Caldwell excited about new challenges in Clemson

by - Senior Writer -
New offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell from spring practice earlier this year.

SUNSET, S.C. – Offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell made one thing abundantly clear Tuesday morning at Dabo Swinney’s media golf outing – he doesn’t care how highly-recruited a player was or how many stars they had beside their name.

If they don’t earn their starting position in the weight room and on the practice field, they won't play. Period. End of story.

"In the offensive line room, our philosophy is fairly simple - the best five will start,” Caldwell said. “If it means a player has to switch a position, then that means that's something they ought to want to do. But I am going to put the best five out there and they will play.”

Caldwell was quick to mention, however, that he has been surprised by the attitudes he has seen with his new charges on the offensive line. Caldwell said last season’s 6-7 disappointment hasn’t dampened his line’s enthusiasm.

“No. I tell you, the attitude was just the opposite,” he said. “They were dying to get back out there. They were in the weight room, working hard. The continuity of the team is just so much better than what I was told. They are a very cohesive group. Not just the offensive line- the offense and defensive line. Coach [Joey] Batson has done a great job with his staff of getting these guys ready to go.

“Coach [Brad] Scott did a great job of assembling this group and coaching them. They are very mechanically sound and fundamentally sound. And they are wonderful people. Disciplined. I'm thoroughly impressed with the kind of program Coach Swinney runs. As I was telling people earlier, sometimes you think you have the market cornered with discipline and those type of things, but this has been ideal. I'm very lucky to be here.”

Caldwell came to Clemson after spending eight years as the offensive line coach at Vanderbilt, and one year as the head coach of the Commodores after former head coach Bobby Johnson’s abrupt departure.

He was reminded on Tuesday that a year ago at this time he was in Birmingham for the SEC Media Days, and he said it is amazing how much things can change in a year.

“Lord have mercy. I had just gotten the job and those people were running around scared to death trying to school me on what to do and how to do it. I said, 'Boys, I can't worry about it. I'm not smart enough to handle all of this. I'm just going to do what I do.’ It was fun.”

He also said he realized that his personality didn’t necessarily fit with what the people there were used to.

“It was fun because I like to talk to people,” he said. “But it was very discouraging about my profession because the people that worked there, they didn’t understand the simple things- like telling them thank you and all. They had never heard that before. That was heartbreaking to hear that. That was disappointing. Life is about people. I enjoy them. I don't need to get into that but when people do stuff for you, say thank you. It doesn't matter how much money you make.”

He said that after 36 years in the profession, he won't have any problem adapting his techniques to what new offensive coordinator Chad Morris is trying to accomplish.

“I’ve had a little experience at it,” he said. “I really feel comfortable in his offense. I like his approach. He knows a lot more about it than what we [Vandy] were trying to do with it. We went to something probably prematurely. At one time we had a lot of receivers then all of a sudden we switched to this and they all got hurt and we didn't have them out on the perimeter. He's got a great plan with the offense, and the different approaches he takes to attack defenses is very refreshing. I feel like I have something to add to it from experience. I'm just tickled.”

One of the first things Caldwell will have to address this fall is finding a starter at the left tackle spot vacated by Chris HairstonChris Hairston
Offensive Line
#61 6-7, 325
Winston-Salem, NC

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’s graduation. Phillip PricePhillip Price
Offensive Line
#79 6-5, 300
Dillon, SC

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took a step forward in the spring, but Caldwell said Brandon ThomasBrandon Thomas
Offensive Line
#63 6-4, 300
Spartanburg, SC

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has made strides over the summer and will push Price throughout August.

“We have two guys who are very capable there in Phillip Price and Brandon Thomas,” he said. “Phillip had a great spring and did a great job for us. Brandon didn't have as good a spring because he was injured. He's gotten his shoulder fixed and right now he's been amazing. He's over 300 pounds and is as strong as he's ever been. That sucker ran a 4.7 at 300 pounds and I haven't seen an athlete like that in a long time. So, it's a pleasure.”

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