Recruiting of coaching staff the key to Clemson’s success


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Brandon Streeter is one of the bright young coaches on Clemson's staff
Brandon Streeter is one of the bright young coaches on Clemson's staff

One of the strengths of Dabo Swinney’s tenure as Clemson’s head coach has been recruiting.

There’s no denying the level of talent on the Tigers’ football roster has been taken up a notch since Swinney took over. And that starts with Swinney’s well-known recruiting exploits.

But Swinney’s recruiting is also tremendous in another area, which is probably overlooked by some – his coaching staff.

Clemson has one of the best coaching staffs in the country, and that has been huge in the development of the program and all of its success in recent seasons.

Just look at the hires he has made at the top of his staff for evidence of that. Billy Napier was Swinney’s first offensive coordinator, but when that didn’t work out as planned, Swinney brought in Chad Morris from a smaller program (Tulsa) to run the Tigers’ offense. The result was an offensive explosion unlike the program had ever seen. Records have been broken, and wins piled up, and a lot of that success can be attributed to the Morris hire.

But Swinney’s hire at the top of the staff on the other side of the ball is just as important. When Kevin Steele’s tenure as the defensive coordinator ran its course, Swinney hired Brent Venables from a high-profile program (Oklahoma) to run the defense, and that unit has taken off since, even when the team has lost talent to graduation and/or the NFL. The past two seasons, the defense has lot of lot of big names, and there were plenty of concerns how the Venable’s unit would respond.

But behind Venables’ leadership, the defense has just kept rolling along, and there’s no real reason to think that will end. Venables has a veteran staff to work with – Dan Brooks (associate head coach/defensive tackles), Marion Hobby (co-defensive coordinator/defensive ends) and Mike Reed (defensive backs) – and that has worked out nicely.

Swinney’s ability to keep that group together says a lot about him and those coaches’ desire to work in a stable situation. It’s a good bet those coaches have had other opportunities, but there hasn’t been much turnover on that side of the ball. Reed, in fact, has the shortest tenure on the defensive staff, and he has been with Clemson since 2013.

On offense, Clemson has a younger staff – Jeff Scott (co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers), Tony Elliott (co-offensive coordinator/running backs), Danny Pearman (assistant head coach/tight ends) and Brandon Streeter (recruiting coordinator/quarterbacks) along with veteran offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell – and that approach has worked, as well. Pearman, Streeter, Scott and Elliott all played for Clemson, and Scott, Elliott and Streeter are all talented, younger coaches.

Landing Caldwell was a big get for the offensive staff, and the line has continued to grow during his tenure, while Pearman has done a terrific job with the tight ends. But the younger coaches really shined in their first year as a group last season as Elliott and Scott stepped up to replace Morris running the offense (when he left to become the head coach at SMU) and Streeter took over his quarterback duties.

All three look like they could be headed to big things in their futures, maybe even head coaching duties and running their own programs.

It’s an interesting mix that Swinney has molded on the staff, and it certainly has worked. The combination of veteran and younger coaches has pushed this program and the coaching staff to elite status.

Swinney hasn’t followed one blue print or one plan with his staff. There are veteran coaches who have come in and stayed, and there are younger coaches who have grown their way through the program. He has gone to smaller programs and bigger ones to hire coaches.

But no matter which way he has gone, he has put together one of the best staffs in the country.
And that starts with Swinney’s ability to recruit good coaches, keep them and replace them with good coaches when they move on.

Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., and co-host of The Midday Sports Zone on Middle Georgia’s ESPN, 93.1 FM and 99.5 FM. Follow him on Twitter at @DM_Shirley and read his blog at macon.com/peachsports


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