Florida Gators

Florida State quickly replaces Sal Sunseri with Brad Lawing

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It didn’t take Florida State Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher long to find a replacement for Sal Sunseri as the team’s defensive ends coach.

Hours after news broke that Sunseri would take a position as part of Jack Del Rio‘s staff with the Oakland Raiders, Fisher targeted and obtained the latest addition to his staff.

“Warchant.com has confirmed with a source inside the football program that Florida assistant head coach and defensive line coach Brad Lawing has been hired to take over as FSU’s new defensive ends coach,” Gene Williams reported.

The Seminoles might have even upgraded their coaching staff with this hire. Lawing isn’t simply one of the better defensive line coaches in college football. He’s also a top-notch recruiter.

Prior to Lawing’s two-year stint with the Gators, he served as Steve Spurrier‘s defensive line coach from 2006-12.

In his 23 years as a head coach, Lawing has developed 15 NFL defensive linemen. He’ll now get his hands on Florida State’s talent-laden defensive front.

(Photo courtesy of Florida’s athletic department)

Report: Houston QB considers transfer to Texas, Florida

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After being benched during his sophomore season with the Houston Cougars, quarterback John O’Korn decided to transfer after the season.

This could develop into one of those rare cases where a player is benched at a smaller school yet transfers to a higher profile program.

O’Korn entered the 2014 campaign as one of the most promising young quarterbacks in the country.

As a true freshman, O’Korn completed 58.1 percent of his passes with 28 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions.

The native of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, regressed during his second season. O’Korn threw only six touchdowns compared to eight interceptions this past fall.

Despite the poor season, O’Korn will be hot commodity among teams searching for a pro style quarterback. Greg Ward Jr. was a better option for the Cougars over the second half of the season due to his ability to run the football, and he will remain so in Tom Herman‘s spread offense. O’Korn, on the other hand, is a pure pocket passer. Thus, it makes sense he’s considering Florida and Texas.

Both programs run systems that best suit O’Korn’s skills. Florida is a particularly interesting option due to it being the quarterback’s home state, and new head coach Jim McElwain recently worked wonders with quarterback Garrett Grayson at Colorado State.

If both schools are interested in O’Korn, it must be due to an assumption that his 2014 performance was merely an aberration and still see his potential.

Houston has yet to grant O’Korn his release, but the school previously granted the quarterback permission to contact other schools about possibly transferring, per SI.com’s Thayer Evans.

Survive and advance: Florida State remains undefeated with narrow victory over Florida

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All the Florida State Seminoles do is win. It’s not always pretty, but Jimbo Fisher‘s squad continues to find ways to remain unblemished.

Granted, the nation’s No. 3 team needed a pair of missed field goals to survive against their rival, the Florida Gators, but luck has been on the Seminoles’ side all season.

Saturday’s 24-19 victory over the Gators is the fourth time in six weeks Florida State won a game by five points or less.

The continued poor play, particularly in the first half, raises questions about how good this Seminoles team is even at 12-0.

Florida State’s performance against Florida didn’t exactly help its case.

The Seminoles escaped due to a pair of missed second-half field goals by Florida kicker Austin Hardin.

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston, also isn’t playing near the level he did a year ago.

The redshirt sophomore threw four interceptions Saturday, which is a new career high (or low depending on how you look at it). It wasn’t simply one poor game that can be easily swept aside.

Winston’s performance over the past five games has been well below his standards:

After falling behind yet again, poor play from its quarterback and barely winning another game, Florida State’s status is tenuous at best.

The Seminoles will remain ranked among the top four teams for the College Football Playoff, but another potential national championship run doesn’t seem nearly as likely compared to the dominant team that Fisher fielded last season.

All of this could come to a head next weekend when Florida State plays the No. 16 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the ACC Championship Game. Georgia Tech came away with an overtime victory over the No. 9 Georgia Bulldogs Saturday. Plus, the Yellow Jackets’ triple option attack is very difficult to prepare for even with a talented defense.

The ACC Championship Game won’t be an easy contest for Florida State, and that will simply fall in line with what everyone has seen all season. However, the program’s unique ability to survive and advance is all that matters.

Jameis Winston’s miscues slow No. 3 Florida State, still lead Florida 21-16

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Last season, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston proved to be the best player in college football. This year, the redshirt sophomore has been just good enough for the Seminoles to remain undefeated.

No. 3 Florida State leads the rival Florida Gators 21-16 at halftime even though Winston has very little to do with his team’s first-half success.

Winston is fortunate the Seminoles are playing a lifeless Gators squad. The reigning Heisman Trophy placed his team at a major disadvantage during the first quarter with three interceptions.

Each of the throws were poorly placed or forced into coverage. Each time the Gators had the ball on Florida State’s side of the field, but the offensively-challenged Gators couldn’t capitalize with a touchdown even when Winston threw one of the interceptions from the end zone.

Florida State’s defense certainly rose to the occasion, though.

After Winston’s third interception of the first quarter, Florida’s freshman quarterback, Treon Harris, gave the ball right back to Florida State. The difference between Winston’s mistakes and Harris’ was the Seminoles defense was prepared to take advantage of Florida’s miscue. Linebacker Terrance Smith returned the interception 94 yards for Florida State’s initial touchdown.

Winston finished the half 8-of-17 passing for 72 yards and a pair of touchdown passes as well as the previously mentioned interceptions. The quarterback received plenty of help from the Seminoles rushing attack, too.

Florida State ran the ball for 105 yards through two quarters. Running back Dalvin Cook led the way with 73 yards on 10 carries.

Florida closed the gap late in the second quarter when Harris found Clay Burton in the end zone after the Gators blocked a Florida State punt.

The Seminoles have been a second-half team all season. Poor play during the first half shouldn’t come as a surprise. Winston and the offense should be expected to pour it on during the rest of the game.

Brian Kelly, Dabo Swinney latest to deny interest in Florida opening

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Since Will Muschamp was officially dismissed as Florida’s head coach — even though he’ll continue to coach the Gators for the rest of this season — multiple high-profile head coaches already denied any interest in the opening.

It started with Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops. Stoops, who is the favorite in Las Vegas to eventually claim the job, quickly squashed any rumors a day after Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley made his decision.

“All I want to be is a candidate at Oklahoma,” Stoops said during a conference call Monday. “I’m not a candidate anywhere else. I’m finished with that question.”

A 69-year-old Steve Spurrier isn’t making a triumphant return to Gainesville either.

Auburn’s Gus Malzahn followed suit Tuesday by saying he was “totally committed” to the Tigers program, per Al.com.

Two more denials came Friday.

Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly joked about the possibility of leaving South Bend for sunny Florida.

“I’m going to Florida — in about two weeks to get some sun,” Kelly told WNDU.com. “I’m getting out of here with this weather. What are you, kidding me? So you can write that down. I’m going to Florida. Write it down now, get it out there get it on the news waves.”

When reporters followed Kelly’s sarcastic response with a direct question about the coach’s interest in Florida, the Notre Dame coach continued to lay it on thick.

“Oh yeah. I’ve been interested in the Florida job,” Kelly said. “What else am I up for anything else? Can I be up for the Notre Dame job? Because we are 7-3 right now, [and] I’m hoping to hold on to this job.”

Clemson’s Dabo Swinney was more direct with his answer regarding any interest in the opening.

“The more you sit around and talk about that kind of stuff, the more of a distraction it is,” Swinney said. “I love my job. I just signed a long-term contract because of that. And this is a place that’s special to me. And I’ve invested a lot here. My focus is 100 percent on winning here.”

Two reasons prompt these blanket denials.

First, no coach is going to express interest in the middle of the season. It’s detrimental to his team’s progress on the field and recruiting off of it.

Second, Florida is no longer considered one of the elite jobs. It’s close, but it doesn’t fall in the same category as Alabama, Ohio State or Texas anymore.

“If those elite jobs are a 10, Florida is a 9.5,” a source told USA TODAY.

Despite being in a talent-rich state as one of the highest-profile programs in the nation, Florida has fallen behind in regards to facilities. It’s still a desirable job, but it’s not quite as enticing for these top coaches as it used to be.