Written by: Corey Fravel
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An oil change wasn’t what was needed two years ago at Clemson. When business moguls take over or buy failed business they understand that most if not all of the employees have to be replaced and a better plan needs to be in place to make the business profitable again. When Clemson dismissed Tommy Bowden that sent the message it was a failing business.
Fall of 08- Tommy Bowden quits/fired and the Clemson nation has hope. Enter Dabo Swinney, his charismatic nature and salesmanship rallied the Clemson nation and “All In” was the catch phrase we all thought we needed. Gutting out some close wins and Dabo Swinney turned from “interim” coach to full time head coach. Hiring Dabo Swinney at the time was a huge risk and the house was divided on his hire.
Conventional wisdom says to hire an experienced head coach and gut the staff. It was almost unfair to even ask Swinney to take on this challenge.
Part of the Clemson nation was furious that mean old ESPN would question hiring Billy Napier as OC, Andre Powell as RB coach, Brad Scott at OL and Jeff Scott at WR coach. The offensive staff was the whole reason Bowden was gone.
It was over looked that no one criticized the hiring of Kevin Steele, Dan Brooks and Charlie Harbison. You see the defensive changes were the oil change. They brought the experience the Tigers needed.
Year one Clemson rode CJ Spiller and Jacoby Ford ending the year getting romped in Columbia, an ACC championship game loss to GT and a bowl win farewell to all world Tiger CJ Spiller.
Year two Tiger fans want to see Clemson take the next step and take another trip to the ACCCG. Again mean old ESPN says with the loss of CJ Spiller, Jacoby Ford and Michael Palmer will have Tigers finishing third or worse in their own division.
Sunshine abounds in Tigertown and the Orange Nation is ready for a 8,9 or 10 win season. Those of us who understand football un-emotionally had a lump in our throat after the loss at Auburn. Then the loss to Miami with six turnovers in Death Valley and we had that sick feeling in our stomach. Two wheels were in the ditch and it was a matter of time before the car crashed and burned.
Sickening losses to UNC and BC followed. A window opened for a destiny game at FSU only for Tiger fans to see more missed FG’s, poor play calling and an offense that has no identity and a QB who has officially packed it in. Dominating FSU like no one else did on the offensive and defensive lines, a Kyle Parker interception at the FSU 2 yard line and a 52 yard FG later ended the Tigers last grasp at the ACC Atlantic.
The year ends with South Carolina embarrassing Clemson in Death Valley and losing to the less talented USF Bulls. The highlight of the season was just how good the defense played and how they kept Clemson in almost every game.
Don’t blame Dabo Swinney he did what he thought would work after all he was learning on the fly. He tried to keep together the tight nit group from Bowden’s failed offensive staff in hopes that his enthusiasm and hard work would make the offense work. Clemson needed a major engine rebuild not an oil change. It was clear the Tigers needed outside guidance to fix the 87th ranked offense in the nation.
January 9th Clemson got the start of the rebuild on offense with a new OC Chad Morris, RB coach Tony Elliott and OL coach Robbie Caldwell. The Tigers got an oil change with the addition of Marion Hobby as defensive line coach.
Hope is in the air again. On the eve of the national signing day week the Tigers may have the best recruiting class Clemson has ever seen. Fans are again chomping at the bit to see the “HUNH” – hurry up no huddle offense and all the new toys for OC Chad Morris to play with.
These are all great hires and the staff of assistants coach Swinney has put together is as good as anyones. Just remember there will be growing pains this year. Clemson will likely not play for the ACCC.
The offense will make great strides, the defense will learn to play with a new secondary and the whole offensive side of the ball will have a huge learning curve going from having 65 plays a game to 75-80, learning to take fitness to another level and learn how to win.
Prepare yourself Tiger Nation, Clemson literally doesn’t know how to win and close teams yet. This year the Tigers will take their lumps on the road to improvement. 2-5 games in the new WR’s will “get it” and begin what should be a fun ride.
Now is the time to back your Tigers but with patience and realistic expectations because even though Clemson is two years in to Swinney’s tenure it might as well be his first because Clemson did in January of 2011 what they should have done two years ago.