Tony Elliott will be leaving Clemson to become the next head coach of the UVA Cavaliers. After a week or so of speculation on if Elliott would get the Duke or UVA job, it appears the California native has decided to head up to Virginia.
Much like his former colleague Brent Venables, Elliott has been very frank about waiting for the right situation. While Virginia may not be the right situation in the minds of most, it appears to be so for Elliott. Virginia has finished .500 the last two years under Bronco Mendenhall, but before that the former BYU head coach had shown real improvement over 4 seasons, going 2-10 in 2016 and 9-5 in 2019. Mendenhall’s abrupt resignation led to this opening and Virginia finally settled on Elliott.
I will say I think Elliott has a chance to be a good head coach, though Virginia is a hard job. He’s been around long enough to understand what a program needs to be successful and I think he’s got the right temperament to lead a program. Former players and colleagues always talk about how steady Elliott is and he never lets himself get too high or low. His players also seem to love playing for him and he’ll be able to go up to Charlottesville and get buy in immediately.
Tony Elliott’s departure is a mixed bag. To his critics, he is a conservative playcaller who wants to lean on his team being more talented than the opponent and asking players to make big plays. His defenders will point to 2 national titles, 2 legendary QBs, and a plethora of Clemson players now in the NFL. The truth as always is somewhere in between.
There is no doubt Clemson has seen unprecedented success under Tony Elliott, and Jeff Scott, on offense. The Tigers used that success to win 6 straight ACC titles and 2 national championships. He has earned every bit of that success through his work on the field and recruiting players to Clemson.
But over time we’ve seen this offense become a bit more conservative. Some of the motion and more advanced concepts we saw under Chad Morris, and even in the early years of ScElliott, have disappeared in recent years. And at times the offense seems to struggle with not attempting to change the playcalling.
One area that Elliott is 100% a loss in is recruiting. Outside of Brent Venables and maybe Todd Bates, Elliott is the best recruiter on staff. He’s shown an ability to close the deal with recruits and bring in the big name guys. His departure will be missed on the recruiting trail. Whomever is hired to replace him as OC and as a position coach will have big shoes to fill.
As for a replacement, the obvious internal name is Brandon Streeter. While an internal hire, Streeter did have experience as an OC from 2009-2011 at Liberty and 2011-2014 at Richmond. He’s had plenty of time to absorb Clemson’s offense, and he won’t be coming into this completely blind. Should Streeter be named the OC we’d expect a new TE coach to be named to replace Elliott, or see some sort of situation where a QB coach is brought in and Streeter takes the TEs. There have been a few rumors going around that the current Director of Player Development and Freshman Transition, would be in line for a spot on the coaching staff. This is where I would hope for someone to come in from outside the program. Unless Streeter is going to introduce some new concepts, this staff really needs some fresh blood and a new perspective on offense. This doesn’t need to be wholesale change, but bringing in new ideas, even if they aren’t adopted, can force the staff to think critically and adapt their plan going into 2022. The offense was too ugly this year to not consider it.