Florida State defensive ends coach Brad Lawing has been around the game of football for a very long time. Lawing started coach at Appalachian State in 1993 before moving to South Carolina. Since then he’s coached at Michigan State, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and now Florida State.
Lawing was brought in to replace Sal Sunseri, who took a job with the Oakland Raiders, within hours after Sunseri’s departure. For him, the move was the easiest he ever had to make.
“When I left South Carolina, I left assuming that Florida was going to be my last job,” Lawing said. “And we played good defense down there for a couple years. Things just didn’t work work out team-wise. And I told my wife, I said we’re only going to take a job that lets you win a national championship. I’m not going to take the same job. Well, it’s obvious you can do it here at Florida State. So that was a huge attraction.
I knew a lot about Jimbo. I’d worked for Nick at Michigan State. If you’ve got that in your background, you’ve been raised the right way in coaching. I knew a lot of things he believed in, and what he’s done here at Florida State is tremendous. He’s taken the reins from Coach Bowden and just kept on moving to great success here. Back in the 80s and 90s that they had here. All that together, it’s a fantastic school. I knew that. Just the overall tradition of Florida State. It was an easy move to make. This might have been the easiest decision as far as a coaching change I ever made in my life. So I sat for about two weeks. Went down to the senior bowl, I was down there seeing some friends of mine in pro coaching. I got a call from Jimbo and he said ‘Are you interested in the job?’ I said ‘Yeah, I am.’ About 45 minutes later, he called back and said ‘Do you want it?’ And I took it. And I called my wife and said, ‘We’re going to Florida State.’ And she packed the car, put two cats in the back of the car and we drove two and a half hours to Tallahassee. It was an easy move.”
Lawing was brought in to fix the Florida State pass rush that only managed to record 17 sacks last season, which came in at 114th out of the 125 teams in the country. Lawing has a track record for developing his defensive ends into dominant pass rushers and head coach Jimbo Fisher is banking on that.
He has spent the first few months of his time at Florida State going over the fundamentals of the position.
“I think that we’ve got to put them on the fast track fundamental-wise,” Lawing said. “There are some young guys that are going to have to play. If you are not good at fundamentals, it is hard to become a good football player. So all of these young guys, it is about developing fundamentals. Scheme matters and it will be a big part of that, but again fundamentals, that is something you can always hang your hat on when things aren’t going well. So that has been a big point of emphasis.”
Junior defensive end Demarcus Walker said Lawing has taught him to focus on the details, and that it has made him a lot better already.
“He’s taught me to take this game seriously,” Walker said. “The power of preparation and the details. The little small things and to take advantage of that. I didn’t take advantage of that in my sophomore year. That’s something that he’s been teaching me. It’s the small details and keying on the right things that will improve my game.”
Lawing has also worked a lot on finding the right position for each of his players, which, according to him, is the most important thing for a player.
“To a degree, every coach has got their own things that they believe in as far as what a guy needs to be able to do as far as playing the run, playing the passing game. So maybe a few, but it is about player development. That is the one thing that gets lost. It is about player evaluation, recruiting and then player development, and in my opinion the two most important parts to that are evaluation and player development. You have got to be able to bring your guys along within your scheme, maybe your scheme changes, or go find the guys that you want to play in a certain scheme. The guys we’ve got here, we’ve kind of taken our defense and kind of tinkered with it a little bit. We are asking them to do things they can actually do. Don’t ask a guy who is a power guy to be a finesse guy and vice-versa, a finesse guy to be a power guy. There comes times where they may have to do some of that but as a whole, to be a great defense collectively, you have got to have guys doing things that they can actually do.”
He does that by watching tape of each player in each game they’ve played to see what they’re good at, what they’re poor at, and their effort level throughout the games.
“Anytime I watch tape of an opponent, and I watch our players the same way, I look at them one at a time,” Lawing said. “I try not to look at them all. Take one guy and look at him every game. Make a cut up of just him. What does he do good what does he do bad? What’s his effort level? Effort, you get to know the kid. Is it an attitude thing? Good attitude, bad attitude, whatever. And again does he have the ability to do the things that he’s being asked to do. Putting the puzzle together. Putting guys where they belong is so important. If you put a guy in a position that he can’t have success at you’ve got a frustrated player. A guy that’s probably not going to be very productive on your team. You find the right piece to the puzzle and put him in the right place and you’ve got a confident player. You’ve got a guy that’s happy what he’s doing and more productive. That’s part of coaching. You’ve got to do that and find the right place for him.”
Lawing said a few times that Florida State has the athletes to get the job done, but that they will need to keep their development going in a positive direction. Improving on last season’s sack numbers should be fairly easy because it would be hard for them to be worse, but if Lawing can get the Florida State athletes in the right positions to make plays the Florida State defense could get back to being one of the top defenses in the country.