New Staff Beginning to Come Together

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON -- It has been a BUSY couple of days in Tiger Town, and for the most part, the news is all good. Very good in fact.

First off, Jacksonville had better watch, because an orange storm is going to descend on that city later this month. Who would have thought a month ago that the Tigers would be playing in a New Years Day bowl game, and that the opponent would have the historical significance to Tiger Nation that Nebraska does.

The official announcement will be made later today, and there is no doubt that TigerNetters, with their emails and calls and faxes, made a huge difference in the bowl choosing Clemson over Florida St.

Also, Swinney said he didn't think there would be any staff changes until after the bowl game, but several pieces are already starting to fall into place.

The Tigers are losing defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, who is a great defensive coach, and will most undoubtedly land a pretty good job somewhere. And who he is replaced by might be the hardest decision Dabo Swinney has faced in his young coaching career – the returning defensive players have a ton of talent, and how far Swinney can take the program next season might have a lot to do with how well the young linebackers and defensive linemen progress.

Former University of Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis has already told several news outlets that he is interested in the job at Clemson, but it is unclear whether Swinney is interested or contacted him.

Chavis, who has a Native American heritage and hails from Dillon, S.C., and had coached at Tennessee since 1989. He, along with Bob Stoops, has been credited with bringing the zone blitz into college football, and as recently as 1996 was named the Assistant Football Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association.

Recently, however, his teams have been known more for lining up their secondary players anywhere from 5-to-15 yards off the players they are covering, and the defense has struggled. That was one of the issues Swinney, who pushes a strong, man-in-your-face, attacking scheme, had with Koenning.

Also, Danny Pearman is returning home, having been hired by Swinney, and will coach tight ends and tackles. Pearman is in his first season as the Maryland tight ends/special teams coach, joining that staff last January, and has coached in 15 bowl games, including two Division I-A national championship games.

Pearman won three letters as a tight end at Clemson from 1983 through 1987, and he was named a strength and conditioning All-American. He helped the Tigers win two ACC football championships.

Other notes on Pearman:

• Pearman spent the 2007 season at Duke University where he coached tight ends and oversaw special teams.

• Last season, the Blue Devils improved in four of five special teams categories from 2006.

• Duke ended 2007 ranked No. 26 nationally in kickoff return yardage defense, while Jabari Marshall was third in the ACC in kickoff returns (24.6 ypr).

• Pearman coached defensive ends and assisted with special teams at the University of North Carolina in 2006. During that year, Connor Barth was a perfect 10-for-10 in field goal attempts, Brandon Tate was second in the ACC in punt returns and the Tar Heels' kickoff return yardage defense was 14th nationally.

• Prior to those two stops, he spent eight years (1998-2005) at Virginia Tech, serving as the Hokies' tight ends/offensive tackles coach. He also assisted Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer with special teams. Beamer is renowned as one of the top special teams coaches in the nation.

• Pearman helped lead the Hokies to eight consecutive bowl games and coached in the 1999 national championship game (Sugar Bowl) against Florida State. During Tech's march to the national title game, Pearman's tight ends caught 17 passes, 16 of which went for first downs.

• In addition, Pearman mentored Jeff King, an All-ACC tight end who was a fifth-round pick of the Carolina Panthers in the 2006 NFL Draft, as well as Bob Slowikowski, a tight end selected in the sixth round by the Dallas Cowboys in 2002.

• He coached at the University of Alabama from 1990 through 1997, which included a national title in 1992 and five other bowl games appearances.

• After helping guide the Crimson Tide to a national championship victory over Miami, he contributed to Alabama winning Southeastern Conference Western Division titles the next four years.

• Pearman was a graduate assistant at Alabama for two years, and then served as coach of the offensive tackles from 1991 to 1996. He coached the defensive tackles and special teams in 1997.

• Following graduation, Pearman began his coaching career as a graduate assistant with the Tigers in 1988 and 1989. The Tigers won the ACC championship again in 1988 and went to bowl games in both of Pearman's seasons.

• In all, Pearman has coached in 10 bowl game wins -- 1989 Gator, 1991 Blockbuster, 1993 Sugar, 1993 Gator, 1995 Citrus, 1996 Outback, 1998 Music City, 2001 Gator and 2003 San Francisco.

Also rumored to be hired this week is Charlie Harbison, who comes to Clemson from Mississippi State, where he was the defensive coordinator. He will coach the secondary for Clemson, a job held by Koenning. Harbison was named the defensive coordinator of the Bulldogs after just one season on Sylvester Croom's staff.

Also according to the Miss. St. website:

Harbison, 47, went to Starkville following four years in his second tour of duty on the staff at the University of Alabama. He coached the Crimson Tide wide receivers during his most recent stint. Harbison helped The Tide to a 26-24 overall record during that stretch, including berths in the 2004 Music City, '06 Cotton Bowl and Independence Bowl last December.

Sandwiched between those two Alabama assignments, Harbison coached the defensive backfield at LSU in 2001 and '02. He was a member of the Tiger coaching staff that directed the 2001 LSU team to an SEC Championship Game win over Tennessee. During his two years, LSU finished 18-8 overall and played in the 2002 Sugar and 2003 Cotton Bowls. Corey Webster, who played under Harbison his first two years in Baton Rouge, finished his career second on the school's all-time pass interception list.

Prior to his first stint at Alabama, Harbison served as the defensive backs coach at Clemson from 1995-97. The Atlantic Coast Conference Tigers posted a 22-14 mark during those three years, ending those seasons in the Gator and back-to-back Peach Bowls.

He also coached the secondary at UTEP (1994) and served twice at his alma mater, Gardner-Webb, coaching wide receivers (1992-93) and defensive backs (1984-85).

In addition to his collegiate coaching experience, Harbison worked in both the Arena Football League and the World League of American Football. His professional football coaching resume includes serving as defensive coordinator for the Charlotte Rage (1993).

A native of Shelby, N.C., Harbison graduated from Gardner-Webb College in 1995. A two-sport star in football and track on the college level, he was a free-agent signee of the Buffalo Bills following his senior season.

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