Homecoming for Mike O'Cain

by - Correspondent -
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CLEMSON - Mike O'Cain is coming home.

The former Clemson University quarterback is returning to his alma mater to coach the same position, head coach Tommy Bowden announced at Monday's Gator Bowl press conference. He expects to be on campus for the first time this weekend.

"Coming back there is something I've thought about over the years," O'Cain said via teleconference from his home in North Carolina. "I've never applied for any opening that has come up at Clemson...so it hasn't been something that just gnawed at me to do.

"But this opportunity arose. And not only coming back to Clemson, but having an opportunity to work with Tommy and the staff he's put together there...that was more attractive to me, bottom line, than (just) coming back to Clemson. But that did have a factor in it. Anytime you have a chance to go back to your alma mater it means something to you."

A 1977 Clemson graduate, O'Cain was the Tigers' Most Valuable Player as a quarterback and punter during the '76 season. He held the school record for rushing yards by a quarterback (140) for almost 20 years until Louis Solomon surpassed the mark in 1994.

The Orangeburg native lettered for Clemson in 1974-76.

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"I've known Mike for a while and I've always followed his career," Bowden said. "Even when I was coaching in the SEC he really got my attention when he was at N.C. State. Since I've been at Clemson his offenses have been very productive against us."

O'Cain was fired at North Carolina State at the end of the 1999 campaign after seven years as head coach of the Wolfpack, where he compiled a 41-40 record.

He made his name as an offensive-minded coach, one whose N.C. State teams routinely scored a high number of points against Clemson. The highlight of his Wolfpack coaching career came in 1998 when N.C. State knocked off Florida State in Raleigh, one of just two ACC losses for the Seminoles since they joined the league.

O'Cain spent this past season as North Carolina's offensive coordinator, where he coached quarterback Ronald Curry to an average of 243 yards per game, 24th-best in the nation. But he was out of a job once Tar Heels' head coach Carl Torbush was fired following a 6-5 finish.

O'Cain expects to work only with the quarterbacks, but is prepared to share parts of his offensive philosophy should Bowden ask.

"I know Tommy likes the 'I' (formation) and they've kind of gotten away from that," O'Cain said. "Maybe there are some things we've done offensively we can incorporate into the system he's put together. I just want to be a part in anyway that I can, and if that's just coaching the quarterbacks and running this system, so be it. If it's adding a little option, adding a little ŒI' or adding a little something in the passing game, just to help in whatever way I can."

Bowden said he doesn't expect O'Cain to do much in the way of coaching for the Gator Bowl. O'Cain will spend more of his time familiarizing himself with Clemson's offensive system, getting to know the players and recruiting.

The hiring completes Bowden's staff, taking care of the opening left when offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez - who also coached the quarterbacks - took the head coaching job at West Virginia University.

Tight ends coach Brad Scott was promoted to offensive coordinator last week. Scott will continue to coach tight ends, as well.

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