Charles Kelly enters his second season at Florida State and his first as the defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach after coaching linebackers and serving as the special teams coordinator during the Seminoles' undefeated national championship season in 2013.
Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher promoted Kelly to defensive coordinator in February 2014, following a season where he help guide a dominant defense that led the nation in scoring defense (12.1), pass defense (156.6) and interceptions (26), and ranked third in total defense (281.4) in 2013. Only two teams scored more than 17 points against the Seminoles.
Spearheading Florida State's top-rated defense was a playmaking linebacker corps that featured three all-conference performers. Kelly mentored senior weakside linebacker Telvin Smith's transformation from a valuable reserve into the Seminoles' leading tackler and an All-ACC First Team selection, while maximizing the talent of linebacker/defensive end Christian Jones, who grabbed All-ACC Second Team honors. Additionally, redshirt sophomore middle linebacker Terrance Smith collected honorable mention All-ACC accolades in his first year of significant playing time.
Telvin Smith finished with 90 tackles and tied an FSU record with two touchdowns on interception returns. His 15-tackle performance against Auburn in the National Championship fueled FSU's comeback win. Jones finished with 56 stops and Terrance Smith had 59 tackles, while reserves Reggie Northrup, a sophomore, (46 tackles) and freshman E.J. Levenberry (39 tackles) saw major action and finished among FSU's top 10 tacklers.
FSU's linebackers helped Florida State rank third in the ACC and 18th in the nation in rushing defense (124.79) and eighth in the country in opponent third down conversions (31.92 conversion percentage).
Following the 2013 season, Telvin Smith was a fifth round selection (No. 144 overall) of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Jones signed a free agent deal with the Chicago Bears.
Additionally, Kelly led the nation's most prolific special teams units with freshman kicker Roberto Aguayo and freshman kick returner Kermit Whitfield rewriting the ACC and NCAA record books. Aguayo set the national record for points by a kicker (157) and extra points (94) en route to capturing All-America honors and the Lou Groza Award given to the nation's top kicker. Whitfield returned two kicks for touchdowns, including the 100-yard return that gave FSU the lead in the national championship game. His 36.4 return average shattered the FSU and ACC record and led the nation.
Aguayo made 21 of 22 field goal attempts and all 94 extra point attempts. Whitfield also had a 97-yard touchdown return versus Wake Forest and a 58-yard return against Idaho.
Kelly's special teams unit also held opponents to the lowest kickoff return average in the ACC (18.59).
Kelly will enter his 20th season as a collegiate coach in 2014. The Ozark, Ala., native also has experience as a defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech (2012), Nicholls State (2004-05), Henderson State (1999) and Jacksonville State (1997-98).
Kelly came to FSU after seven years as a special teams and defensive backs coach at Georgia Tech. He was elevated to interim defensive coordinator in the sixth game of the 2012 season when the Yellow Jackets had a 2-4 record. After taking over at defensive coordinator, Kelly helped Georgia Tech finish 5-3 (7-7 overall), including a Hyundai Sun Bowl victory over USC. Kelly's defense limited the high-powered Trojan offense to 205 yards and seven points in the bowl win.
One of the biggest improvements in Tech's defense the last eight games of the season was its play in the second half, specifically in the fourth quarter. In the first six games of the season, Tech allowed an average of 13.3 points in the fourth quarter and in overtime, compared to just 3.9 points in the fourth quarter the final eight games of the season. The Yellow Jackets did not allow a fourth-quarter point in each of their final four games (Duke, Georgia, FSU and USC). The defense shut out both FSU and USC in the second half of those games. Opponents scored 44.2 percent of their points in the fourth quarter and in OT through the first six games of the season, compared to just 14.4 percent of their points in the fourth quarter over the final eight games.
Kelly took over responsibility for the secondary in 2010 after coaching the cornerbacks in 2008 and 2009.
Over his four seasons, Georgia Tech recorded 52 interceptions. In 2008, the Yellow Jackets recorded 18 INTs, including three by true freshman cornerback Rashaad Reid, who was a second team Freshmen All-American.
In 2008, Tech ranked in the top 30 nationally in total defense and scoring defense. In 2009, Kelly helped develop a number of cornerbacks including Mario Butler, a 14-game starter, and Jerrard Tarrant, who picked off two passes, including one for a touchdown in the Orange Bowl. Tarrant was responsible for all four of Tech's non-offensive touchdowns in 2009.
In 2010, both Butler and Tarrant returned interceptions for touchdowns. Butler and Tarrant were invited to the NFL Combine.
In 2011, Kelly inherited four new starters in the secondary and molded that youthful unit into a group that helped Georgia Tech rank second in the ACC and 28th nationally in pass defense. With just one senior among the starters, Tech recorded 14 interceptions, six more than the previous season.
Kelly served as the Yellow Jackets' special teams coordinator in 2006 and 2007. He was instrumental in making Georgia Tech one of the nation's best special teams units in 2007. That group went from 119th in the nation in kick return defense in 2006 to second in 2007. Under Kelly's guidance, punter Durant Brooks and place-kicker Travis Bell each earned first team All-ACC accolades. Brooks earned the prestigious Ray Guy Award in 2007 and recorded the highest career punting average in ACC history.
In Kelly's first year in 2006, Brooks earned second-team All-America and first-team All-ACC honors. With the combination of Brooks and outstanding coverage, Tech ranked second in the nation in net punting. Brooks averaged better than 45 yards per punt, and almost half of his kicks pinned the opponent inside the 20-yard line. Kelly spent the previous four seasons at Nicholls State, an NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) program, which captured the Southland Conference title in 2005.
Under Kelly, who served as defensive backs coach during his first two seasons at Nicholls, the Colonels finished as the top-ranked defense in the Southland Conference in 2005 and 17th nationally among FCS programs. Nicholls led the Southland in total defense and rushing defense, while ranking second in scoring defense.
Kelly was instrumental in developing two-time All-America cornerback Chris Thompson, who was drafted in 2004 by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Kelly went to Nicholls State in 2002 from Eufaula (Ala.) High School, where he served as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for two seasons. Prior to his move to the high school ranks, the Ozark, Ala., native spent one season (1999) as defensive coordinator at Henderson State and two seasons as defensive coordinator at Jacksonville State. His term as defensive coordinator at Jacksonville State culminated a five-year stay on the JSU staff (1994-98), and he also coordinated the offense and coached the defensive backs, running backs, quarterbacks and receivers over the course of his stay.
Before going to Jacksonville State, Kelly served one year as a graduate assistant at Auburn and was part of the Tigers' 11-0 season in 1993. He spent three seasons as an assistant football coach and baseball coach at Central High School in Phenix City, Ala. (1990-92).
Kelly has coached eight players that have made it to the National Football League, including Brooks, Thompson, Delvin Hugley, Calvin Jackson, Chris Schelling, Dell McGee and most recently, Jahi Word- Daniels and Mario Butler.
A 1990 graduate of Auburn with a degree in secondary math education, Kelly played defensive back under former Tiger coach Pat Dye. His senior class put together a four-year record of 39-7-2 while participating in four bowl games. In 2002, Kelly earned a master's degree in education from Troy State. Kelly and his wife, Kristy, have three daughters, Caroline, Kathleen and Charli Grace.