TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Neither a steady rain nor the news that defensive coordinator Mark Stoops was departing for another job deterred No. 13 Florida State’s preparation for Saturday’s ACC Championship game against Georgia Tech at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
The Seminoles worked out for more than two hours Tuesday at the Al Dunlap Practice Fields, including half of the practice in a steady rain.
“It was a very good practice today,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “It rained about the second half of practice. The guys endured it very well; we got a lot of work done. We looked good. The guys were bouncing around as far as their energy level. …
“The defense, I walked over and watched some of the things they were doing, and they had a real nice plan. I think they executed very well. The special teams – Cason (Beatty) and those guys – kicked the ball very well today. The guys responded very well as far coming back with a good attitude to practice. I’m very proud of them.”
The news of the day was Kentucky’s mid-day announcement that Stoops had been hired as the Wildcats’ new head coach. The third-year assistant with the Seminoles has been instrumental in turning a unit that ranked No. 108 nationally in total defense in 2009 to one of the top units in the country each of the last two seasons.
Fisher and Stoops told the players at the pre-practice meeting. Stoops attended practice and will continue in his defensive coordinator role at least through Saturday’s ACC Championship game.
Fisher, as well as a number of Seminole players, were excited that Stoops had landed his first head coaching position.
“I’m very proud of him; very happy for him,” Fisher said. “He got an opportunity to go on and further his career, and it’s something he wants to do. I’m very happy for him and elated for him. Those are things that are very indicative of the players that we have, the way he’s coached and our program, that people want to hire our coaches. …
“We wanted Mark to stay for a long time until he got what he wanted to do, and that’s what he wanted to do.”
Furthermore, he doesn’t have any doubt that Stoops has the traits to be a successful head coach.
“He’s a hard worker,” Fisher said. “I think he cares about what he does; is very diligent about what he does. He has a lot of passion for what he does. He truly loves coaching.”
Stoops was not made available for comment. Kentucky has announced he will hold a press conference Sunday in Lexington, Ky.
With his focus on an ACC title, Fisher said he would begin his search for Stoops’ replacement next week.
Darby named ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year
Florida State freshman cornerback Ronald Darby was selected as the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year on Tuesday by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association.
The true freshman from Oxon Hill, Md. is the second Seminole to win the award, which was first presented in 2007. Ironically, he follows in the footsteps of the guy who he plays behind on the field – redshirt junior starting cornerback Xavier Rhodes – who won the honor in 2010.
Despite coming off the bench, Darby is one of four Seminoles who share the team lead with seven pass break-ups. The speedy, two-sport standout – he plans to run track in the spring for FSU – made an immediate impression on the coaching staff in preseason camp and has played in all 12 regular season games. He has recorded 18 tackles (14 solos), as well as a forced fumble and a quarterback hurry for a unit that ranks second nationally in total defense and fourth in pass efficiency defense.
Darby earned 14 votes to edge Miami safety Deon Bush (9) and Georgia Tech linebacker Jabari Hunt-Days (8). Seven first-year defensive players received votes from a panel of 46 ACSMA members casting ballots.