Report: Florida State eyeing Wisconsin assistant

Could Jim Leonhard be on the move? If Florida State has its way, he could be.

According to, new Seminoles coach Willie Taggart has been looking at the Wisconsin defensive coordinator for the same spot on his staff.


“What I hear is that Taggart has been engaged in a courtship with Leonhard from the beginning stages of his tenure in Tallahassee and that Leonhard is among the top targets,” writes James Coleman.

Leonhard will finish his first year running Wisconsin’s defense on Saturday when the Badgers play Miami in the Orange Bowl. It will also mark the end of just his second season as a coach after his All-American career as a safety for UW and spending 10 years in the NFL.

The interest in Leonhard is not unexpected. He seemingly among the fastest risers in the college coaching ranks largely based on what he did this season with the Badgers. Under his guidance, Wisconsin rank first in the country in total defense (253.2 ypg) and No. 3 in scoring defense (13.2 ppg).

Whether Leonhard wants to leave or not is a different question. He recently said he’s open to listening to what’s out there but isn’t throwing his name all over the place looking for other jobs. And despite living in different cities throughout his NFL career, he made it clear Madison was home and where he wanted to be when he retired.

It’s unclear if Leonhard has longterm aspirations of wanting to be a head coach. If he does, it will likely come somewhere else considering the man that holds that job right now — 52-year-old Paul Chryst — is 33-7 with a pair of Big Ten West titles in his first three years.

Wisconsin may be able to keep Leonhard around longer with a raise of some sort, which would happen after the season.
According to USA Today, he made $600,000 in 2017, which was No. 72 in the nation among assistant coaches and 15th in the Big Ten. In contrast, Florida State paid its defensive coordinator, Charles Kelley, $858,000 to run a defense ranked No. 25 in the country.

Leonhard very well may end up staying at Wisconsin, but other teams will be keeping an eye on him. Florida State may have been first, but the Seminoles won’t be the last.