Florida State is hiring former Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt as a defensive analyst, reuniting with former Oregon Coach Willie Taggart. Taggart has not been shy about his disappointment in the Seminoles' defense, which has given up double-digit leads in its first two games and ranks last nationally in first downs allowed (64).
Leavitt has been out of college coaching since “mutually parting ways” with Oregon after the 2018 season. As the sixth-highest paid assistant in the nation, Leavitt was earning $1.7 million annually and under contract for two more years. He is being paid $2.5 million “over multiple years” from Oregon, which will now be subject to reduction based on employment.
All Pepsi jokes aside, Leavitt helped stabilize the Ducks’ defense in 2016, helping improve Oregon's 126th ranked defense to 46th in the nation in 2018.
Leavitt stayed behind in 2018 when Taggart took the Seminoles job, hoping to land the head-coaching position at Oregon. Mario Cristobal landed the job and the two never saw eye to eye. Oregon’s 2018 defense regressed to 55th in the nation, which wasn’t the type of production that Oregon had paid $1.7 million to receive.
Leavitt’s role at FSU is to assist Seminoles defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett to help with devising game plans. Florida State currently ranks No. 121 in scoring defense and No. 124 in total defense.
“No, I wasn’t happy with the way our defense played,” Taggart said after beating Louisiana-Monroe, 45-44 in overtime. “I don’t think anyone was happy. I don’t think our defense was happy or anyone associated with Florida State football was happy with the way our defense played. We have to play better. We have to make sure we find ways to make sure we fix the problems and make sure we put our guys in the best position to make plays.”
The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman first reported Leavitt was joining FSU’s staff. Leavitt has yet to post on his ever-active Twitter page about the move.