After a second consecutive three-game losing season, Dabo Swinney is re-entering the Clemson program. Last year, the Tigers head coach was promoted from within when former coordinators Brent Venables (Oklahoma) and Tony Elliott (Virginia) got head coaching jobs.
But after firing offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter on Thursday, ESPN sources said Swinney would appoint TCU’s Garrett Riley to the same job. It’s a shake-up in a program known for its continuity – Swinney hadn’t fired an assistant coach since 2011 before that move.
Riley is coming off the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assist while helping guide the Horned Frogs to the national title game in his first season in Fort Worth.
What kind of playcaller do the Tigers get? What does he say about Clemson’s condition? And what’s next for TCU? David M. Hale and Dave Wilson break it all down.
What prompted this move from Clemson?
It’s hard to say that Streeter was to blame for Clemson’s offensive woes in 2022. The truth is, in his first year as coordinator, Streeter actually steered the offense to significantly better numbers than in 2021. But Streeter was also largely a continuation of Clemson’s past. He might not have been responsible for the slowdown, but it seemed clear that he wasn’t going to steer things in a new – and necessary – direction. Instead, Swinney seems to have found someone in Riley who can add some serious spice to an offense that was, from an X’s and O’s perspective, pretty vanilla. Vanilla has worked with Trevor Lawrence and Deshaun Watson and a host of NFL fullbacks and receivers. Without them, vanilla would have just seemed… bland.
But maybe the other big problem here is QB Cade Klubnik. After DJ Uiagalelei’s failed experiment, Clemson can’t afford to see another top-notch QB fall short of expectations. That Klubnik couldn’t earn the job throughout the regular season despite hiccuping Uiagalelei, and that his performance in the bowl game also showed some serious freshman missteps, one has to think that a change needed to be made to ensure Klubnik’s talents aren’t wasted, and he may look more like Lawrence than Uiagalelei in 2023. Given Riley’s success in turning a solid but unspectacular QB into Max Duggan into a Heisman runner-up, it’s also a “no apologies” decision for Klubnik. — Hale
What does that say about where Swinney thinks the program is?
It’s hard to know exactly what Swinney’s state of mind is. He bristled at the slightest criticism last offseason when outsiders suggested his promotion of two insiders to playcaller positions – Streeter and Wes Goodwin – might have been too short-sighted. He also spent almost all of 2022 praising Uiagalelei, even lambasting the media for doubting the QB – then benched Uiagalelei three times during the season and admitted, after the Premier League game. ACC, which he hoped Klubnik would take over for weeks. Now, he’s finally backtracked on his insistence that Streeter was the right man for the OC job, and he’s off to land a fish as big as there are in the coordinator ranks. Perhaps the real takeaway here is that Swinney has a formula he believes in, but he’s also smart enough to know when something isn’t working. What remains to be seen, however, is whether this is the latest of the personnel changes and, perhaps more importantly, whether he changes his view on the transfer portal to respond as well. to certain limitations of the list. — Hale
What kind of coordinator does Clemson get Garrett Riley?
Riley, like his brother Lincoln, was a quarterback under Mike Leach at Texas Tech, then started his coaching career in a humble way, as a QB coach at a West Texas high school, then places such as Augustana, East Carolina, Kansas and Appalachian State. , where he was a running backs coach. TCU coach Sonny Dykes thought he supplemented his own passing philosophies with a detailed running game plan, so he elevated him to OC/QB coach and primary playmaker at SMU . In his first season in 2020, with Shane Buechele at QB, the Mustangs averaged 38.6 points per game, 15th nationally. The following year, with Oklahoma’s transfer to QB Tanner Mordecai, the offense ranked 10th, led the AAC in passing, and averaged 38.4 points per game. Then, during his freshman year at TCU, he helped turn Duggan from a four-year-old starter who had never thrown for more than 2,100 yards or 16 touchdowns in a season, into a Heisman runner-up who had 3,698 yards and 32 touchdowns. Riley is a patient playmaker who isn’t all flash, but instead mixes a powerful running attack – Kendre Miller has run over 1,200 yards between tackles this season – with a streamlined Air Raid passing scheme to exhaust defenses and pop big plays. Riley has already done wonders in just three seasons as a coordinator. — Wilson
What’s the first order of business for Riley at Clemson?
Riley has to assess everything. The five offensive assistants on the field, prior to Streeter’s firing, had no FBS coaching experience outside of their time at Clemson. Will Riley want to keep this staff intact? Clemson’s receiving corps has failed to develop young talent in recent years, and in each of the past two seasons the offense has relied heavily on genuine freshmen. Could there be options in the portal to help add a veteran presence? Will Shipley is a budding star, but his use under Streeter has always been a bit odd. Riley will have to figure out how to maximize such a valuable weapon. The offensive line showed some flashes of improvement under first-year coach Thomas Austin last season, but they also gave up 26 pressures in the Capital One Orange Bowl against Tennessee. But again, no issue is more important to Riley than turning Klubnik from freshman with potential into another Heisman candidate. The fate of Clemson’s offense will hinge as much on that relationship as it does on any changes to the offensive scheme. — Hale
Where does TCU go from here?
Dykes has a vision of what he needs in a coordinator. During his first five years as head coach, he had Tony Franklin, a longtime Air Raid assistant, leading the offense. Since then, he’s mentored young coaches, like Jake Spavital at Cal and Rhett Lashlee at SMU, both of whom went on to become head coaches. Despite Dykes’ background as a playcaller, his assistants have the freedom to plan and play, which makes the job appealing. In nine of the past 11 seasons, Dykes offenses have ranked at least 22nd, with three top-10 performances. He has a network of options as the air raid has proliferated in college football. This position is one he can handle with confidence. — Wilson