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Shannon has seen change in college football, now part of FSU’s rebuild

Randy Shannon didn’t hesitate when asked the question. The answer was easy: None.

When Shannon was the head coach at Miami from 2007-10, he had no analysts and no off-field staff. The NCAA didn’t allow it. The game has changed but the size of personnel in various off-field roles has seen a boom in the 12 years since he left Miami.

“Back then it was four GAs and nine coaches and then all of a suddenly it became a recruiting coordinator,” Shannon said. “And then NCAA says, ‘OK, you can have some off-the-field guys.’ Coaches find a way to manipulate the rules. Which was OK, fine. It is what it is. And then all of a sudden the NCAA says, OK, now you can have this and you can have that. It can open up the doors, which helps out because you need (coaches’) eyes and you need people. Think about, back then, it was four GAs, two on offense, two on defense. Automatically one GA is going to the offensive line coach. Now where do you stick the other one at? You have three- and four-receiver sets. Do you stick him with the receivers? OK, fine. Now is the special-teams guy going to need somebody because he has four groups? I think that’s what kind of opened up the doors.” 

The doors have opened wide but it has also been a revolving door, helping young coaches gain some experience but more often than not adding a head coach or veteran position coach in an analyst role who can support one of the 10 assistant coaches whether it’s offering thoughts on practice, game plans or recruiting. Shannon was in that role at FSU in 2021 as a senior defensive analyst, and it became a familiar sight to see him taking notes during practices as well as on the sidelines on game days. He was one of three coaches with Group of 5 or Power 5 experience who were analysts on FSU’s 2021 staff (Shane Burnham and Tony Tokarz were among the others). 

In the offseason, coach Mike Norvell elevated Alex Atkins to include offensive coordinator in his title but he was also able to go to Tokarz and promote him to quarterbacks coach while also turning toward Shannon and making him co-defensive coordinator / linebackers coach. Shannon sees how the added staff can be a help to the growing staff sizes in college football.

“Everybody needs something, someway, somehow,” Shannon said. “And it has helped out in many ways. … Somebody who is seven, eight years in coaching and now could be an analyst or in quality control instead of a guy coming out of college being a GA trying to learn. I need that guy over there who was a GA over there at Alabama and worked there for three years and his time is up. All of those experienced guys you want to grab.”

Norvell understands this as well as anyone in the sport. He called it a “necessity” to add personnel and he spent the past few months adding to FSU’s off-field staff with GM of personnel Darrick Yray, director of football relations Corey Fuller, directors of scouting John Garrett (offense) and Justin Crouse (defense) and more. Beyond Norvell and the 10 assistants, FSU lists an off-field staff of 26 on Seminoles.com.

“The added personnel is something I’m absolutely grateful to the administration and the commitment to what we’re doing,” Norvell said. “And it’s a necessity too. College football, it’s changed. You look at roster management, you look at a roster development, some of the changes that have gone through with the NCAA (transfer portal), making sure that you have the resources and support to help provide these young men and provide our staff with what’s needed in going out there and whether it’s the player acquisitions, whether it’s at the high school level or the college transfer level, making sure we get the evaluation part of it.”

For Shannon, it was a good opportunity to help in player evaluation on defense but also stay close to football. He and Norvell talked a few times before taking the analyst job last summer, with Shannon saying there were other opportunities but that he felt FSU and Norvell were the right fit. “We just had the same mindset, same thoughts, how to staff, treat athletes, demanding of them, holding people accountable,” Shannon said.

Accountability and work are focal points for Norvell, and Shannon appears to share that view. Shannon is a veteran assistant coach who has experience at the state’s big 3 schools as well as UCF and even spent some time with the Miami Dolphins. He has been tasked with reshaping a linebacker group that has long struggled well before Norvell arrived — FSU hasn’t had a linebacker taken in the NFL Draft since Telvin Smith in 2014.

But now Shannon is helping to develop what is a good mix of veterans, led by Kalen DeLoach, Amari Gainer and UCF transfer Tatum Bethune. Who Shannon has coached as well as his coaching style has also been embraced by the Seminoles.

“The amount of people that he has in the NFL, I feel like he has a whole roster and more,” DeLoach said. “He just knows a lot of the game. The way he coaches, he plays more free. It’s more reaction-based. I like how he coaches so far.”