VIDEO: Former Florida Gator Coach Takes Seminoles Back To Basics
By Tim Linafelt, Seminoles.com Senior Writer // August 11, 2015
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TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA (Seminoles.com) – Brad Lawing always figured he would retire in Florida. More specifically, that he would retire from the University of Florida.
The 30-year coaching veteran joined UF in 2013 after seven years at South Carolina, hired by coach Will Muschamp to bolster the Gators’ defensive line.
Lawing held up his end of the bargain, helping UF to top-15 defenses in each of his two seasons in Gainesville.
The Gators, however, did not. Muschamp and his staff were fired after the 2014 season, which left Lawing looking for a job.
“I left (South Carolina) assuming that Florida was going to be my last job, and we played good defense down there for a couple years,” Lawing said. “Things just didn’t work out team-wise.”
Lawing’s next opportunity came quickly. He was visiting some coaching friends at the Senior Bowl in January when his phone rang. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher was on the line.
FSU’s defensive ends coach, Sal Sunseri, had just accepted a position in the NFL and Fisher needed someone to fill the job.
“He said, ‘Are you interested in the job?’” Lawing recalled. “I said, ‘Yeah. I am.’ About 45 minutes later, he called back and said ‘Do you want it?’ And I took it.
“I called my wife and said, ‘We’re going to Florida State.’ She packed the car, put two cats in the back of the car and we drove two and a half hours to Tallahassee. It was an easy move.”
Lawing had never worked with Fisher before, but he served on staffs with FSU assistants Jay Graham (South Carolina) and Bill Miller (Michigan State).
Votes of confidence from those two, as well as knowledge of Fisher’s coaching background, made FSU an easy choice for Lawing.
“I knew a lot about Jimbo,” Lawing said. “I’d worked for Nick (Saban) at Michigan State. If you’ve got that in your background, you’ve been raised the right way in coaching.”
Fisher hopes that Lawing can inject some life into an FSU pass rush that sputtered at times in 2014.
After four straight seasons with at least 30 sacks, the Seminoles’ total tumbled to just 17 a year ago.
While Fisher insists that number is misleading, and that specific game situations often led to fewer sacks, he allowed that the Seminoles have got to make life more difficult for opposing quarterbacks this fall.
“Everybody talks about sacks. Sacks aren’t always the thing,” said Jimbo Fisher.
“Affecting the quarterback, pushing the pocket, making balls come out, getting balls tipped, creating lanes (is also important).
“Saying all that, I believe this team will definitely be able to pressure the quarterback with the demeanor and the types of players we have on the edge right now,” said Fisher.
Lawing arrived in Tallahassee in January, but he’s still taking inventory of his players.
He had good things to say about veterans Chris Casher and DeMarcus Walker. And he believes freshman Josh Sweat can be a difference-maker.
More than anything, though, Lawing wants to see a renewed emphasis on fundamentals.
Scheme, he said, is important. But mastering the basics can go a long way, especially for a defensive line so heavy with youth. Between defensive ends, tackles and outside linebackers, FSU has 10 first- or second-year players on its roster.
“There are some young guys that are going to have to play,” Lawing said. “If you’re not good at fundamentals, it’s hard to become a good football player.”
Beyond that, Lawing has spent time evaluating his group, deciphering how best to use them.
“We’re asking them to do things they can actually do,” Lawing said. “Don’t ask a guy who is a power guy to be a finesse guy, and, vice-versa, a finesse guy to be a power guy.
“There comes a time where they may have to do some of that, but, as a whole, to be a great defense collectively, you have got to have guys doing things that they can actually do.”
Lawing’s approach has caught the Seminoles’ attention.
So, too, has his resume.
In just the past four years, Lawing has coached three first-round draft picks on the defensive line. That includes last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Jadeveon Clowney, as well as Dante Fowler (No. 3 in 2015), Melvin Ingram (No. 18 in 2012) and Dominique Easley (No. 29 in 2014).
He also recruited and coached former All-Pro John Abraham in the late 1990s.
“If you want to get to where someone is, you try to do what they do,” FSU defensive tackle Nile Lawrence-Stample said.
“So the fact that he’s coached these players, it does matter. Everything he taught Clowney, everything he taught Easley, everything he taught Fowler, John Abraham, he’s teaching us.”
“He’s doing a great job, man. Our pass rush is increasing tremendously,” said Lawrence-Stample.
Lawing may be rebuilding a foundation of fundamentals, but he believes big things are in store for the Seminoles.
He wouldn’t have taken the job otherwise.
As enters the next year of a coaching career that began in 1980, Lawing has no interest in spinning his tires in hopes of one day reaching an elite level.
“I told my wife we’re only going to take a job that lets you win a national championship,’” Lawing said. “Well, it’s obvious you can do it here at Florida State. …
“The opportunity to do here at Florida State what I believe we’re going to do, as far as taking this program to just keep winning and win championships, that was very attractive to me.”