After the sudden departure of Marion Hobby to the NFL, Clemson appears set to hire Todd Bates as the new defensive line coach for the Tigers. Ryan Bartow broke the news earlier today. Bates is currently the defensive line coach at Jacksonville State.
For those interested in the connection, Bates played football at Alabama from 2001-2005 and he was recruited by none other than Dabo Swinney.
After leaving Alabama, Bates played in the NFL for the Tennessee Titans for 2 years before beginning his coaching career. He spent several years at Idaho State as well as at the community college level before being hired by Jacksonville State where he has been for the past several seasons.
At Jacksonville State Bates has been involved in an excellent 2 year run. The Gamecocks have won 2 OVC titles as well as earning the #1 seed in the FCS playoffs. The defense in particular has been stingy ranking 5th in rushing defense, 7th in scoring defense, and 3rd in red zone defense across all of FBS.
The defensive line in particular seems to have done well with the team 8th in tackles for loss and 7th in sacks. These are some top level numbers, they are highly encouraging. It seems like Jacksonville State has a talented defensive line and some credit has to go to Coach Bates.
Now let’s address the big thing in the room. Yes, Dabo knows Bates from before. Yes, he has once again hired someone with whom he has a personal connection. No, you should not start screaming nepotism and yelling how terrible this hire is because of it. This is how coaching works. More often than not you hire someone that you know, someone you have worked with before, or someone that comes recommended by someone you trust. It is rare to have a true cold call on a candidate.
That said, yes this hire is a risk. But no more than any other hire. There is always some level of uncertainty when you make a hire and that’s all this is. Coach Bates has seen success as a coach and has collegiate and professional playing experience. While he may not have the perfect coaching for technique, that is something that he will hopefully continue to develop as all young coaches do. On the recruiting side I personally like bringing in an FCS coach. Recruiting at lower levels of football is much more difficult because of budget constraints, scholarships, and difficulty in talent identification. A coach that succeeds there may have an easier time recruiting at an FBS level, especially the level at which the reigning national champion recruits.
Assuming this report is true we should expect an official announcement soon, likely this week so that Coach Bates can get out on the recruiting trail quickly.