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10 Coaching Candidates to Replace Jimbo Fisher at Florida State

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State Seminoles Football

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State Seminoles Football

Florida State is the latest college football job with an opening at head coach, as Jimbo Fisher is headed to College Station to become Texas A&M’s new coach. Fisher resigned as Florida State's coach on Friday and won't coach the finale against ULM. Fisher went 83-23 as the Seminoles’ head coach since taking over for Bobby Bowden in 2010. Under Fisher’s guidance, Florida State posted six years of double-digit win totals, including a 14-0 record and national championship in 2013. Largely due to an injury to quarterback Deondre Francois in the season opener, the Seminoles slipped to 5-6 this year. However, this program still has one of the ACC's top rosters and plenty of talent to build around in 2018 and beyond. 

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With an elite recruiting base and plenty of tradition, Florida State is one of college football’s top jobs. It's no secret there will be plenty of interest from coaches in this search, but the Seminoles will have to move fast with the first signing period approaching on Dec. 20.

Who will replace Fisher at Florida State? Here are 10 names to watch

10 Coaching Candidates to Replace Jimbo Fisher at Florida State

Jeff Brohm, head coach, Purdue

Brohm’s name popped up in the Tennessee search, but the Kentucky native did not end up as the program’s head coach. Brohm brought significant improvement to Purdue in his first season on the job, leading the Boilermakers to a 6-6 record and a bowl appearance. The six wins represented a three-game improvement in the win column from last season. Brohm previously spent three years as WKU’s head coach, going 30-10 and recording two C-USA titles over three seasons with the Hilltoppers. Before becoming a head coach in 2014, Brohm worked under Bobby Petrino at WKU (2013) for a season and also spent time at UAB, Illinois, FAU and Louisville.

Neal Brown, head coach, Troy

The jump from the Sun Belt to one of college football's top jobs is a big one. It's unlikely Florida State's search gets to Brown, but the third-year coach is a rising star to watch. Brown is in his third season at Troy, guiding the program to a 23-13 record since 2015. He had big shoes to fill in replacing Larry Blakeney at Troy but led the Trojans to a 10-win season in 2016 and beat LSU in Baton Rouge this year. The Kentucky native has previous experience in the SEC from a two-year run as Mark Stoops’ offensive coordinator with the Wildcats from 2013-14. Additionally, he called the plays at Texas Tech (2010-12) and Troy (2008-09). Brown is a young, up-and-coming coach who has a strong background on offense.

Dave Clawson, head coach, Wake Forest

Clawson’s another longshot on this list, but he’s someone who deserves a look for bigger jobs this offseason. The New York native started his head coaching career at Fordham in 1999 and guided the Rams to a 29-29 record over five seasons. He took the top spot at Richmond in 2004 and went 29-20 overall and made two trips to the FCS playoffs over four years. Clawson spent 2008 as Tennessee’s offensive coordinator under Phillip Fulmer, but after the staff was dismissed, he landed at Bowling Green as the program’s head coach for the 2009 campaign. Clawson’s tenure with the Falcons resembled the ones at Fordham and Richmond. Bowling Green went 32-30 under Clawson’s direction but showed steady improvement after his first year or two on the job, which included a MAC title in 2013. Clawson was hired at Wake Forest prior to the 2014 campaign and went 6-18 in his first two years at the helm. However, after playing a lot of freshmen his first two seasons, Clawson has guided the Demon Deacons to a 14-11 record since 2016.

Scott Frost, head coach, UCF

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It’s no secret Frost is the top target (and likely next head coach) at Nebraska. But would an opening at Florida State convince him to stay in the Sunshine State? The former Nebraska quarterback is 17-7 through two years with the Knights, guiding the program to an AAC East Division title and undefeated 11-0 regular season. Prior to UCF, Frost worked at Oregon as an assistant and offensive coordinator (2013-15) and was responsible for building one of the Pac-12’s top offenses. He also worked at Northern Iowa from 2007-08 as an assistant.

Justin Fuente, head coach, Virginia Tech

Fuente leaving Virginia Tech seems unlikely, but Florida State is the top job in the ACC. The Oklahoma native is 19-7 through two seasons in Blacksburg and previously went 26-23 in four years at Memphis. Fuente inherited a Memphis program in need of major repair and guided the Tigers to 19 wins over his final two years at the helm. Prior to Memphis, Fuente was an assistant coach at TCU (2007-11) and Illinois State (2001-06).

Lane Kiffin, head coach, FAU

Kiffin is due for another chance to run a Power 5 program – but is Florida State willing to give him a shot after just one season at FAU? After working as the offensive coordinator at Alabama from 2014-16, Kiffin was hired as FAU’s coach prior to the 2017 campaign. Kiffin has made an immediate impact in Boca Raton, as he guided the Owls to a Conference USA East Division title and an 9-3 record prior to the season finale. Kiffin has two previous stints as a head coach: Tennessee in 2009 and USC (2010-13). He went 7-6 with the Volunteers in his only season at the helm and 28-15 in his stint with the Trojans. Kiffin is a polarizing figure, but there’s no doubt he can develop an offense and is a better coach than his record at USC and Tennessee would suggest.

Mike Norvell, head coach, Memphis

Norvell has been mentioned in searches at Arkansas and Tennessee, so the second-year coach is going to be one of the carousel's top names to watch. However, if Florida State was interested, this job is by far the best out of that trio. The Texas native played his collegiate ball at Central Arkansas and started his coaching career there as a graduate assistant. He later joined Tulsa's staff under Todd Graham in 2007 and remained an assistant until 2010 when he left for one season at Pitt (2011). At Arizona State, Norvell's attack ranked in the top five in scoring offense of the Pac-12 in all four seasons (2012-15) of calling plays. Norvell picked up where Justin Fuente left off and has Memphis poised to finish in the top 25 this season. The Tigers went 8-5 in Norvell’s debut and are off to a 9-1 start in 2017. Overall, Memphis is 18-6 under Norvell and claimed the AAC’s West Division this season. Prior to taking over as the head coach at Memphis and play-caller at Arizona State, Norvell worked under Graham as an assistant at Pitt (2011) and Tulsa (2007-10). Norvell is one of college football’s youngest coaches (36) and is also one of the nation’s top minds on offense.

Charlie Strong, head coach, USF

Strong is probably down the list of potential candidates, but he’s worth a mention here because of his ties to the state of Florida. Strong is regarded as a good recruiter – especially in Florida – and is one of the top defensive minds in college football. He had stints as an assistant at Florida (1988-89, 1991-94 and 2003-09), along with stops at Ole Miss (1990) and South Carolina (1999-02). After working as an assistant for over 20 years, Strong finally landed a head coaching gig in 2010. However, he inherited a Louisville program in need of repair but guided the Cardinals to a 37-15 record from 2010-13. During that span, the Cardinals went to four bowl games and won 23 contests over the final two seasons. Strong was hired at Texas in 2014 and went 16-21 over three years. While Strong was a bad fit in Austin, he’s a proven head coach at Louisville and went 9-2 in his first season at USF.

Kevin Sumlin, former Texas A&M head coach mentioned Sumlin as a potential candidate for the Florida State job on Thursday. From 2012-17 as Texas A&M's coach, Sumlin went 51-26 overall and 25-23 in SEC play. He was also Houston's head coach from 2008-11, posting a 35-17 mark with a 12-win season in 2011. Sumlin also has stops on his resume from stints as an assistant at Purdue, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Wyoming. Sumlin should get another opportunity to be a head coach at the FBS level - but Florida State should be able to aim higher. This seems like an extreme longshot possibility. 

Willie Taggart, head coach, Oregon

Taggart has to be the top target at Florida State. He’s a Florida native with extensive ties to the state, including a standout career at Bradenton High School. After his playing career was over, Taggart was an assistant coach at WKU from 1999-06 before joining Jim Harbaugh’s staff at Stanford in 2007. He remained on the Farm for three years (2007-09) before becoming WKU’s head coach in 2010. Taggart inherited a program that was transitioning the FBS level and won only two games in the previous two years prior to his arrival. After a 2-10 debut, Taggart went 14-10 over his next two seasons. He took over at USF in 2013 and guided the program to a 24-25 mark over four years, including a 10-2 record in 2016. Taggart left for Oregon after the 2016 regular season and guided the Ducks to a 7-5 mark.