TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — John Papuchis has been named Florida State’s special teams coordinator and defensive ends coach, head coach Mike Norvell announced Tuesday.
“I’m extremely excited about the addition of Coach Papuchis to the Seminole family,” Norvell said. “He brings a wealth of experience with 10 of the last 12 years as a Division I assistant in a coordinating role. His special teams unit at Maryland was one of the best in the country. He’s an innovator of special teams but also a technician and fundamentally based in all teachings. He’s a dynamic recruiter who has been recognized as one of the top recruiters in the nation year in and year out and will be a tremendous asset to our staff.”
Papuchis comes to Tallahassee after coordinating Maryland’s special teams and coaching inside linebackers in 2019. He has been a defensive coordinator at North Carolina and Nebraska and also served as special teams coordinator at Nebraska. He won the 2007 national championship as part of the staff at LSU and has coached in six conference title games.
“I am truly honored to be part of Coach Norvell’s staff and to be part of the Florida State family,” Papuchis said. “Florida State is one of those special places in college football with such a rich tradition, and I look forward to being part of a new era.”
In 2019, Maryland had a special teams efficiency rating of 67.4 to rank 11th in ESPN’s efficiency rankings. The Terrapins were one of only four Power 5 teams with at least one kickoff return touchdown and punt return touchdown. Maryland led the Big Ten and ranked 11th in the country with an average of 13.67 yards per punt return, and the Terrapins allowed only 4.00 yards per punt return to rank 17th nationally. Maryland’s kickoff return average of 22.73 yards per return was fourth in the Big Ten.
Javon Leake was the 2019 Rodgers-Dwight Big Ten Return Specialist of the Year and a first-team All-Big Ten return specialist. He led the conference and ranked third in the nation with 804 kickoff return yards, while his school-record-tying two kickoff return touchdowns were the most in the Big Ten and fifth nationally and his Big Ten-leading average of 26.8 yards per kickoff return was 13th in the country.
Papuchis spent the 2015-18 seasons at North Carolina, serving as linebackers coach his first two seasons before being promoted to defensive coordinator for 2017 and 2018. He made an immediate impact in 2015 as the Tar Heels posted the most improved Power 5 defense in the country. North Carolina allowed 14.5 fewer points per game than the season before and also had the highest jump in pass efficiency defense and yards allowed per pass attempt. The Tar Heels led the ACC in interceptions, turnovers gained, turnover margin and passes defended while tying the single-season school record with 11 victories, breaking the program record with an 8-0 ACC mark, advancing to the ACC Championship Game for the first time and ranking 15th in the final national polls.
The 2016 UNC defense led the ACC in passing touchdowns allowed and passing yards allowed per game, while allowing the fewest touchdowns by receivers in the country. The Tar Heels held their opponents to only 11 passing touchdowns, tied for fourth-best in the nation, and ranked 12th in FBS with an average of 180.8 passing yards allowed per game.
In his first season as defensive coordinator, Papuchis helped direct M.J. Stewart, a second-team All-ACC performer and second-round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Jacksonville native Andre Smith who was taken in the seventh round by the Carolina Panthers. Stewart ended his career with a school-record 41 pass breakups.
Papuchis spent seven seasons at Nebraska and was the Huskers’ defensive coordinator for the last three. He was the youngest solo defensive coordinator in the country when he was promoted to the post in 2012. In his three seasons coordinating the defense, Nebraska held 11 opponents to 14 or fewer points. In 2014, his defense ranked second in the country by allowing a completion percentage of just 48.5 while also ranking fourth nationally in pass efficiency defense at 104.83 and fifth in third-down percentage at .301.
His first four seasons in Lincoln were spent coordinating special teams and coaching the defensive line. He was one of four finalists for the 2010 Football Scoop Special Teams Coordinator of the Year. On defense, he coached back-to-back Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year winners in Ndamukong Suh and Prince Amukamara. In 2009, Suh won the Outland Trophy, Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Lombardi Award and Bednarik Award while also being a Heisman finalist. Suh, the first defensive player to earn AP Player of the Year honors, was picked second overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. Papuchis also helped Prince Amukamara become a unanimous All-American and the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2010 before being drafted 19th overall by the New York Giants.
From 2004-07 Papuchis was on staff at LSU assisting in every aspect of the defensive gameplan and scouting reports. He helped the Tigers rank among the nation’s top defenses, placing in the top three in total defense each season from 2005 through 2007.
The 2007 team won the SEC and national championships, defeating Ohio State 38-24 in the BCS National Championship Game. The 2006 Tigers allowed only 242.8 yards per game, the lowest average at LSU since 1976, and led the SEC in six defensive categories while ranking in the top-five nationally in points allowed, total defense, pass defense and pass efficiency defense. LSU had the nation’s third-best total defense, third-best scoring defense and sixth-best rushing defense in 2005.
Papuchis also coached the punters at LSU. In 2007, Patrick Fisher led the SEC with an average of 44.5 yards per punt and was a first-team All-SEC selection. Papuchis’ first year on Nick Saban’s staff was 2004, and he helped the Tigers reach the Capital One Bowl.
Papuchis began his career as a graduate assistant at Kansas from 2001-03. In 2001, he worked with the secondary and assisted coaching the linebackers. In 2003, Kansas earned a berth in the Tangerine Bowl.
Papuchis graduated from Virginia Tech in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in business management and earned his master’s degree in sports administration from Kansas in 2003.
Papuchis and his wife, Billie, have three daughters, Addyson, Sophia and Rylee, and two sons, John and Jack.