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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Need to Know

The Stoops Brothers Are Wanted Men

Mike Stoops will land on his feet. Two months after being jettisoned by Arizona amid a 1-5 start, Stoops has his pick of potential suitors: Iowa’s going to come calling, and Ohio State and Nebraska have already expressed interest. But there’s a catch for Stoops, who worked hard to land the job at Arizona and, it should be said, worked tremendously hard to lead the Wildcats into Pac-12 contention, disappointing 2011 season or no. Stoops is a wanted man, albeit as a defensive coordinator, not as a head coach.

So is his brother. Mark Stoops, currently Florida State’s defensive coordinator, has been tied to the open position at Auburn; last week, Gene Chizik fired Ted Roof, whose defense completely went off the rails in 2011 — beginning against Utah State and continuing through Alabama.

Mark’s situation differs from his brother’s: Mark is entrenched at a premier program, not to mention a program, led by Jimbo Fisher, that would love to retain his services. Mark has also done a very nice job in Tallahassee, leading a beaten-down unit to a strong finish in 2010 and, in 2011, to the top of the A.C.C. in most meaningful categories.

Mark Stoops is one of the key cogs in Florida State’s projected rejuvenation, one that took a slight hit thanks to youth and injuries in 2011. With the weapons returning — along with the added experience — it’s easy to see the Seminoles reaching this year’s promise in 2012. If he returns, Mark can add another strong mark to an already impressive resume.

He’s already rebuilt F.S.U., which is impressive enough. But you can how Auburn has its draw: Mark Stoops can tout his work with the Seminoles, but rebuilding Auburn in the span of a single season will allow Mark to hypothetically pick his head coaching job.

It may not be an Alabama or Florida, but a successful turn at Auburn, in conjunction with his work at F.S.U., makes Mark an even stronger candidate for a future job at a B.C.S. conference program.

His brother, fresh off this season’s dismissal, is looking to rebuild his reputation. There are several premier programs aiming to aid Mike Stoops in his personal reclamation process; each, like an Auburn, can offer Mike a chance to move back to a head coach spot — and being a head coach, like a drug, can be addicting.

Once you’ve had a taste, well, you don’t want anything else. But Mike knows that after Arizona, returning to a coordinator spot is the quickest way back to a B.C.S. conference spot. He could likely petition for a lower-tier job, perhaps a Colorado State or a Fresno State, but for Stoops, taking a coordinator spot at a national title contender provides a greater stage for his current career hopes.

Iowa is a team to watch. The Hawkeyes’ longtime — and legendary — coordinator Norm Parker retired yesterday after 13 years with the program, citing a desire to spend time “some time with the grandkids.” Parker, 70, has battled health issues for years, even if they’ve had minimal impact on his defensive prowess. Mike, a former Iowa defensive back, has to be intrigued at the idea of a return to his alma mater.

One of Urban Meyer’s first moves after being named the head coach at Ohio State was to call Stoops, knowing that he needs a premier defensive coordinator to help the Buckeyes match his Florida-era heights. Stoops would be his Charlie Strong, in short, a coordinator to whom he can delegate full defensive responsibilities.

Nebraska has a fall-back plan in place in defensive line coach John Papuchis, who could replace Florida Atlantic-bound Carl Pelini as the Cornhuskers’ defensive coordinator. Papuchis will likely add those duties for the program’s bowl game against South Carolina, but Bo Pelini could very well look to add Stoops; this would not only provide an upgrade over the incumbent line coach, but would also free Papuchis up to maintain his work as Nebraska’s top defensive recruiter.

Both brothers, Mike and Mark, are going to factor heavily into the 2012 title hunt. Florida State has national title aspirations, and bringing Mark back as coordinator helps further that goal — continuity, especially with this young team, is good for business. Mike will impact the 2012 season regardless of where he lands: Ohio State as Meyer’s right-hand man, Iowa as Parker’s replacement or Nebraska as Pelini’s chief lieutenant.

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  1. SB says:

    Can I be a homer for a second and ask if Mike Stoops may consider a potential DC spot at Northwestern?

  2. tom says:

    Mike or Mark ? Who cares ??? Let’s just hope Boston College gonna have a better year.

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