Dan Scott's radio interview with Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden on Friday before Clemson's huge recruiting weekend.
Dan: have not talked to you in a while. Gee, what have you been up to lately?
Bowden: you think a football coach, usually has time off after season. But recruiting is so instrumental and important to the success of a program. Recruiting is year round but it kicks into high gear as soon as the season is over. With this many prospects coming in this weekend it will be a pretty active 48 hours.
Dan: Yeah, we want to talk about the big weekend that’s coming up in a bit. You were able to officially announce Rob Spence as your offensive coordinator yesterday. He met with the media yesterday as did you, and I know the official announcements will be coming on your other two here hopefully in the near future. Coach Spence seemed to be a little shocked at the amount of media he was facing yesterday, I don’t think he had to worry about that too much in Toledo did he?
Bowden: no, you know, that is kind of what attracted him to this place, is the environment. And he got a taste of that, here we are in the middle of January and you have a press conference to announce a coach, and the number of guys that showed up and the amount of attention it was given. But that is why people get into coaching to get to environments like this, where what you do is important, and he saw that first hand.
Cobb: Coach, this is Cobb. Sounds like from your comments yesterday you did an awful lot of soul searching before making this hire. This is the guy you want, this is the guy you think can fix it.
Coach: Yeah, like you said, you know, I did a lot of soul searching to make the decision initially anyway to make a change, which was awful difficult. But rob I had known for a while. And as you go and study guys track records, it was everything we were looking for. That I was looking for, with the ability to run the football, multidimensional, gives you a lot of challenges offensively. A proven track record scoring points. A proven track record running the ball. A proven track record pass efficiency and scoring points. We're very fortunate, I'm glad he decided to come, but again he is kind of who I had eyeballed once we decided to make a decision. But it was a matter of waiting until the opportunity came where we could do it.
Dan: Speaking of running coach, he's completed three marathons to your one. So now you're playing catch up with this fellow?
Bowden: I will never catch him and have no desire to. I've run one, I'm happy. I'm going to take my 328 Blue Angel Marathon in Pensacola and that's it.
Dan: Coach, talking about Coach Spence, obviously you wanted to stay committed to the one back as you looked at possible candidates. Was there anyone else that really jumped up out there, or was this the guy who's philosophy from the very beginning mesh with yours?
Bowden: We had a lot of qualified guys call, and some where mentioned in the papers and some were not. But as far as a guy I was a little familiar with and I tracked his background, had coached quarter backs and had a proven track record, and there were some other candidates out there, but he pretty much as far as things exactly what we were looking for he kind of had it all.
Dan: And when you talk about fixing it I know the one thing you want to be able to do is produce more in the running game out of the one back set. And his running backs or his running game accumulated over 2000 yards last year along with over 3000 yards in the year. What does he do differently, what can he come in here and fix as far as his running game goes?
Bowden: A little more multidimensional with formations and some movement. And creating either mismatches or opportunities to out flank you and get wide. Some different opportunities for example, his top two running plays, ill say them to your audience they may or may not mean something, was a zone play and a power play were you block down and pull somebody, weather it be a guard or a tackle or fullback or whoever. Those were our two top running plays, but he has found a way to be more productive running those two plays then we have. So, I think this year they were in rushing offense, I think they were 47th, I think Southern Cal. Was 40th . Southern cal., Louisville, California, they had found a way to run the ball out of a one back set. Even auburn had two backs, a lot of it was one back. Minnesota won two tailbacks that got over 1000, a lot was one back. More so the boise state who was nationally ranked in rushing, Utah was nationally ranked, California, Louisville, Oklahoma those are the teams that we kind of wanted to mirror from. Well, not so much mirror, we've been doing it. But more so than Virginia tech who is more of a two back, but in the bowl game Va Tech was just about all one back and played a lot of freshman wide out.
Dan: coach, you had to as a head coach, make an adjustment coming from Tulane and the Conference USA to Clemson and the ACC. As a head coach now, will Coach Spence have to make some adjustments moving from the MAC to the ACC in his role as an assistant?
Bowden: I don't think so. When you look at the success, obviously Louisville, that's very similar right now, the Conference USA and the MAC, with what some of those teams have accomplished, they are very comparable. A Boise State, Utah, Bowling Green, those teams have shown they can jump right in there, they're just not on the radar as much as the ACC, SEC or the Big 12. It won't be much of a change for him, other than what happened yesterday, instead of having one or two guys he'll have fifteen or twenty at a press conference.
Dan: That harks on a question brought up here last week. As a school and perception being what it is, when a fan sees you bringing in coaches from the MAC conference and the Sunbelt conference as opposed to bringing them from a larger school; does that send some kind of message? My thought was that is does not really matter as long as the philosophy is the same number one and that the scheme is sound.
Bowden: well, for example, Auburn was undefeated, their defensive coordinator, do you know where he is from? He was on my list to interview; do any of you know where he was from?
Bowden: Central Florida. He was the next guy I was going to talk to. Of course Rob went to Auburn when Borgess got it. Auburn flew a jet up there and took his whole family and kids down there for two days.
Obviously Tommy Tuberville saw something a couple of years ago of what I have seen. He ended up giving it to guy who had been at Indiana, Borgess, who had been let go at UCLA. That's not a hot bed for offense, they did not really light it up, they got let go. I don't think coaches really look so much at that. I'm sure the media does and probably alumni, they may ask why aren’t you bringing in someone from LSU? But again look at Vic Koenning and what he has done at Troy. Troy and Central Florida are same league, same conference. Of course, Southern Cal and Troy were the only two schools to be in the top ten in the nation in the three top defensive categories. And that is what I want to do here , I want Clemson to be in that same air.
Dan: Coach, switching subjects slightly, have you had a chance to review the particulars of this new NCAA rule tying scholarships now to graduation and academic progress rates. Have you had a chance to digest that yet?
Bowden: well no. Because I still think its three of four years away from my understanding. It’s on the table and its probably going to pass, it did not pass this year and I don't know if it will pass the next year because there are still some kinks to iron out. But I do see it passing in the future. It really does not apply to this years class, the next years class or the following years class, its probably two or three years down the line. It might happen sooner than that. It has not happened yet so I have not invested a lot of time on it.
Dan: did you have an initial reaction to it?
Bowden: I don't think there is anything wrong with it. The objective is to graduate the players. The biggest thing from our standpoint is that everyone has the same level playing field. Its not the same in cirriculum and its not the same with admissions. So I think the ncaa is trying to do things to equal out the playing field and that is one way to do it. Of course,what makes if difficult is the majors that some schools offer that gives you a little more flexibility in comprehensive packages when you recruit a student athlete. Especially those from the Southeast United States. Right now public education in most south eastern states are in the top ten, top fifty. So a lot of schools in the south east need to have a curriculum that are interesting, that the student athlete in the southeast is interested in and has a background for. That is where the playing field is not as level. Far as the graduation being tied to scholarships, that's going to be across the board. It does not address the issues I mentioned.
Dan: Coach, back to the recruiting weekend. Since you've been here, you like to have the one big weekend where you bring in as many prospects as you can get. And of course, this is it, you've got your staff in place now to be here for that. What is the thinking behind having the one big weekend as opposed to trying to spread it out a little more?
Bowden: We initially did it Dan, in 1985 at duke and had a lot of success with it. We’ve got a lot of guys who are committed, whose moms and dads are sold on Clemson, committed to Clemson are here also. It creates an environment, it’s a Clemson weekend. What I try to do is get the one or two guys who are not committed and their moms to feel as comfortable as those people. It has worked pretty good for us in the past. Our university, our athletic department, let us do a really first class job with our banquet. We put our seniors in tuxedos and put a spot light on them, introducing them with high level high light tape. I think that shows our commitment to the parents that we want to try to help their sons experience at Clemson be as comprehensive as possible. So the banquet and the way, the first class manor in which this university treats its student athletes and the momentum of having so many committed guys with the uncommitted, its a pretty good feel.
Dan: has the trend towards a lot of early commitments changed these weekends?
Bowden: no, it really hasn’t. That is kind of how the trend is, that there are a lot more early commitments now days. The only thing that means is by mid January your recruiting is about over. After this weekend, the next forty-eight hours, I told my coaches get up early and stay late, you better get your game face on, because after that it is pretty much maintain what you've got and fighting the schools off.
That's the hard part.
Dan: in our final few seconds here, just one more question on the recruiting. You've done such a good job while you were searching for your new coordinators and the third spot on your staff that was open. Now that you have all of those filled, how much do you get out of Coach Spence and Coach Koenning? Especially coordinators here down the stretch, recruiting wise?
Bowden: they have some pretty impressive credentials! I know we’ve have only released one, but when we release the credentials on the other guys we have hired, they are pretty impressive. We can talk to prospects about this, not the media yet, until we are cleared. We will actively get those guys involved. Marion Hobby has been productive recruiting for Ole Miss, played in Tennessee, played in NFL, lots of success at Ole Miss as a coach. Same thing with Vic. The success he had at Troy, Wyoming and Memphis State. So these guys will definitely be an asset. And they all three have a track record as recruiters, that will definitely be beneficial to us this weekend. We’ll put them right to use tonight at dinner.
Dan: no sense wasting any time, right?
Bowden: You pretty much hit it and get it. They will be coming in here in an hour of so. I Have twenty-five interviews at twenty minutes an interview, that's six hours of interviews this week. I’ll miss church this Sunday and next, but I’ll be back in couple of weeks.
Dan: well we appreciate you blocking out about fifteen minutes for us.good luck, I know its a big weekend for you!
Bowden: thanks, see ya’ll.