As you know by now, Marion Hobby has decided to leave the Clemson Tigers and go coach for Jacksonville Jaguars. I’m here to discuss recruiting implications and where Clemson might turn for its next defensive line coach.
First, why don’t we get this out of the way. Someone with bad info said Clemson approached Chris Rumph in regards to replacing Hobby. Chris Rumph was never going to be a part of Clemson’s staff again. Never ever was going to happen. Rumph burned bridges when he left and has continually doused that fire with kerosene on the recruiting trail, most famously telling any prospect considering us that Clemson would never win championships on his way out the door, ironically, after the 2010 season before our ascension to elite status began. My assumption is that Rumph’s agent threw it out there to get him a raise (or to try and stick it to Clemson—there is no love lost between the two parties).
What are the recruiting implications for 2017? Not much to see here. Luckily this is a small class with only one defensive line commit Jordan Williams, who is set on being a Tiger. Small bump but not a big deal. Everyone wants to know about 2018 and Xavier Thomas. Well, as I’ve stated many times before, Thomas is an impressionable recruit. This is going to have a big impact right now because it is right now and Thomas was trending towards Clemson. But, people, we are a year away from Thomas making any kind of decision. He is going to go through his visits, go to an all-star game, etc. etc. Clemson fans need to remember what their big boy recruiting britches look like and put them on again. We have been spoiled by Dabo’s ability to lock-in recruits and keep them toeing the company line.
Thomas won’t be committing early and shutting it down. If you have a problem with that or you think that somehow disqualifies a recruit from being worthy of a Clemson offer—kindly keep it to yourself and stay out of his Twitter mentions. The rest of us want to win championships and can tolerate some harmless tweeting which is understandable for a young man being impacted by some of the best salesman in the country pulling him in five different directions.
All of that is to say, it is far too early in this recruitment to have a Dline coach jumping to the NFL be any kind of deal-breaker. Thomas will get to know the new coach and the recruitment will proceed. Much more significant are the relationships that Xavier is building with current Clemson Tiger commits in the ‘17 and ‘18 classes. Those might actually matter a year from now. Thomas moving to IMG and being surrounded by Clemson commits/prospects is a great development for Clemson. Muschamp certainly wanted him to stay in Florence, in the Gamecock bubble, because outside of that bubble — especially at IMG — the Clemson brand has national pull. It would be a shame if a vocal portion of our fanbase can’t handle the real recruitment of the top overall DE in his class.
The other main Clemson DE target for 2018 is KJ Henry. Henry is near man-crush territory. He won’t be impacted by this move at all.
In general, Hobby was a fine recruiter and not a liability on the trail. Dan Brooks was a stronger recruiter, however, and his personality and emphasis on recruiting and evaluating talent will be missed. Hobby struggled at times to land some of his priority targets. Guys like Andrew Williams who went to Auburn, Herring (UGA) and Zach Carter (UF—although this wasn’t Hobby’s fault) eventually slipped away. Hobby’s value was in coaching prospects like Branch, Beasley, Dodd, etc. and turning them into NFL talents.
Who will replace Hobby?
It was a complete shock to the staff that Hobby left. The plan has been in place to eventually move Mickey Conn, Lemanski Hall, and Kyle Richardson onto the coaching staff at some point. The NCAA has all but approved a 10th coaching position that will open up a spot. Dan Brooks was set to retire earlier, but Dabo talked him into a few more seasons. We will see how long Caldwell wants to continue. Dabo sold Conn and Richardson on coming to Clemson because he had a vision for their futures. As I said before, Conn was the likely replacement for Brooks and Hobby would take over the entire Defensive Line responsibilities.
With Hobby gone it might shift some of these plans. Dabo may go out and hire a defensive line coach with this hire or with the 10th coaching position opening. Lemanski Hall is more of a Linebacker coach, who could coach a hybrid DE/LB position. He is still the most likely coach to be named soon and he wouldn’t be a negative hire at all. He brings a wealth of playing experience at Alabama (two-time All-SEC) and bouncing around in the NFL. He definitely knows his stuff with regards to LB play and coaching and would likely be a good recruiter (unproven but is very personable and maintains a diverse coaching staff—yes, that is important in recruiting as it is in the real world). Lemansky Hall will assuredly be hired at some point. It could be now or down the road.
If I am playing Dabo though, I use Hall as the 10th position coach (DE/LB/Special Teams) and I go out and hire a big name Defensive Line coach. With the money saved from Coach Brooks (was making $450,000, you can give Conn less than $200,000) you could offer a Defensive Line coach anywhere from $500,000 - $700,000 dollars (Hobby was making $500,000), which would be a raise for most Defensive Line coaches.
Some names I would check out include: OSU's Larry Johnson, Miami's Kuligowski, maybe Michigan State’s Ron Burton or Missouri's current hire Brick Haley (who coached at Clemson in ‘98). The problem is that a lot of these guys just landed at a new job like Haley and Kuligowski. It is kind of late in the hiring season (due to our playing in and winning a National Championship!! I’m not complaining...), and it is kind of bad form to hire someone who just accepted a job. It really isn’t Dabo’s style but with the new 10th staff position opening up possibly in April, there will be another round of coaching moves.