Billy Napier was a star quarterback and two time all-conference performer for Furman in the early 2000's under Bobby Lamb, who followed Bobby Johnson. Following his playing career at Furman, Napier got his start in coaching as a quarterback coach at SC State in 2005. Napier came to Clemson as the tight ends coach and then was given the additional responsibility of recruiting coordinator. Following T. Bowden's departure in '08, Coach Swinney elevated Napier to Offensive Coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Clemson's quarterback situation entering the 2010 season was very different from 2009. Last season's campaign began with a quarterback competition between Willy Korn and Kyle Parker. Parker had a successful Freshman campaign and Korn opted to transfer from CU to complete his final year of collegiate eligibility elsewhere. Clemson entered the 2010 campaign with Kyle Parker firmly planted as Clemson's starting QB. Fans and coaches had elevated expectations that Parker would be improved over 2009 and the Tigers would be a better passing football team. Clemson supporters also believed that Coach Swinney would use the 2009 season to prepare Tajh Boyd for his 2011 starting role, assuming that KP's Sophomore season would be his last in Tigertown.
Offensively, many of the Clemson faithful thought that Swinney and Napier simply had a rough spot early in the 2009 season but had things figured out. We felt the same way here, to be honest. There was an expectation of a more organized group that would play to its strengths no matter what. There was a sense that the Maryland game last season was a wake up call for this staff and that they used that failure to inspire quality offensive decisions .....unfortunately this was not the case.
How we will grade the Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach:
- Game Planning/In-Game Adjustments
- Coordination of Personnel Groupings
- Decision Making/Understanding of the Game--both by Player and Coach
- Throwing Ability (Accuracy, Velocity, Overall Mechanics)
- Leadership Qualities from the QB
Offensive Coordinator Assessment: We have speculated here about the causes of failure for this offense and the potential philosophical rift between Coach Swinney and Coach Napier. While we do believe that Swinney meddled in the play calling and overall philosophy of this offense, we must judge Napier's offensive coordinator performance by what we saw on the field in 2010.
Clemson had a few excellent drives this season. The most obvious was the initial drive in the Auburn game where the plays were well scripted and executed. It was obvious that the staff focused on this drive and this opponent all offseason and really impressed us with its organization and implementation. Unfortunately, play series of this quality were few and far between for the 2010 Clemson offense. Clemson looked confused and dysfunctional collectively when it had the football. The offense lacked a true identity and continually swayed between pro and spread-type philosophies.
A true lack of identity heavily hindered play calling progressions. Clemson never established itself and, thus, had little to build upon through play sequences. Think about it: How many times this season did you see Clemson come out in a two back set, gain five yards, and then immediately spread out the formation? The Tigers were never able to establish themselves because they did not commit to one strategy for any length of time.
The confusing thing for me is that the Tigers had similar issues to begin the 2009 season. Clemson started last season trying to do too much and not focusing being sound at one particular area. Following the Maryland debacle Clemson used more conventional sets, more play action, more throws to the Tight End, and made a point to get the ball to its best playmaker. The Tigers never gained offensive focus in 2010 and, accordingly, were never really good at anything associated with moving the football and scoring points.
This lack of success did not allow our offense to build any foundation and, accordingly, it was difficult to make in-game decisions because we really never knew what worked and what did not. The offensive output resembled someone throwing darts while blindfolded: he may be lucky or unlucky at times but he will never build any consistency because his methodology is awful.
As the title suggests, Napier's role was to coordinate the offensive attack of this team. Part of this "attack" is getting the correct players on the field at appropriate times. We were less than thrilled with the receiver rotation to begin the season and were even less excited to see all of the dropped passes because of this group. We feel that personnel changes at this position should have happened earlier and are disappointed that Clemson did not make changes earlier in the season. However, we must acknowledge improved receiver play when guys like McNeal/Hopkins were used in a larger role for the duration of the year.
The management of the running back position was not acceptable. It was plain and obvious that Andre Ellington was the feature back and should have carried the ball for the vast majority of the team's rushes. Despite lesser play and worse statistics, the offensive staff refused to address this issue until the season was halfway completed.
Offensive statistics based on Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) show that Clemson's offense was average to below average all around. The FEI is an extremely powerful tool because it filters out rubbish and makes adjustments based upon competition. Clemson's overall FEI rank was 50th overall and offensive efficiency 86th in the country. Other statistics can be seen in the tables below, with Clemson ranked poorly in all areas of productivity. Interestingly, the Tigers' offense faced tougher defenses than most have given credit as shown by the #5 offensive strength of schedule rating. While we appreciate the difficulty opponents' defenses provided, we also expect Clemson to obtain a ranking higher than 50 in several of these productivity rankings.
Offensive FEI Rank
Offensive Efficiency Rank
Available Yards Rank
Explosive Drives Rank
Methodical Drives Rank
Offensive SOS Rank
Recruiting: Coach Napier took over the role of offensive coordinator midway through the ‘08 season after Tom Bowden and Clemson University parted ways. We feel as though his entire body of work should be viewed to gain an opinion of his abilities because his role as OC required him to spend less time on the road recruiting and more time game planning. Its quite obvious that Coach Swinney prefers his coordinators to do so instead of recruit during the season, and we agree.
This is particularly true when your offense performed as poorly as ours did in '10. At his time departure from the Clemson staff in early 2011, three-star Cole Straudt from Dublin Ohio were his lone commist, which is noted. Additionally, he was working with other staff members in recruiting key players where he is not listed as the primary recruiter.
Going through the years, you can see his territory changed from Charlotte to Georgia, where members of his family coach. We think this was a big mistake as we haven't made too many waves in the Charlotte area since. Beyond those territories he was mostly help to the other assistants. Below is an illustration of the Clemson signees officially credited to Napier since the ‘07 recruiting class. Note that Tajh Boyd is listed as his recruit but Pearman does deserve credit on this one as well.
We have no problems with Napier as a recruiter. He was named a Top-25 national recruiter as Clemson's TE Coach/Recruiting coordinator and definitely earned his pay bringing in quality talent over the past half decade. Napier also managed several good recruiting efforts from the entire Clemson staff as the Recruiting Coordinator. We feel that Napier's next employer will be quite pleased with his recruiting efforts.
We are not as excited about Napier as the QBs coach. Over the past two-plus seasons, Clemson has gotten erratic play from the position. A lot of this can be attributed to playing young players and lack of off-season player availability but, in the end, we look at the final product on the field and on-field development as a direct reflection on coaching.
Decision making is extremely important for the quarterback position. It is imperative that the QBs coach understand the whole game so that he can teach his players how to be field generals and not simply gun-slingers. Our young quarterbacks made quite a few poor decisions over the past few years. Unfortunately, items like floating passes across your body, attempting to make impossible plays/throws, constantly rolling right, and not understanding when taking a sack/throwing the ball away were again common items for the Clemson QBs. In short, poor decisions in key situations erased some good things Clemson did in 2010. The Tigers QBs need to improve their awareness (which is, to an extent, directly related to experience) moving forward.
Clemson's quarterbacks had fundamental issues over the course of the season. Some of these issues were apparent last season and still were not corrected. As you all know, we believe that good fundamentals are critical to success and were disappointed with the lack of progress on this front.
Napier as the QBs coach did have a few obstacles out of his control to overcome that should be taken into consideration. These included youth at the quarterback position and unavailability of the incumbent starter due to participation in other sports.
2010 PLAYER ANALYSIS
The 2010 roster quarterbacks per the official Clemson Roster (thanks www.clemsontigers.com) and 2010 Clemson Passing Statistics (courtesy www.espn.com) are shown in tables below. Omitted from the roster list is reserve Donny McElveen, who did see some action in 2010.
Mike Wade and Donny McElveen: Michael Wade has been an excellent contributor to Clemson's program, particularly through special teams. Wade serves on various special teams units including the place kicking team and punt team. We will miss his versatility in those roles next season. Donny McElveen picked up some playing time at the end of the PC football game, but we all know that he will not play ball here much, nor will Ogle.
Kyle Parker: We need to begin by stating the obvious: Kyle Parker is a very good athlete. You aren't a Division I football player who has also had the success that he has in baseball without lots of talent and preparation. Kyle followed up a good Freshman gridiron campaign with another big year on the baseball diamond that was capped as a first round selection by the Colorado Rockies. Parker turned down $800,000 to $1 million to return to Clemson for another year of football. You can't argue that he doesn't love Clemson football.
Parker lost ample offseason film study time playing baseball in the Spring/early Summer and missed the majority of his "voluntary" summer workouts as he negotiated his baseball contract. Time focused on baseball may have adversely affected timing and chemistry with a young group of Clemson receivers. The lack of off-season film study stunted the progression that most quarterbacks make between their 1st and 2nd year as a starter.
Play calling attributed to a sub-par sophomore season. Clemson did little to establish a quality running game and seemingly telegraphed play calling through formations. The Clemson offensive staff also relied on Parker's arm more than the previous season instead of better distributing the offensive load
Parker also had the misfortune of a lot of dropped passes early in the season which appeared to affect his confidence in his receivers. A rib injury he suffered against Auburn that may have hampered him over the course of the year despite claims otherwise. We are confident that the injury on the Plains heavily influenced his performance in the Miami game.
KP had some mechanical issues passing the football too. Like 2009, Parker had some footwork and shoulder position issues when he threw the football. We often saw Kyle's weight inappropriately distributed through his throwing motion. He frequently threw off his front foot, his back foot, or just tried to use pure arm strength to sling the football. Parker had happy feet all season, moving out of the pocket prematurely throughout the year. Many of Kyle's mistakes occurred as he rolled to his right and threw a poor ball across his body. Needless to say, this was a tough way for KP to end his football career.
We are not sure of the root source of these shortcomings (injury, attitude, poor QB/Receiver chemistry, poor play calling, etc...) but do know that most of the fundamental deficiencies we saw out of Parker were easily correctable, yet could not be fixed over the course of the season. We also cannot overlook the fact that there was little improvement fundamentally from 2009 to 2010, which falls squarely on the coaching staff.
We were disappointed with Kyle's actions as a team leader. Yes, we understand Kyle gave up a lot to return to Clemson and expected to be on the field the entire 2010 season. Poor play on Parker's part sidelined him a several times during the year and his responses were less than desirable/detrimental to the team. Instead of sulking on the sidelines or yelling at his coach during the Carolina game, KP should have been trying to help his team and teammates post-benching. We understand the frustration and the price that he paid to return for a 6-7 season but cannot refer to this behavior as "team oriented".
Parker's statistics tell the story: 57.5 completion percentage, 170 yards per game passing, and a TD/INT ratio of 12:11. These numbers show a lack of production through the passing game and some bad decisions that resulted in turnovers. If you remove the N. Texas and PC numbers, Parker threw 8 TDs and 10 INTs against BCS conference foes, which will not win you a whole lot of ballgames.
In each loss coming into the South Carolina game, KP was asked to throw the ball over 30 times. This number is a stark difference from a year ago when the staff limited the number of passes he threw to around 17 per game. Given the strengths of this team entering the year, the loss of Kyle's preparation time due to baseball, and the quality/experience of the WR's, the number of pass attempts per game should not have increased above a 25 attempts per game average. Our offensive staff should have flagged this early on and worked to better redistribute the workload.
Overall, we appreciate the efforts that Parker had while he was at Clemson and will be remembered as a two-sport star who hit a lot of home runs and quarterbacked the '09 team to the ACCCG. KP is an extremely gifted athlete who excelled on two large stages. However, the quarterback position is extremely difficult to navigate and requires almost year-round focus. We feel that non-football activities and questionable coaching strategies significantly hindered Parker's ability to develop football fundamentals, (football related) decision making skills, and proper team chemistry. We wish KP all the best as he moves forward with his baseball career.
Tajh Boyd: Tajh saw limited action in 2010 and confirmed our thoughts about his readiness/development into a starter for the Clemson Tigers. We can argue about whether or not playing Tajh earlier and more often would have benefitted more from gained in-game experience or been detrimental to his confidence and/or psyche because he simply had not matured enough to attain all of the great accolades bestowed upon him when he entered school.
We were a little disappointed in Boyd's fundamental development. Boyd is a naturally talented athlete and it appears as though Boyd has relied on this talent alone a little too much. Tajh will need shore up a couple fundamental issues that we saw in his limited playing time. His quick release and arm strength are quite apparent, but he will need to correct a tendency to sail passes and hold onto the football better, particularly in Morris' system. Fortunately, all of these mechanical items are easily correctable and, depending on his new quarterback coach (Morris), should be identified and corrected by the end of Spring.
Tajh will also need to work on his decision making skills. Boyd made some erroneous on-field decisions in '10 that are expected with a Freshman QB. We are fully aware that increased experience is an important part of a quarterback's assessment process. We hope that an off-season filled with film study along with repetitions during Spring Practice will give Boyd a better understanding of game play and improve future on-field decisions.
One item that could hamper this growth is system change. We will see a lot of new offensive items because of Napier's departure. Boyd's ability to quickly pick up the new scheme will go a long way in determining the level of offensive success CU will have in 2011.
We constantly hear fans incorrectly discussing Boyd being a running quarterback, which is not true. Tajh Boyd is more of a pro-style quarterback. The tag "dual threat" only applies to him because he has a cannon for an arm but can run if necessary. He is a throw-first QB who was praised by coaches nationwide during his recruiting process and by coaches and players at Clemson during his practice sessions because of his arm-strength. Boyd has also been commended on his ability to put touch on the football. This does not mean, however, that Boyd cannot run the ball himself. He was recruited by Mike Bellotti to Oregon for a reason. He does not have to be a 100ypg guy at QB to win football games with Chad Morris' system either. He need only be effective as a running threat. At his current weight I think that is what should be expected.
Most items we hear indicate that Boyd is a popular member of this football team who has the respect of his peers. This is an important QB aspect because he is the de facto offensive leader. It is imperative that this player command respect through his actions. Boyd has been characterized as a winner and a guy who makes his peers better. Barring something extremely unusual, Boyd will be the starting quarterback in 2011.
2011 QB RECRUIT ANALYSIS
Clemson will sign two quarterbacks in the 2011 class, Cole Stoudt and Tony McNeal. Morgan Roberts is a greyshirt for 2012.
Tony McNeal is Rivals.com's #9 rated pro-style quarterback. The Chester native enrolled at Clemson early, immediately joined the team for mat drills/off-season workouts, and will compete for the back-up role this Spring. McNeal has been upbeat despite Napier leaving Clemson and repeatedly said that he wants to get to school early to learn the new offense (regardless of the OC hire) and compete in the Spring.
McNeal was originally categorized by most recruiting services as a QB/ATH but will be a quarterback at Clemson, especially considering the lack of numbers at this position and his HS performances. Tony is known as an accurate passer who was able to see the entire field, effectively shuffle through receiver progressions, and make decisions under pressure. Chester often rolled him out and utilized his ability to throw on the run. The coaching staff will immediately get him in the weight room and will begin work on this throwing technique. He needs to quicken his release and better utilize his lower body.
McNeal successfully rehabilitated an ACL injury suffered in October 2009 to have a successful senior season at Chester. TM camped at Clemson over the summer with Tiger commitments Sammy Watkins and Charone Peake. McNeal never seriously considered any other schools after committing to the Tigers last January.
Cole Stoudt, like McNeal, is a pro-style quarterback. Stoudt received offers from schools across the nation, including Arizona State, Cincinnati, South Florida, and Wyoming. Cole, who was born in Greenville, SC, initially committed to Wyoming before switching his school of choice to the Tigers in late-October. Stoudt, like Tony McNeal, has long planned to enroll early at Clemson to get a head start on football preparation.
We like Stoudt's size/frame (a lanky 6'4"), which is something that you cannot teach. College scouts approve of Cole's accuracy as well as his footwork through his drop. Cole has accurate precision on passes under around 20-25 yards and showed nice touch dropping the ball into his receiver. I was impressed with how fluid he looked moving around the pocket in the clips I saw of him.
We are encouraged by his family's football background. Cole's brother, Zach, played JUCO ball at Iowa Western CC and recently committed to Ole Miss. Many of you may recall his father, Cliff, from his playing days with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The elder Stoudt served as Terry Bradshaw's backup for over half a decade and went on to play for several other organizations within the NFL and USFL. Size and game intelligence from a young age are big advantages for this young man.
We expect the Clemson staff to immediately add some weight to the young quarterback, as Stoudt has a long-limbed frame that will accept the added toned weight that he should gain. We also expect the new quarterbacks coach to work with him on his technique, as he has some issues with weight distribution and accuracy throwing the deep ball.
2011 QB OUTLOOK
Tajh Boyd will almost assuredly be Clemson's starting QB for the 2011 campaign. Clemson will have one of, if not the least experienced quarterbacks in the nation next season. The Tigers will not have a quarterback with a collegiate start under his belt. Needless to say, next year will be another learning year for the Clemson signal callers.
The backup role is wide open. Fortunately, both of the 2011 signees are in school early which gives them a full Spring to get acquainted with college and the new offense. With such little depth at QB, we fully expect one of the incoming Freshmen to avoid a planned redshirt entering the 2011 season. If either is redshirted, I would suspect that is would be Stoudt as he needs to bulk up to better fill out his frame. This is assuming both are regarded as equal talents by the staff. At this time we think McNeal is the better player.
Both of these guys have discussed the removal of Napier, appear to be happy with Clemson's new offensive direction, and understand why the move was made. We believe that Napier and Swinney have differing views on how Clemson's offense should be run and these contrasting opinions adversely affected the Tigers' offense. Coach Swinney is the head coach and certainly has the right to dictate how his team will play. Napier's and Swinney's relative inexperience in their 2010 roles added another level of difficulty in getting this offense. Hopefully a united philosophical front will serve these young men well.
We think that Billy Napier is a good young coach. We believe he is an intelligent guy who has shown that he has an uncanny knack recruiting and coordinating a team's recruiting efforts. We know that Napier wasn't completely responsible for this offense becoming completely discombobulated. We went further to suggest that he should resign and learn under a competent offensive staff and that he would move back up the ranks again at some point. I can assure you that Billy will not be unemployed for long and there are a lot of programs who want his services.
With all the information we have and the football we saw in 2010, we support the decision not to retain Billy Napier because it is the best option for both Swinney and Napier. Both of these guys were on such a steep learning curve and neither had the experience necessary to guide the other. The philosophical difference between the two was too much and, in the end, hindered this offense from performing. Billy will be better off (and will climb the ladder again) with an established mentor and Dabo has aligned himself with "new age" offensive coordinator in Chad Morris.