TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State’s coaching search is in full swing and those most affected are keeping an eye on the proceedings.
Just not too close of an eye.
Hot boards, flight trackers and Twitter rumors will be the order of the day until a new coach is named, but Florida State’s players said this week that they prefer to keep focused on what’s in front of them.
Which shouldn’t be all that difficult, given that a date with No. 10 Florida is next on the calendar.
“We’re players,” cornerback Stanford Samuels III said. “We can control what we can control, and that’s playing football on Saturdays.”
That should keep the Seminoles plenty busy.
Florida is 9-2 with losses to No. 1 LSU and No. 4 Georgia, and the Gators dealt FSU a humbling defeat last year in Tallahassee – their first win in the series since 2012.
“The Gators, they’re playing great this year,” FSU interim head coach Odell Haggins said. “All three phases, they’re a very good football team.”
The Seminoles, meanwhile, have an opportunity to upset UF, extend their school-record winning streak in Gainesville to five games and potentially improve their postseason destination.
All of which sounds much more appealing than following the latest whispers on the coaching circuit.
“We pay attention, but only so much,” linebacker Leonard Warner III said. “There are guys who their job is just to speculate. And I don’t think that’s very useful to read most of the time.”
Instead, Samuels said, the Seminoles will be brushing up on their game plan, studying film and doing everything to put themselves in position to beat Florida.
“We have to be locked in throughout the week in order to play good football on Saturdays,” he said. “We can’t worry about the different coaching changes.”
Same goes for the interim head coach.
Asked Wednesday about whether he was pursuing the job on a full-time basis, Haggins responded in his typical, laser-focused fashion.
“My main concern now is getting ready for the University of Florida,” he said. “That’s my main concern – getting ready for Florida.”
Edwards, Leavitt in expanded roles: Still, Haggins has put his fingerprints on the program since taking over two weeks ago.
A few days after assuming his new post, Haggins announced that defensive analyst Jim Leavitt would fill the on-field coaching position that came open upon Willie Taggart’s departure.
Then, on Monday, Haggins did some more shuffling, as Florida State announced that senior defensive analyst Mario Edwards would fill an on-field coaching position, while recruiting coordinator David Kelly was no longer with the program.
Kelly was not serving in an on-field capacity in 2019, but, due to NCAA rules, his status as FSU’s receivers coach a year ago required him to be counted as such until next year.
So, for the first time this season, the Seminoles will have a full complement of 10 coaches for both the Florida game and their upcoming bowl game.
“It’s been good,” FSU defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett said. “When you can have added help, it’s always good.”
Leavitt’s background is with linebackers, and Barnett confirmed that he’s focused primarily on FSU’s front seven – particularly with Haggins, previously FSU’s defensive line coach, taking on additional responsibilities.
And Edwards, a former FSU cornerback (1995-1999) and director of player development (2012-17), is working with the Seminoles’ defensive backs.
Barnett said that the specifics of Edwards’ role are still being hammered out – the Seminoles have practiced just twice since the change – but that Edwards is willing “to help and assist in any way he can.”
“I’ll tell you what, Mario has a lot of energy,” Haggins said. “And Mario is very knowledgeable about the football game. … So he brings a lot to the field.”
Edwards’ new proteges, meanwhile, are excited to see what he brings to the table.
After all, a former All-ACC performer with both national championship and NFL experience likely has a few useful things to impart.
“For him to be on the field now, that’s definitely going to add something to our repertoire,” Samuels said. “Something we can use.”
As for the Seminoles’ recruiting efforts, Haggins said that no one staffer has assumed Kelly’s duties, but that everyone is “pitching in, working together,”
“Recruiting is going fine,” Haggins said.