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A closer look at FSU's defensive improvement under Stoops

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By now you've heard about Mark Stoops' penchant for turning middling defenses into very good ones, if not great ones.

In his two stops as a defensive coordinator at Arizona and Florida State, he's taken over teams ranked 108th and 109th in total defense, respectively. By the end of his defensive coordinator tenures in Tucson and Tallahassee, both defenses were in the top 25 in total defense, including FSU's second-ranked 2012 unit.

He has done with a base 4-3 defense very multiple in nature. Stoops is best known for zone coverage, but uses plenty of man looks too. As for pressuring the quarterback, Stoops' defenses haven't historically relied on exotic blitzes to get the job done.

"We'll attack, but an interesting point that I talk about is - and we don't worry a whole lot about stats or things - coming from the Pac-10 at Arizona, we led the conference in sacks and I wouldn't say we're an overly aggressive blitzing, out-of-control defense," Stoops said when he was introduced at Florida State. "I think we're very precise. We try to be very accurate in what we try to do and how we get it taught."

Talking specifics about philosophy is better left to Stoops at his introductory press conference on Sunday and beyond, but since he doesn't think much about statistics, I'm more than willing to pick up the slack in an effort to quantify just how much the FSU defense improved during his three-year tenure.

Passing defense

With his background as a defensive back and secondary coach, Stoops is identified first for the way his teams cover the pass. Taking a look at FSU's pass defense numbers since Stoops arrived at the conclusion of the 2009 season, you can see why.

FSU passing.jpgIn yards allowed per game, yards allowed per pass and passing touchdowns allowed, the Seminoles have improved every season since his arrival. In 2012, FSU is fifth nationally in passing yards allowed per game and first in yards per attempt.

Rushing defense

Passing defense may be his calling card, but the Seminoles have shown even more improvement since 2009.

FSU rushing.jpg Statistically speaking, comparing FSU's defense in 2009 vs. what it's become in 2011 and 2012, you wouldn't even know you were looking at the same team. The Seminoles have allowed half as many yards per game, yards per carry and touchdowns each of the past two seasons compared to 2009. In 2012, FSU is fourth nationally in total rushing defense.


Based on the way FSU has defended the run and the pass - and the fact that I've already mentioned it - you don't need to be told the Seminoles showed incredible improvement overall on defense. Here's exactly how much better they've gotten.

FSU overall.jpg Pretty incredible stuff really. In all five categories about, FSU has improved every season since Stoops arrived, save for points, where the 'Noles have stayed at 15.1 points per game each of the past two years. As for national rankings, FSU is seventh in scoring defense, second in total defense, first in yards allowed per play, second in first downs allowed per game and second in third down defense.

If UK's defensive trajectory under Stoops looks anything like Florida State's, it could be a fun ride.

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