Randy Shannon on ‘unique’ coaching journey through 4 Florida schools

Tampa Bay Times
Tampa Bay Times
Randy Shannon has been the head coach at Miami, plus an assistant at Florida, UCF and now Florida State. [ J PAT CARTER | AP (2010) ]

TALLAHASSEE — Randy Shannon seems, relatively speaking, settled at Florida State.

He didn’t look or act out of place in his Seminoles shirt earlier this month when he chatted with reporters before starting his first spring as FSU’s co-defensive coordinator — his latest stop on a coaching career that has taken him all over the state.

Thirteen years as a Miami assistant (across two stints, sandwiched around three years with the Dolphins). Four years as the Hurricanes’ head coach. Three seasons with the Gators, including four games as interim coach after Jim McElwain’s awkward exit. Three years as UCF’s defensive coordinator. And now, a second year at FSU after earning an offseason promotion from senior defensive analyst to linebackers coach.
Randy Shannon, right, coached against Florida State as the Gators' interim coach after Jim McElwain's departure. [ Times (2017) ]

“It’s unique …” Shannon said of his rare, if not unprecedented, journey to the state’s four top programs. “You get to see the different facilities, all the different ways to do certain things, and you get to enjoy it. You just go and have fun. You coach.”

But coaching was technically not part of Shannon’s duties when Mike Norvell called him about a job last year. Norvell wanted him as an analyst.

Shannon had other options and weighed them carefully. He wanted the right fit and found it with Norvell.

“We just had the same mindset, same thoughts,” Shannon said. “How to staff. Treat the athletes, (be) demanding of them, holding people accountable. That was all a part of what I’m used to …”

The position, however, was not. Shannon’s responsibilities as an analyst were limited. He could make recruiting calls but couldn’t travel. Analysts aren’t allowed to do on-field coaching, either, so Shannon’s interactions with players were different.

Instead, his job was to observe and offer input for other staffers to implement. He had to drop his ego — not a challenge, he said — and accept the fact that he had gone from the head coach of one of the most prestigious programs in the country to a supporting role for its archrival.

“Being with the kids is great,” Shannon said, “but if your information helps the kids be successful, you’re still doing your job.”
Former Miami coach Randy Shannon is with FSU as an on-field assistant this season. [ Times (2007) ]

Shannon did it well. When FSU crisscrossed the state last spring for a series of free youth football camps, Shannon became a tour guide through south Florida for a staff that was still getting to know the terrain.

Norvell liked the way Shannon worked with defensive coordinator Adam Fuller, which is why he called it a “no-brainer” to elevate Shannon when linebackers coach Chris Marve left to become Virginia Tech’s defensive coordinator.

“I thought he did an extraordinary job in what he was asked to do,” Norvell said. “Now it goes to a day-in and day-out approach with those players. You see their excitement when it comes to who they have leading them …”

You could also see the excitement coming the other way. Though Shannon didn’t complain about his 2021 role, he’s clearly pleased to be at a familiar position: on-field coach for one of the state’s power programs.

Tampa Bay running backs
Pinellas Park product Lawrance Toafili has the potential for a breakout season at Florida State. [ PHIL SEARS | AP (2021) ]

The Tampa Bay area produced two of FSU’s most intriguing players this spring: running backs Treshaun Ward and Lawrance Toafili.

Ward, a former walk-on from Tampa Bay Tech, ranked second on the team with 757 all-purpose yards in a breakout 2021. His next step: becoming better without the ball.

“He wants more,” running backs coach David Johnson said.

Toafili, a former four-star recruit from Pinellas Park High, scored one of FSU’s most impressive touchdowns of the season — his cartwheel-like spin over a Clemson defender — but has yet to come close to his ceiling.

“I think the biggest thing for him is just kind of really stepping out and saying, ‘You know what? I’m going to be the man,’” Johnson said. “I told him that. He understands he’s one of the most talented people in that room.”

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