football Edit

Florida State exploring new options after dismal start for defense

After three games and a dismal start to the 2019 season, Florida State's defense is taking some fresh approaches in an effort to reverse its fortunes.

At least two starters are experimenting at new positions, new defensive analyst Jim Leavitt is quickly developing a relationship with defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett, the Seminoles' coaches are trying to crack down on costly penalties, and they're also seeking new ways to emphasize the need to "finish" games.

The most high-profile change, of course, is the addition of Leavitt. The former USF head coach and longtime defensive coordinator was officially added to the Seminoles' staff late last week as senior defensive analyst.

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By NCAA rule, Leavitt cannot have a hands-on coaching role with players during practices or games, but he can help with putting together game plans, analyzing videos and performing other functions. During the Seminoles' game last Saturday at Virginia, Leavitt mostly observed, jotted down notes and communicated with the other coaches via headset.

"I think Jim will be a little more involved this week, now that he's here and [will] have a little better understanding what's going on and what we're doing and how we are doing things," FSU head coach Willie Taggart said. "I'm sure he can put some input in from his experience and what he sees on the film."

Barnett said he didn't know Leavitt personally before the veteran coach joined the staff, but they did coach against each other in the mid-2000s, when Barnett was the secondary coach at Cincinnati and Leavitt was head coach at USF.

There has been speculation about how receptive Barnett would be to bringing in Leavitt, who was Taggart's defensive coordinator at Oregon in 2017, but the defensive coordinator said he welcomes the help.

"I like him a lot, to be honest with you," Barnett said before Wednesday's practice. "He brings knowledge -- some great knowledge -- and his background in knowing different things. I like him. I really do. And he's going to help us out."

Senor defensive analyst Jim Leavitt listens on the coaches' headsets during Saturday's game at Virginia.
Senor defensive analyst Jim Leavitt listens on the coaches' headsets during Saturday's game at Virginia. (Ira Schoffel/Warchant)

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