FSU football turned their defense around at the end of the 2016 season – earning coordinator Charles Kelly the right to return for the 2017 campaign.
Through the first two months of the 2016 season, there were fans of FSU football who were volunteering to help defensive coordinator Charles Kelly clear out his office inside Doak Campbell Stadium. A 5-3 start to the season was amplified by a defensive output that was reminiscent of the 2014 group that ranked as one of the worst units in the country.
Oh, what a difference five games can make.
After the final month of the regular season and the Orange Bowl win over Michigan, Kelly began to hear praise for what was seen as an epic turnaround that, quite frankly, saved his job as well as the 2016 season for the Seminoles.
After giving up 63 points to Louisville in the third game of the season, Kelly felt his seat getting hotter and hotter. It didn’t help the following week when the unit gave up 35 to USF and 37 the week after that in a loss to North Carolina. Kelly saved some face with a solid showing in wins over Miami and Wake Forest, but took a step back in the loss to Clemson on October 29th.
Yes, the unit had suffered more than their share of injuries up to that point in the season – namely, the loss in game two of superstar safety Derwin James. Still, Kelly knew things had to change quickly if he was to stay employed in Tallahassee.
Florida State Seminoles Football
Impressive showings throughout the month of November – albeit against super offenses from Boston College, Syracuse and Florida to go along with a solid showing against N.C. State – shot FSU football back to a respectable ranking defensively. A unit that was in the 80’s at one point shot up into the top 20 for a period – as players like sack machine DeMarcus Walker were joined by grown up efforts from names like Tarvarus McFadden, Brian Burns, Matthew Thomas and more.
In the Orange Bowl, the defense only gave up 252 yards the entire game and the Wolverines had just two scoring drives of longer than 40 yards in the game (with 12 of their 32 points coming off of FSU turnovers and a blocked extra point returned). Through all the early season turmoil, Kelly did right the ship and earned the right to return for 2017.
More than that, the players trust him and want to play for him. Not one member of the defensive unit for the Seminoles – at least publicly – was against the coordinator and wanted him gone. That level of respect from the guys on the field has to be respected by fans and others and taken into consideration.
Now, Kelly did turn things around from being ranked No. 77 in 2014 to No. 17 the following year…so we have seen this story before where he gets better only to backtrack. With games in the opening month against Alabama, Miami and N.C. State, the head man on defense is going to get a chance early on to show if the last five games of 2016 were a fluke.