Swinney introduces coaches, said something had to change

by - Senior Writer -

Thursday's press conference audio (WMA Format)

CLEMSON – Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney introduced his three new assistant coaches at a press conference Thursday, and he said the changes were made with the intent that the program had to “move forward.”

“Bottom line is this is about moving forward,” Swinney told the assembled media as he introduced offensive coordinator Chad Morris, running backs coach Tony Elliott and defensive line coach Marion Hobby. “I did what I thought was right. This was a terrible year. I had to get us better.”

Morris drew the most interest, and with good reason. Swinney has given the keys of the offense to a coordinator who brings a long track record of success – but only one year on the collegiate level. Morris spent 18 years as a Texas high school coach, 16 of those as a head coach. His last two high school teams won 32 consecutive games and two state championships. In his lone season at the University of Tulsa, the team was fifth in total offense and eighth in scoring in the nation.

Swinney said he began contact with Morris following Clemson’s loss to South Florida in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, beginning with a list of 10 names that he whittled to seven, then to five, and then to three before settling on Morris and Texas Christian offensive coordinator Justin Fuente.

Swinney said that he and Morris had several phone conversations and liked what he heard, but wanted to meet the man in person.

“I was hoping I would like him, and I did,” Swinney said. “I love his background. All I can tell you, he’s a winner. Chemistry is a big part of it, along with character and families. This is a big hire. It was what I was looking to do offensively.”

Elliott was a walk-on receiver at Clemson, but earned a scholarship his last two seasons before graduating with an engineering degree. He worked at Michelin for two years, but was constantly hanging around the Clemson practice fields and telling Swinney how he felt like he wasn’t making a difference.

Swinney helped him land a job at S.C. State, where he worked for two years before joining Bobby Lamb’s staff at Furman. Following Lamb’s dismissal, the Paladins new head coach Bruce Fowler decided to keep Elliott on staff as recruiting coordinator, but Elliott said his dream was to come home.

Elliott said he feels like his own life story – he was in an auto accident at age nine that killed his mother, and then bounced around for the next nine years before finally coming to Clemson – can help show young men what Clemson can do in their lives.

He also said that making the transition to coaching running backs won't be a hard one.

“It has been my dream to coach at Clemson,” Elliott said. “I feel like I bring a lot to the table. I've been an offensive player my entire life. I've had a chance to see the big picture, so I've got a good feel for the scheme behind the offense. I'm looking forward to working with coach Morris. Skill guys are skill guys. Fundamentals are the same. I have tremendous resources here and I'll tap into them. I'm looking forward to the opportunity. I'm looking forward to the growth, but I don't see it as a big challenge.

“When the transition started down here, my first thought was that I'd like to come here. You just never know. Coach Swinney and I talk regularly because he's one of the mentors that I have. But I wasn't expecting it to happen. I was content. But I'm still waiting for the alarm clock to go off. It's been a mix of emotions. I'm excited to have the opportunity to represent this program. I have the ability to go in and sell who I am, because I am Clemson University. It's happened to me. I'm very blessed."

Hobby coached at Clemson in 2005, joined the New Orleans Saints for two seasons, and helped David Cutcliffe at Duke for the past three seasons.

When he heard about the openings in Clemson, he called Swinney to tell him about two of his friends, but Swinney said he was interested in only talking about Hobby.

Hobby said that like Elliott, he simply missed Clemson and was ready for a return to Tiger Town.

“I did enjoy my three years at Duke,” he said. “I thought we made big strides there. I hadn't been back at Clemson until 2008. I loved it here when I was here before. It was tough to leave here to go to the Saints. I called coach Swinney when I heard about the job opening he had. I believe in fate and things happening for a reason. I know I'm in the right spot.”

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