The Jimbo Fisher-James Coley-Mark Stoops connection

Saturday’s ACC Championship Game between Florida State and Georgia Tech¬†(8 p.m., ESPN) could be one of more closely watched in conference history, and it has nothing to do with the two teams.

Kentucky fans will be checking out its new head coach, current FSU defensive coordinator Mark Stoops. The 45-year-old Stoops was hired as UK coach on Tuesday. A press conference is scheduled for Sunday. UK fans may also be watching Saturday for another reason, however.

The hot staff name the past couple of days is James Coley, the FSU offensive coordinator and tight ends coach. There is talk Stoops would like to bring Coley to Kentucky as either his offensive coordinator or as his associate head coach/recruiting coordinator with UK luring Texas Tech offensive coordinator Neal Brown, a former UK wide receiver, back to Lexington to run Stoops’ offense.

The wild card in all of this is Jimbo Fisher. The Florida State head coach is working for a new boss in Tallahassee, one that didn’t hire him, and the thinking is he could be poached. Both Tennessee and Auburn are thought to be very interested in Fisher. Tennessee AD Dave Hart was once the AD at Florida State. Fisher was an assistant coach at Auburn, where he recruited an developed a good relationship with former UK quarterback Tim Couch, who was instrumental in the hiring of Stoops.

Fisher says he is comfortable at FSU and has no plans to leave. But then Fisher also denied that Stoops had been interviewed by Kentucky, right before his DC took the UK job. Fisher’s agent is Jimmy Sexton, who has more clients and more connections than any other agent in possibly all of college football.

Let’s say Fisher were to leave? Would that make Coley more likely to join Stoops in Lexington? Or would Coley think he might have a shot at succeeding Fisher at FSU? Or would he follow Fisher to his next job?

Coley was a grad assistant under Nick Saban at LSU before following Saban to the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. Coley spent a year as offensive coordinator at Florida International, before joining Fisher’s staff at FSU in 2008. Stoops joined the Seminoles in 2010, the same year that Coley was promoted to offensive coordinator.

Fisher calls the plays for the Seminoles, however. Coley was more involved in formulating the game plan. And he is known as a terrific recruiter, especially in Florida.

Note: I do agree with KSR, James Coley’s twitter account is a must-follow.

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  1. operationruse says:

    We need this guy for his recruiting connections if nothing else. I sure hope he likes Stoops more than Jimbo. The Coley to UK thought seems to be losing some steam in the last 24 hours with Florida State folks claiming Jimbo is going to give him more responsibility with play calling. Are you hearing that? Do you believe we will know one way or the other by the Sunday presser?

  2. John Clay says:

    From what I’m hearing Stoops really wants Coley, and there is a chance UK can get him, but it is far from a done deal.

  3. operationruse says:

    Thanks for the insight. I heard that he was making $300-350,000.00 a year there. If he is worth that to FSU, he is probably worth twice as much to U.K. Not sure we would go that high. I heard estimates of $2.5 mil for Stoops’ contract with incentives that could take it up another $1mil. It sounds like Mitch is serious about opening the purse strings for assistants too. Where would you ballpark the total amount of $ for the UK football staff next year? I think it at least needs to be more than Calipari’s salary for perception.

  4. John Clay says:

    I don’t know the money figure for a staff, but I do know that was part of the negotiations. And I do know that Stoops would not have taken the job without assurances he would have the financial resources to hire the staff he wanted.

  5. David M says:

    I like the idea of Coley being assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator with Neal Brown coming in at offensive coordinator. I can see high school kids taking Kentucky little more serious if they think Athletic Department looks to be serious for a change about football.
    I had been debating on not renewing my 4 season football tickets. I have had them for almost 13 seasons now guess I will fork out some more money for next year, but I plan to stay vigilant on how much support the AD gives our new coaches. I for one think they should be given almost anything they need to make Kentucky competitive with the whole of SEC. Go Big Blue!!!!

  6. Chris F says:

    I hated to lose Stoops, the wrong coach got poached for sure. Auburn or UT can have Fisher as far as I’m concerned! Hard to say how good Coley is since Jimbo didn’t run Coley’s game plans only his own…which is why he needs to go. How can FSU have an offense built like a Ferrari yet get the results like a Pinto? EJ a bigger faster Charlie Ward…but there will be no national championship nor Heisman to show for it.