Herring: It's Time to Move On

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON - The rumored departure of Clemson defensive coordinator Reggie
Herring became fact Wednesday.

After eight seasons with the Tigers, Herring will assume the defensive
coordinator post at Ole Miss. The Rebels made the official announcement
shortly after 5:15 p.m. EST Wednesday, wrapping up a process that began
before Clemson's trip to the Humanitarian Bowl.

Herring, reached at his home Wednesday night, said the decision was both
difficult and time-consuming.

"I had been battling with it," he said. "They contacted me before the bowl
game, but I didn't want to talk about it then. I told (Ole Miss head coach
David) Cutcliffe that my focus needed to be strictly on the game and our
players. But after the game it was just a matter of days before it all
started coming down. I think (Cutcliffe) was waiting to see how serious I was
about leaving Clemson."

A Memphis, Tenn., radio station - WHBQ, 560 AM - originally reported Herring
would take the job Tuesday morning. Herring said he still hadn't made a
decision Tuesday night, when information about the offer began coming to
light in the local media.

But by the time the late television news rolled around, Herring had made up
his mind.

"I just think it's time for me to move on," he said. "It's not real
complicated. There's not a bigger fan of Clemson University than me. No one
cares about the university more than me. It's really an emotional time
because I'm leaving a lot of great friends."

Cutcliffe was understandably pleased with Herring's decision.

"Reggie Herring has been a proven winner throughout his career," Ole Miss
head coach David Cutcliffe said. "He coaches defense the same way he played
the game, with great intensity and passion. He has been successful at every
level of his career and has worked to become one of the most respected
defensive coordinators in the country. We are looking forward to Reggie and
his family joining the Ole Miss family."

The 2001 season was a rough one for Herring and his defense.

He lost five potential starters due to a variety of reasons, four before the
season began - cornerback Alex Ardley (discipline), defensive lineman Paul
White (discipline), linebacker Altroy Bodrick (torn ACL) and All-American
linebacker Keith Adams (early NFL draft entry).

Then in the second week of the season, sophomore safety Marcus Houskin
suffered a broken neck and was lost for the year.

The absences took an immediate toll. After finishing between 16th and 37th in
the country in total defense his first four years as coordinator, Clemson
fell to No. 75 this season, giving up 390 yards per game during the 7-5

While the front seven showed steady improvement as the year wore on, the
secondary seemed to get worse and finished the year allowing 226 passing
yards per game.

"It's been a good run," Herring said. "But I'll be honest with you. I'd be
really sad if all people remembered me for was this last season."

Herring also caused a mini-stir among Clemson fans during a radio interview
following the Tigers' last-second loss to Virginia in the season's third
week. Highly emotional due to circumstances which took place on the field
immediately following the game, Herring told fans on his postgame radio
interview "not to come back" to Death Valley.

The remark, directed at a small group of abusive fans encountered after the
game, was taken as a blanket statement by most fans and media.

Herring apologized two days later.

"That's my biggest regret," he said. "In 21 years of coaching I've never lost
it in an interview like that. I've learned, believe me. It will never happen

There also has been recent speculation that Herring was unhappy with at least
two members of his defensive coaching staff, coaches he wanted out but was
prohibited from replacing.

Asked about it Wednesday, Herring sidestepped the issue.

"I love our players...I have a special relationship with them," he said.
"It's best for me to simply say I'm moving on. It's a chance for the school
not to look backward, but look forward. It's a chance for a new start for me.
It's a win-win situation."

In a statement released by Clemson University, head coach Tommy Bowden was
glowing in his praise of Herring.

"I appreciate the contributions Reggie Herring made to the Clemson program,"
said Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden. "He will be missed, especially his
passion for the players and the game itself. Mississippi is getting a fine
coach, a credit to college football."

Herring joins a pair of former Clemson assistants already on Cutcliffe's
staff in Oxford:

- Rich Bisaccia, Cutcliffe's assistant head coach, was running backs coach at
Clemson under Tommy West;

- John Latina, offensive line coach, served the same position under West.

Now, as Clemson begins its search for his replacement, Herring is confident
the new defensive coordinator will be pleased with what he finds upon his

"The guy who inherits this unit gets a great group," Herring said. "They're
focused...they're a hell of a team. They can handle adversity and they're
battle tested."

Herring begins his new duties in Oxford, Miss., Friday.

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