than that and has liked FSU all along.

Time will tell, but relationships developed over the course of a player's recruitment do play a huge role.

Early Offer: Big weekend for USC 

January, 24, 2014
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: If USC is going to close strong, landing some of this weekend’s 11 official visitors are key; even though neither are going to land him, Alabama and Oregon earned high praise for their recruiting efforts with offensive lineman Braden Smith’s coach; and Lorenzo Carter has become priority No. 1 for several of the Southeast's top teams.

11 recruits set to visit USC

1. With raises to head coach Dabo Swinney and his staff, Clemson now will pay its football coaches $7.6 million, the sixth-highest amount in the FBS and tops in the ACC. The most impressive aspect of this commitment is that Clemson’s annual athletic revenue of $70 million is dwarfed by the five programs ahead of it (Alabama, LSU, Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma), which average $126 million in annual revenue.

2. Swinney’s staff still is the highest paid ($4.48 million) in the FBS, receiving about $1.1 million more than Florida State pays the staff of Jimbo Fisher. The Seminoles won the FBS at the lower price point. But what resonated with me about defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt leaving for Georgia is the Seminoles being several steps behind the top of the market in coaching salaries. Florida State tried to match Georgia’s offer to Pruitt ($850,000 per year), but still lost Pruitt. Will Florida State try to close the gap?

3. When was the last time Vanderbilt targeted a nationally prominent coaching candidate and then hired him? That might be the greatest legacy left by James Franklin. Stanford’s Derek Mason, one of the hottest commodities among coordinators, leapt at the chance to go to Vandy. He knows how to recruit the player who can make grades and run a 40. It’s a finite pool, however. Vandy’s gain figures to be literally Stanford’s loss.
In 1984, Florida State hired Mickey Andrews as its defensive coordinator. For the next 26 seasons, he held the same role, only leaving after Bobby Bowden stepped aside as head coach following the 2009 season.

Four seasons later, Jimbo Fisher is about to hire his third defensive coordinator, and that’s a major concern for Florida State fans not used to such routine turnover. Jeremy Pruitt jumped for a job at Georgia just eight days after winning a national championship in his one and only season with the Seminoles. It leaves FSU in search of a new coordinator just weeks before signing day, and it leaves the Seminoles’ defense in a state of flux after Pruitt was so influential in revamping the scheme just a year ago.

But while the timing is certainly not ideal for Florida State, the loss isn’t necessarily devastating.

1. The move isn’t unprecedented

During the BCS era, five coordinators departed their schools immediately after winning a national championship. Granted, all left for better gigs (either the NFL or a head-coaching job), but in each case, the team didn’t suffer a dramatic decline after they waved goodbye.


While coordinators are crucial in running the daily routine of practice, the head coach is usually the one setting the philosophical tone, and the players generally determine how good it all looks on the field.

It’s distinctly possible Florida State can’t repeat its defensive dominance in 2014, but it’s far more likely that any decline will be due to the losses of Timmy Jernigan, Telvin Smith and Lamarcus Joyner -- not Pruitt.

2. Pruitt didn’t “turn around” FSU’s defense

This notion has been bandied about a bit since Pruitt left for Georgia, but it’s not entirely accurate.

Yes, Pruitt completely revamped the defensive scheme at Florida State, shifting heavily toward a 3-4 set and bringing a more aggressive approach that moved the onus from the front four under Mark Stoops to a dominant secondary in 2013. The results were stellar, and Pruitt certainly deserves some credit for the marked uptick in takeaways, but his job was hardly about rebuilding a unit from scratch.


Pruitt inherited a very good defensive unit from Stoops. So good, of course, that it landed Stoops a head-coaching job in the SEC (yes, Kentucky… but it’s still the SEC). Pruitt did an excellent job of covering for the losses of several key veterans from 2012 (Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine), but he also had the luxury of a veteran-laden unit that had already accomplished a lot at the college level.

3. Pruitt wasn’t a star in 2012

Fans are rightfully concerned about losing a rising star in the coaching ranks who had enjoyed so much success this season, but it’s worth remembering that Pruitt wasn’t exactly a slam-dunk hire when Fisher brought him on board.

Stoops’ departure after the 2012 regular season was widely anticipated. He’d become a hot commodity. The search for his replacement was followed closely, but few of the pundits prognosticating a hire had Pruitt on their radar. At the time, Pruitt was an assistant on a national-championship team, but he’d had just three years of sideline experience under his belt, he’d never been a coordinator at the college level, and he was coaching Nick Saban’s position group. The concern at the time was that he was simply a product of Saban’s genius, not a burgeoning star.

Of course, Pruitt proved those doubters wrong in 2013, but the point is worth remembering: Fisher saw his potential long before everyone else did. There’s little reason to think FSU’s head coach can't pry another rising star from the ranks of anonymity this time.

4. It wasn’t about the money

Yes, Pruitt is getting a nice raise at Georgia, but that’s not why he left. He admitted during his press conference in Athens that he didn’t give Florida State a chance to counter, and whatever his reasons for leaving -- and we’re not interested in speculating until Fisher or Pruitt or someone else associated with FSU wants to talk on the record -- it’s worth remembering that FSU is in a far better position financially today than it was when it hired Pruitt last year.

Would Florida State have matched Georgia’s offer? It’s impossible to say for sure now, but there’s every indication the school would have. [Ed. note: FSU associate AD Monk Bonasorte confirmed Thursday that FSU was prepared to match UGA's offer.] Fisher inked his new deal (even when deep-pocketed Texas was on the prowl) to stay, and he made bumps in salary for his assistants a key part of those negotiations. Fisher’s tenure has been built on understanding the importance of the support staff around him, and he’s made great strides to ensure the resources are there for Florida State to be competitive on the national stage -- both on the field and with the checkbook. Oh, and a national championship doesn’t hurt either.

5. Recruiting may be the key

Where Florida State should be concerned is in the area of recruiting. Not only is Pruitt’s departure coming at a tenuous time on the recruiting trail (signing day is Feb. 5), but he was also a key salesman for the Seminoles during his 13 months on the job.

Pruitt came on board full-time after last year’s national championship game and still helped FSU close on Jalen Ramsey, Nate Andrews and DeMarcus Walker -- three players who were only tangentially on FSU’s radar beforehand. He’s also adept at recruiting the state of Alabama, a crucial battleground for FSU that took a big hit after Dameyune Craig departed for Auburn following the 2012 season.

Both Pruitt and Craig had exceptional relationships with high school coaches and players in Alabama, and that may be the toughest thing for Fisher to replace. Pruitt’s replacement will have his work cut out for him replacing several departing stars, but that work begins with finishing strong before signing day.

ACC's lunch links

January, 16, 2014
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Time for the ACC to start stealing some assistants back from the SEC, don't ya think?

ACC's lunchtime links

January, 15, 2014
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Tick-tock goes the draft clock ...

By hiring defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt away from Florida State, Georgia made a move that is sending shockwaves through the Southeast recruiting landscape.

One of those prospects who is certainly affected by the move is five-star defensive end Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross). The nation’s No. 13 prospect has both Florida State and Georgia in his final group.


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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — For the second time in as many years, Florida State is looking to replace a defensive coordinator who bolted for the SEC.

ESPN reports that Jeremy Pruitt has accepted a job as the defensive coordinator at Georgia, leaving Florida State after just one year on the job and one more national championship on his resume.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Pruitt
Fred Kfoury III/Icon SMIJeremy Pruitt not only revamped FSU's defense but his role in recruiting should not be overlooked.
Jimbo Fisher hired Pruitt to replace Mark Stoops in December 2012 after Stoops took the head-coaching job at Kentucky. At the time, it seemed a risky hire. Pruitt had spent just three years as an assistant at the college level, running the secondary at Alabama. Prior to that, he’d been an off-field assistant for Nick Saban and coached the defense at Hoover (Ala.) High School.

It turned out, the hire was a stroke of genius for Fisher. Pruitt restructured Florida State’s defense, moving more heavily to a 3-4 scheme that helped mask a litany of departures on the defensive line. He also integrated a more aggressive approach that allowed Florida State ramp up its takeaway numbers. The Seminoles led the nation in interceptions, passing defense and scoring defense in 2013.

Where Florida State goes from here is a big question, particularly with national signing day just three weeks away.

Defensive line coach Sal Sunseri is an obvious candidate. He was defensive coordinator at Tennessee, and he worked extensively with Pruitt while both were assistants at Alabama. He would provide some stability for the current Florida State defense, as would linebackers coach Charles Kelly, who served as Georgia Tech's interim defensive coordinator in 2012.

But Fisher might not be overly concerned with stability, as he showed with his hiring of Pruitt last year.

Money could play a role in a hire, too. Pruitt earned a base salary of $540,000 at Florida State, though that was expected to increase — both with bonuses from this year’s national-title run and increases in compensation Fisher reportedly negotiated in his latest round of contract talks.

Recruiting will be another key piece to the puzzle. Pruitt stepped in as one of Florida State’s top recruiters, helping the Seminoles land several key late additions to their 2013 signing class, including Nate Andrews, FSU’s leader in interceptions, and Jalen Ramsey, a freshman All-American, after just a few weeks on the job.

Fisher was forced to replace seven assistant coaches during a three-month frenzy following the end of the 2012 regular season, and he said at the time that he keeps a running list of top candidates for every job.

“I have those lists, and I know what my process is going to be,” Fisher said last year.

Now, less than 13 months later, Fisher is digging into his lists once again.


NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher gave his staff three days off for Christmas break.

FSU defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt spent it watching football with his dad -- Auburn football, of course. Pruitt took game tape of the Tigers home with him, and he and his father, Dale, tried to figure out a way to stop the Tigers in the VIZIO BCS National Championship.

Given Pruitt’s history with Alabama, and how similar FSU’s defense is to Alabama’s, watching the Iron Bowl was a good start.

"There’s probably nobody else out there that could say, 'OK, all right, they’ve made this call. That is exactly some calls that we have. This is how they’re going to block it. This is what you’re going to get,'" Pruitt said.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Pruitt
AP Photo/Don Juan MooreFirst-year defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has helped turn the FSU defense into one of the best in the country.
For Pruitt and Fisher, the SEC ties run deep, as Pruitt spent the past three seasons as the secondary coach at Alabama, and Fisher was a former offensive coordinator at LSU. Pruitt was first hired at Alabama as Nick Saban’s director of player personnel. Both of them have shared philosophies that stemmed from their time with Saban, and it’s that chemistry and connection that has helped Florida State’s defense make a seamless transition in the first season under Pruitt. While Fisher has earned the reputation as an offensive mind, he had a clear vision of what he wanted the defense to look like after former coordinator Mark Stoops left to become the head coach at Kentucky.

"This is Jimbo's philosophy and what we're trying to get done," Pruitt said. "He brought me in, and there's a reason, because of the background, and he was familiar with the background. He laid the foundation. He said, this is the players we've got. This is what I want to do. This is how I want to get it done."

In just one season, Pruitt delivered.

Florida State enters Monday’s game with one of the best defenses in the country. The Noles lead the nation in scoring defense (10.7), passing yards allowed (152), pass efficiency defense (90.90), and interceptions (25). All with a first-year coordinator, and a defensive line that had to replace all of its starters from a year ago -- in a new, more complicated scheme, with some players in new positions. From the outside looking in, it was one of the most impressive coaching jobs in the country this season.

"I thought he did a good job," said Miami offensive coordinator James Coley, who went against Stoops’ defense every day in practice last year as FSU’s former offensive coordinator, and was defeated this year by Pruitt’s defense. "He brings a lot of energy to whatever he does. I think those guys are playing for him. They’re feeding off of him. It’s hard to come in there and come into a certain side of the ball where you’ve got a kid like Lamarcus Joyner and now say, 'Hey, you’ve got to listen to me and you’ve got to trust me.' I think he did a great job of earning their trust, and letting them play. Some people get caught up with all these fancy schemes, and if you watch them play, they’re just playing football. That’s why they’re as good as they are on that side of the ball. Those guys are really comfortable in doing what they do."

It didn’t take long.

"He got my attention when he first came back in January just with the kind of heart he has," said Joyner, who moved from safety to cornerback in Pruitt’s scheme. "He's a genuine heart person. He said something to me that I'll never forget in my life. He said, 'You don't get what you want, you get what you earn.' I never heard that said before. He got my attention from Day 1, and to just see the way he loves football, the way he loves coaching and developing young men, it's no better feeling. You know, you have no choice but to draw to him. He's a natural leader, and we respect that."

They also respected where he came from -- Alabama.

"They’ve been winning championships over there, so obviously they have a standard over there that’s working for them," said FSU DB Terrence Brooks. "And I knew he was going to bring a dominating defense over here, also."

He had plenty of talent to work with.

FSU has allowed just five rushing touchdowns in 13 games this season, tied with Iowa for fewest in the nation. FSU’s pass defense has been one of the best in the country, holding opponents to just 9.5 yards per completion -- the lowest in the country. The Seminoles have had 96 negative yardage games, not counting forced turnovers, and the Noles have forced 75 three-and-outs.

"To say how Coach Pruitt came in and put his own stamp on it, it was easy," FSU linebacker Telvin Smith said. “We believed in when he came in, we just listened to him, let him coach us. We didn't worry about the coaches that were here before him even though we've got much respect and love for them, Coach Stoops and Coach [Greg] Hudson. We came in, we believed in what he did and we just believed in the process, and look where he got us."

The same place the program once was before -- at the top.
Editor’s note: Each day this week Florida State reporter David M. Hale and Auburn reporter Greg Ostendorf will preview a position battle in Monday’s VIZIO BCS National Championship. Today’s matchup is between Auburn’s offensive line and Florida State’s defensive line.

Auburn’s offensive line: We’ve broken down all of the matchups this week, but as Auburn center Reese Dismukes put so eloquently Thursday, “You can have all the pretty boys you want, but whoever wins the line of scrimmage all day is usually going to be who wins the football game.” If that’s the case, the Tigers are in good shape. They feature one of the most dominant offensive lines in the country. It’s the reason they’re in Pasadena, Calif.

[+] EnlargeTimmy Jernigan
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsFSU nose tackle Timmy Jernigan is a force inside, and how well the Tigers do against him could determine how well they run the ball.
Dismukes, a three-year starter, is the anchor of the group. He was a finalist for the Rimington Trophy, awarded to the top center in college football, and although it’s not an official stat, he leads the team in knockdowns. The matchup between him and Florida State nose tackle Timmy Jernigan won’t just be a battle in the trenches -- it will be a war.

From a pure talent standpoint, sophomore left tackle Greg Robinson has emerged as the best player on this Auburn offensive line. He started last year but was still relatively unknown heading into this season. He’s quickly become a star in the SEC, and he continues to improve his draft stock with every game.

Junior Chad Slade doesn’t get the notoriety, but he’s been as solid as it gets for the Tigers. He moved from right tackle to right guard and hasn’t missed a beat. The other two spots are taken by a pair of redshirt freshman, Alex Kozan and Avery Young. Kozan was named to the freshman All-SEC team for his play at left guard.

If Auburn wants to knock off No. 1 Florida State, this is the matchup it has to win. The Tigers have rushed for an average of 402 yards over the past four games, and it’s in no small part due to the play of the offensive line.

Florida State’s defensive line: This is a much different defensive front than what the Seminoles ran in three years under Mark Stoops. When Jeremy Pruitt took over at defensive coordinator this season, he had four new starters on the line and completely revamped the scheme. It’s been something of a work in progress all season, but the Seminoles believe the unit is playing its best football now.

Jernigan is a beast in the middle of the line, and he’ll be a huge challenge for an Auburn team that wants to play physical and run between the tackles. Seminoles opponents are averaging just 3.1 yards per rush between the tackles and fewer than 9 percent of runs up the middle go for 10 yards or more. Jernigan also leads FSU’s defensive linemen in sacks (4.5) and tackles for loss (10.5).

Eddie Goldman and Mario Edwards Jr. add plenty of size to the mix on the D-line, too, while Christian Jones and FSU’s safeties will be counted on to seal the edge, which is where the defense is far more vulnerable. Across the board, Auburn’s O-line figures to be as big a physical challenge as Florida State has faced all season, and with the tempo that the Tigers run, it could be tough for FSU to substitute as often as it would like.

There’s ample talent on the line for Florida State, but this figures to be as tough a matchup as the unit has faced.

Ostendorf: Edge Auburn

Hale: Slight edge for Auburn
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- Auburn running back Tre Mason nearly quit football as a kid. In fact, the Tigers' Heisman Trophy finalist didn't play his freshman year of high school.

He had his heart set on a basketball career.

[+] EnlargeTre Mason
John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsTre Mason has run wild this season for Auburn, but at one point in high school thought about giving up football to focus on basketball.
"I stopped playing football in eighth grade and was like, ‘I’m done. I’m going to play basketball,'" Mason said Thursday. "But I went to a game in the ninth grade and said, 'I think I could do this. I think I could dominate.'"

With 1,621 rushing yards and a school-record 22 touchdowns this season, Mason has been nothing short of dominant. He needs 166 rushing yards in Monday's VIZIO BCS National Championship against Florida State to pass Bo Jackson as Auburn's single-season record holder.

It's a good thing for the Tigers that he ditched his hoops plans.

"I was young and had this dream of playing basketball, but the reality was that I wasn’t 6-8," Mason said.

SEC Seminoles?

Florida State cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, asked Thursday if the Seminoles could have made it through the SEC this season without a loss, would have welcomed that challenge.

And for the record, he also would have liked the Seminoles' chances.

"We believe we're the No. 1 team in the country," Joyner said. "We believe that in our heart. We wouldn't come out and be disrespectful to a lot of other teams. But with the things we've accomplished this year, everything speaks for itself. So, hopefully, we would have been able to do the same thing.

"But me being a part of this Florida State organization, if we were in the SEC, I'd say we'd do what we do."

The Seminoles are looking to become only the third team since 1950 to win all of its games by at least 14 points. The last to do it was Utah in 2004. The other was national champion Nebraska in 1995.

Too close to call

How good (and how talented) is this Florida State team on defense?

Good enough that linebacker Telvin Smith thinks Florida State's defense would shut out the Florida State offense. For the record, the Seminoles enter Monday's game leading the country in both scoring offense and scoring defense.

Joyner chuckled confidently when told of Smith's claim.

"Some things, you never know," Joyner said. "It’s a good thing to be able to say that, knowing that we won’t have to. Some things you just want to leave that way. We have a lot of talent on both ends.

"Let’s just say it would probably be a national championship game if it was our defense versus our offense."

SEC ties top friendship

Even when close friends are involved, there's apparently an SEC brotherhood that's sacred.

Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt joked that Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart wasn't sharing a lot of secrets concerning Auburn. Pruitt and Smart are friends and worked together at Alabama before Pruitt took the FSU coordinator job.

"Kirby has kind of taken the stance of, 'We’re friends, but …'" Pruitt said. "They’ve still got that SEC thing going. There’s some pride there."

Ties that bind

Auburn co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach Dameyune Craig recruited Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston to Florida State. He was integral in luring the nation’s top quarterback to Tallahassee, where he spent the past three seasons as FSU’s quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator.

Now, Craig’s biggest recruit will be lined up against him on college football’s biggest stage.

While Craig hasn’t spoken publicly about his relationship with Winston, the personal ties to Florida State haven’t been lost on his current players.

"It means a lot to him," said Auburn tight end C.J. Uzomah. "We know it means a lot to him. We knew that he was really close with all those guys, especially Jameis. He even said something about him at the Heisman ceremony, so we know this game means a lot to him, for sure."

Better than Bama

Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said Florida State’s defense is comparable to Alabama’s -- and might be even better.

"Honestly, you look at the features, and Alabama might have a little bit bigger guys up front, but not much," Lashlee said. "These guys are extremely quick and active. … Alabama was younger was in the secondary. Their corners are really good players, obviously Joyner is a difference-maker. There are a lot of similarities as far as the talent, I think they’re right there with them. Who knows? We’ll find out, they might be better."

Well, that makes sense

Pruitt spent the past three seasons as an assistant at Alabama, but he’s got no problem trying to help end the SEC’s streak of seven national titles.

"I’d like to end it for sure," he said.

Why?

"Oh, shoot, because I’m on this side and they’re on that side."
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- Florida State cornerback Lamarcus Joyner knows all about Auburn wide receiver and Miami native Ricardo Louis -- the Noles recruited him. And Joyner has done his homework on sophomore receiver Sammie Coates, who is third in the country in yards per catch (22.1) and averages 54.1 yards per touchdown reception.

[+] EnlargeNick Marshall
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertWhile Auburn is known for its rushing attack, Nick Marshall is completing 60 percent of his passes and has FSU's attention.
So while the rest of the country is seemingly wrapped up in Auburn’s nation-leading ground game -- and deservedly so -- Florida State’s secondary isn’t sleeping on the Tigers' ability to throw the ball. There's no question Auburn's strength is up front and in its running game, which averages 335.7 yards per game, but to the Seminoles, the difference will be their ability to force the Tigers to throw and get them into long yardage situations.

"That's the key to the game," Joyner said. "That’s key. That front seven has been tremendous for us all season, and we need them to do one more for this last game. [The Tigers] have a lot of great talent up front themselves. Their O-line is pretty good. I see a lot of those guys playing on Sunday. And we have a lot of guys who can play on Sunday in our front seven. It’s a clash of the beasts. … We need them to do more so the pretty boys in the back in the secondary can get a little shine."

It's already glowing.

Florida State leads the FBS with 25 interceptions and ranks third with 34 takeaways. Still, they're going to have to make the most of their opportunities against Auburn.

Auburn threw it only 11 times in the SEC title game against Missouri, and only 16 times against Alabama. Quarterback Nick Marshall, who has 1,023 rushing yards this season, had seven pass attempts against Tennessee, and eight against Arkansas. Overall this season, Auburn has run on 71 percent of its plays, the highest percentage for any non-triple option offense in the FBS.

"We obviously haven't thrown as much the second half of the season as we did the first," Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said, "but never was there an instance I thought it was because we couldn't or didn't want to, it was simply because you're going to go with what's working."

Not that their play-action passing game doesn’t work.

Just ask Georgia, which was stunned by Marshall’s 73-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Louis on fourth-and-18 with just 25 seconds left.

"I think Marshall has as good of arm talent as anybody in the country," FSU defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt said. "He can flat-foot throw it 80-some yards. A couple of throws he's made, especially down the stretch here, have been very accurate.

"The big thing is they've been throwing it when they want to throw it. They've been dictating to everybody else. I think it's important to get them behind the sticks early on and get them in some long yardage situations, but I'm sure that's what everybody's game plan has been, and they haven't had a whole lot of success doing it."

Florida State, obviously, hopes to change that.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Nick Saban will be in the awkward position of having to watch a football game rather than coach one on Jan. 6 in Pasadena, Calif. His Alabama Crimson Tide won't play for the VIZIO BCS National Championship, and instead will be forced to watch Florida State and Auburn do battle on center stage.

[+] EnlargeJimbo Fisher
AP Photo/Nell RedmondFormer Nick Saban assistant Jimbo Fisher and former Saban recruit Jameis Winston are proof of the power of "The Process."
But don't weep for Saban and the Tide. Because whatever happens, Alabama benefits.

Should Auburn win, Saban can continue selling recruits on the SEC being the most dominant conference in college football. "Come play in the league with eight straight national titles," his pitch might go. "Come compete in a rivalry game with championship implications," he might say.

But if Florida State wins, Saban can sell something much simpler. "See Jimbo Fisher coaching out there? He was my offensive coordinator at LSU," he could say. "See Jeremy Pruitt leading the Noles defense? I took him from a high school assistant coach to an SEC defensive coordinator," he could flaunt. "Defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri? Offensive line coach Rick Trickett? Wide receivers coach Lawrence Dawsey? Yeah, those were all my guys at one point, too," he could add for good measure.

Saban's process of building and running a football program -- simply dubbed, "The Process" -- has caught hold at a number of programs around the country, but maybe none more so than at Florida State. The similarities between the two schools are staggering: both work out of a 3-4 base defense, both use mainly pro-style sets on offense, both have built through the trenches and both recruit like gangbusters. Even their focus and implementation of off-field physical and mental conditioning are similar as both have employed the services of sports 'mindset' expert Trevor Moawad and both try to stay on the cutting edge with programs like Catapult Sports.

"Jimbo has done a fantastic job," Saban said of his former assistant in late November. "I always thought Jimbo was one of the best coaches we've ever had to work with on any of our staffs. He did a fantastic job for us. I think he has done a fantastic job.

"If you look at the whole body of work and the way they beat people, they are arguably the best country right now. And they weren't when he went there. They made a significant improvement. He has done a very good job of recruiting and developing the players they do have in the program. They've played really, really well and improved each year he has been there."

Though the Noles may have the flashier quarterback and the higher profile today, Saban shouldn't let you -- or the nation's top recruits -- forget what got them there. Since Fisher took over, the two staffs and the two rosters have been heavily intertwined. Jameis Winston, who won the Heisman Trophy this year, signed with Florida State over Alabama in 2012. Amari Cooper, who was a Freshman All-American a season ago, signed with Alabama over Florida State in the same year. The list of prospects whose decisions have come down to the Tide and the Noles are too many to count.

It ultimately took three seasons of coaching, recruiting and staffing for Saban to reach his first championship game with Alabama. For Fisher, it took four seasons to get Florida State to the promised land.

Whichever team wins on Jan. 6, The Process, Saban and Alabama come out looking good.
The big game between No. 7 Miami and No. 3 Florida State is almost here. So what does each team have to do to win Saturday in Tallahassee? Glad you asked. ACC reporters Andrea Adelson and David Hale give you the breakdown.

WHY FLORIDA STATE WILL WIN

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Lane Turner/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesJameis Winston has to be on his game against a Miami pass defense that has been outstanding this season.
1. Jameis Winston. Miami’s pass defense has been exceptional this season. The Hurricanes have allowed just six passing touchdowns, and they’ve been especially tough on third down, allowing opponents to convert just 28 percent of their throws, with just one touchdown and five interceptions. The antidote for all that? Winston has thrown at least three TDs in each of his ACC games so far, and he’s converting a nation-best 68 percent of his throws for first downs, averaging 12.5 yards per attempt (third nationally) and has five touchdowns passes with just one pick.

2. The rejuvenated defense. It took the Seminoles a while to adjust to new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt’s scheme, but they seem to have things pointed in the right direction now. They ended September by allowing 200 yards rushing to Boston College, and for the month, they coughed up an average of 152 yards per game on the ground. In October, however, they’ve trimmed that average by nearly 40 yards (against better teams). Moving Christian Jones to defensive end and getting Mario Edwards Jr. healthy has been a big part of the improvement, but much of the difference is simply experience in the new system. Add in FSU’s aggressive blitzing strategy against a quarterback who’s battled an ankle injury all season, and there’s a good chance the Seminoles’ D could have a big day.

3. The intangibles. The numbers already suggest a pretty clear advantage on the field for Florida State, which enters the game as a three-touchdown favorite. But more than that, all the off-the-field markers are tipped in FSU’s favor, too. Seniors like Lamarcus Joyner, Terrence Brooks and Telvin Smith are eager to wrap up a 4-0 career against their archrivals. Florida State is expecting a sellout crowd at Doak Campbell for the first time this season. It’s a big-game environment, but FSU already knows that feeling, having played two prime-time games already, including one against Clemson just two weeks ago.

WHY MIAMI WILL WIN

1. Duke Johnson and the run game. The Hurricanes have relied heavily on their run game all season, specifically to pull out comeback wins in the fourth quarter of their past two games. Miami is averaging 214.7 yards per game on the ground this season -- its highest total going back to 1960. In fact, Miami has averaged more than 200 yards rushing just twice in that time span. Johnson leads the way with a league-high 6.7 yards per rush. Dallas Crawford runs hard, too, and he won the North Carolina game for the Canes. Do not overlook this offensive line, either. Miami only has one underclassman in its starting lineup and presents the best line the Seminoles have seen to date.

2. Stephen Morris is finally healthy. Morris is the healthiest he has been since the start of the season after playing through a lingering ankle injury in the past five games. That injury forced him to change his footwork and mechanics, and it did not allow him to take snaps under center as much as Miami wanted. The Canes are hoping a healthy Morris means fewer mistakes and better decisions. "Definitely need to be better on first-down efficiency, making the right decision on first down," Morris said. "Setting up an easy second and third down is huge for us, and when we get into our third down, our money downs, we have to stay on the field. I need to make better decisions, I need to see the field better, and especially in the red zone, converting touchdowns instead of field goals."

3. Improved pass defense. As was mentioned above, Miami is much better defensively this season than last. One of the biggest keys to slowing down Winston is not so much flustering him or blitzing him, because he does well under pressure. Rather, the Hurricanes need to take away the guys who make plays for him. In this instance, Miami must do an excellent job covering receivers Rashad Greene, Kenny Shaw and Kelvin Benjamin, along with tight end Nick O'Leary. That means tackling well and not allow those guys to get behind them for a big play. Miami has forced 19 turnovers in 2013, second-highest in the ACC and better than Florida State. Of those, 12 are interceptions, which is tied for No. 12 in the nation.
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: Oregon State coach Mike Riley launched a new Twitter campaign on Tuesday to help the Beavers connect with recruits across the country; LSU’s Frank Wilson didn’t make the first edition of the ESPN recruiting power rankings, but he could be leading the poll by signing day; and a question and answer session on Wednesday helped identify what topics are most important with recruiting fans today.

#SmartRecruitingTool
Oregon State coach Mike Riley has more than 18,900 followers and is great communicating with fans on Twitter. So it was no surprise to see him launch a campaign Tuesday called “Tweet Film Tuesday” where he asked recruits to send him links to their film, and he and his staffers will then select 10 recruits to evaluate each week. With only 140 characters to work with, Riley didn’t explain how he and his assistants would pick the 10 recruits to evaluate, but the idea is ingenious. Not only does it help Riley and the Beaver coaches communicate with prospects in a way they’re already familiar with, it also allows the OSU coaches to find prospects they might not have been familiar with who are truly interested in the program. Also with Riley’s track record of uncovering hidden talent, you can all but guarantee there will be a story a few years down the road where the Beavers found a sleeper through this approach.

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