By: Brendan Sonnone | Noles247
September 11, 2019
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (247Sports) -- Florida State’s defense is getting some help from a proven coach as Jim Leavitt has joined the staff in a defensive analyst, according to Bruce Feldman of The Athletic.
Leavitt, 62, reunites with coach Willie Taggart. The two were together at Oregon in 2017, with Taggart working as the head coach and Leavitt as the defensive coordinator. Taggart left for FSU the following offseason and wanted to bring Leavitt with him in the same capacity, but Leavitt was given a substantial raise ($1.7 million annually). He was not retained by head coach Mario Cristobal after the 2018 season, opening up the possibility to come to FSU.
The move makes sense for both sides as signs of a Leavitt-Taggart reunion began to emerge this spring. First, FSU started implementing 3-4 looks with hybrid linebackers...a deviation from the 4-3 attacking scheme defensive coordinator always ran while at Michigan State. Leavitt is known for running a hybrid 3-4 scheme. Second, Leavitt was on FSU’s campus visiting in the spring as well.
“I appreciate Willie. I’ve known Willie for a long time,” Leavitt said in March. “When he called me to hire me at Oregon, I really appreciated that opportunity, I really did. He treated me great, we have a very good relationship. I was impressed by him the year I was with him.”
Leavitt is expected to help oversee FSU’s scheme shift in his role, although he’ll be restricted in what he can do directly with players. So more than likely, Leavitt can best be served giving input to FSU’s coaches on how to best utilize personnel with the hybrid fronts. FSU, to date, has struggled with its transition to the multi-front scheme under the guidance of defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett, who is more versed in a 4-3 attacking scheme.
Oregon reportedly agreed to pay Leavitt $2.5 million for a buyout, depending on if he got another job. It’s unclear if this role at FSU will impact Leavitt’s buyout...but it’s unlikely to do so, and that would explain how the Seminoles obtained a proven coach for its support staff.
Leavitt has significant experience coaching at the Power Five level, as well as in Florida. He was USF’s head coach from 1997-2009 (he was fired in 2010 after a school investigation revealed that Leavitt had a physical altercation with a player, according to an ESPN report), and was a coordinator at Colorado (2015-16) and Oregon (2017-18). Leavitt also previously worked at Kansas State in the 1990s and was the linebackers coach for the San Francisco 49ers from 2011-14.