Napier focused on South Carolina, not Furman


by - Senior Writer -
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CLEMSON – Offensive coordinator Billy Napier told reporters on Tuesday that he hasn’t heard from Furman about the head coaching vacancy at the Greenville school, and that his sole focus is on getting his offense ready to take on South Carolina this Saturday.

“I have a huge amount of respect for coach [Bobby] Lamb, and the amount of time they have put in over there and the success that they have had,” Napier said. "It's an honor for me to even be considered a candidate. I haven't had any discussions with the AD or president. Really, my focus at this point has got to be all on our players and their preparation for the game Saturday.”

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said earlier this week that he had granted Furman permission to interview Napier, a former quarterback for the Paladins who is in his second full season as Clemson’s offensive coordinator.

"This is not anything that's taken any steps forward at all,” Napier continued. “You'd be surprised how consumed you can become with getting a team ready to play a football game. Our routine is pretty set from a staff standpoint. Since Sunday, we've been clicking away, moving through each phase of our plan.

“And that's gone well. So I don't expect it to be a distraction. It obviously hasn't been for me. It's in the back of your mind at times, but my focus is solely on getting our team ready, our offense ready, our quarterback ready to play."

Napier lettered four times (1999-02) at Furman and was a two-time captain as a starting quarterback. He holds the Paladin career record for completion percentage (64.8) and is third in school history in passing yards (4,247). He also set the school single-season record with 2,475 passing yards and was a finalist for the Walter Payton Award (FCS National Player-of-the-Year) during the 2002 season.

He and his wife, Ali, are both Furman graduates.

"But it's early in the process," he said. "Whatever happens next is what I'm going to do. Whatever they want to talk about, we'll go from there. That’s really all I’d like to say about it.”

This week, the task for Napier and his offense is the 7th-ranked rushing defense of the Gamecocks. South Carolina is ranked 41st in total defense and 36th in scoring defense.

“Obviously, South Carolina has a really good defense,” Napier said. “They’re the East champion in the Southeastern Conference. They’ve had a great year. Obviously, they’ve got some good depth. They’ve recruited well. They’ve got some veteran guys. A lot of the same guys we played against last year have improved, made strides to get better individually. I think that’s led to a better group defensively.

“That’s a great challenge for our guys. We’re extremely excited about the opportunity to play. For our seniors, it’ll be their last home game. It’s our last regular season game. Obviously, there’s a lot on the line, it being an in-state rivalry.”

Napier was asked about the pass defense of the Gamecocks, which has struggled at times this season.

“They’ve been banged up, at times. They’re still relatively young back there,” he said. “Those guys played as freshmen last year, now have to play in their second year. There’s a little bit of youth in the backend. At the same time, they’ve been winning a lot of games, near the end of games. That leads to other teams being put in situations where they have to throw the ball consistently, at the end of games, in desperation situations.

“That leads to pressures and sacks, as well. It’s a product of the type of team that you have, and where you’re at in each one of those games, as they come to an end. They’re good on defense. Coach [defensive coordinator Ellis] Johnson has been around. He’s a heck of a football coach. He was head coach at The Citadel when I was at Furman, so he has been around a long time.”

Swinney said on Tuesday that running back Andre Ellington, who has been out the last three weeks with a foot injury, would be a game-time decision, and Napier said having Ellington back for just a few plays would give Jamie Harper a needed rest during the game.

“The last two weeks, we’ve been really solely basing our running back position off Jamie Harper,” he said. “He’s played a large number of snaps the last two games. If we get Andre back, that would allow us to give Jamie a breather, and see how healthy he is and effective he can be. Today will tell us a lot about where Andre is at. The kid’s done everything we’ve asked him to do, from a rehab standpoint. I think he’s trying to get himself in position to give our team a spark. That’s the kind of guy Andre Ellington is.

“If I’ve got something left in my tank, then let’s empty it right here, one more go-round. If I can contribute to the team and make our team better, I’ll do that. I think that’s what he’s trying to do. Whether he’ll be able to do that in the next three or four days, I’m not sure, but I think it’s impressive to me that he’s willing to suck it up, go through a little bit of this pain, little bit of adversity, and try to get back on the field. I’m pleased with his effort in trying to do that.”

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