Once again Clemson enters the season with an extremely stable coaching staff on offense. The offensive coaching staff remains intact for what will be the 3rd season in a row. But this year will bring a new challenge. Now the coaching staff is faced with the challenge of replacing Deshaun Watson, Wayne Gallman, Mike Williams, and a few other big names.
Dabo Swinney - Head Coach, 9th season
Coach Swinney is entering his 9th full season with Clemson. But now he can call himself a national title winning coach. We’ve chronicled his rise to head coach before. The start at Alabama, the insurance job, and finally how he became the interim head coach. Now the only question is what legacy he will leave at Clemson.
Strengths: Dabo is at his best recruiting and motivating. His work transforming Clemson to a premier destination for players is fantastic. The new Football Operations facility is a recruiting mecca and should be one of the best in the country for the next 5-10 years. Coach Swinney has a vision for what Clemson Football is and he’s been able to make that vision happen. He connects with recruits as well as their families and wants them to succeed in life.
Swinney has also done an excellent job at hiring assistants. Just this year we saw LSU fire Les Miles because Miles wasn’t able to get the right OC in. Dabo has learned quickly from past mistakes and now he’s put together one of the best coaching staffs in the country from top to bottom.
Weaknesses: The biggest weakness for Clemson gets overblown. Yes, Dabo is not an X’s and O’s guy. He isn’t going to be deciding on the offensive game plan and calling plays. That just isn’t his style and it is for the best. He still understands the game and is involved in the planning, he just may not make the final call. But as long as he avoids doing too much and meddling in the game this weakness isn’t a problem. Even coaches like Nick Saban and Urban Meyer aren’t involved much more during the game than Coach Swinney
Jeff Scott - OC/WR Coach, 3rd Season
Before being named Co-OC with Tony Elliott, Scott served as the WR Coach at Clemson since Coach Swinney was named the head coach in 2008. Scott served as recruiting coordinator as well as WR coach and helped Swinney create his vision of Clemson football.
Strengths: Scott has done an excellent job putting together a stacked WR corps. Yes, a lot of that comes from recruiting. But even at WR athleticism and ability only goes so far. Players need to understand how to run route running as well as blocking. Scott has done well to teach these guys how to do all the things and turn receivers into NFL players. Even guys that don’t start can get drafted like Martavius Bryant.
Weaknesses: The concern with Scott is just what he’s able to bring to the table from the playcalling side. Yes, he’s involved in game planning along with Elliott and he does have input during the games, but he doesn’t have final say. There is that uncertainty that if he needs to step up can he?
Tony Elliott - OC/RB Coach, 3rd Season
Tony Elliott came to Clemson as a walk-on wide receiver in 1999. He left as a team captain – starting four games his senior year. With a degree in industrial engineering, he stands out as one of the bright young minds in college football (he’s only 37). He worked for Michelin USA after college before returning to football as a wide receivers coach for SC State. After two years there and three in the same position at Furman, Elliott returned to Clemson as the running backs coach in 2011. He served that role for four years before he and Jeff Scott were promoted to co-offensive coordinators following the departure of Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris, who accepting the head coaching position at SMU.
Strengths: So far Elliott has shown an excellent job of calling plays. He’s done well to balance the pass and run, something we criticized Chad Morris for. We’ve seen different gameplans depending on the opponent as well as in game changes to take advantage of defensive weaknesses when appropriate.
Weaknesses: Honestly Eliott’s weakest spot is probably recruiting. As a RB coach there was always a question if he was as good of a recruiter as you’d normally find at the position. But now that he is an OC that part of his coaching isn’t quite as important. Especially with the recruiting firepower Clemson has.
Brandon Streeter - QB Coach/Recruiting Coordinator, 3rd Season
Streeter joined Clemson’s coaching staff after the departure of Chad Morris. Normally the OC will coach QBs, but the backgrounds of Elliott and Scott meant Clemson needed a dedicated QB coach. Streeter was a Clemson QB in the late 90’s and he has returned to his alma mater to continue his coaching career.
Strengths: Streeter has shown an ability to work well with QBs and recruit, but a lot of this is clouded by the performance of Deshaun Watson. We had already seen what Watson could be before Streeter so it is hard to say just how good he is at coaching QBs. As recruiting coordinator he appears to have continued the job started by Jeff Scott and puts together an excellent recruiting presentation for Clemson.
Weaknesses: Right now QB coaching is Streeter’s weakness. Watson didn’t exactly improve on his deep ball in 2016, though it is worth noting he got better as the season went on. It may not be fair, but 2017 will tell us a lot about Streeter.
Robbie Caldwell - OL Coach, 7th season
Caldwell is one of the best OL coaches in the country, and certainly the funniest on Clemson’s staff. Caldwell is definitely an old school OL guy. He’s big, loud, and has no problem calling players out. Despite a poor time as an interim coach at Vanderbilt, Caldwell’s star as an OL coach has remained unblemished.
Strengths: Everything related to coaching should cover it. Caldwell has turned no name guys into quality OL at Clemson. It is no secret Clemson hasn’t always recruited well along the OL, but Caldwell still did well to turn guys into serviceable OL. Now that the Tigers have started to recruit better and more frequently at the position we’ve seen Caldwell mold some excellent players into NFL-caliber lineman.
Weaknesses: Honestly it is probably recruiting. I’m not sure there is anything Caldwell really misses on in actual coaching, so recruiting is likely his weakness by default. But that is probably nitpicking more than anything.
Danny Pearman - TE Coach/Special Teams Coach, 9th season
Coach Pearman has been with Clemson since the start of Swinney’s tenure. He was actually a coach of Swinney’s at Alabama and remained on staff as Dabo began his coaching career.
Strengths: Pearman has done very well coaching TEs at Clemson. We’ve seen a long line of talented players come through Clemson including Dwayne Allen, Brandon Ford, and Jordan Leggett. Pearman has done well to stress the importance of blocking to his tight ends and it has resulted in some excellent success for the Clemson offense.
Weaknesses: Once again recruiting is a problem here along with special teams coaching. Coach Pearman has seen some of his duties on special teams split amongst other coaches and recruiting in the Charlotte area hasn’t really done well. Pearman is old school in his approach and reports about poor social media and cell phone use has likely been a problem for him.