Keeping a top-notch coaching staff together is a constant struggle. Just ask Jimbo Fisher, who lost defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt to Georgia following Florida State’s National Championship.
Dan Radakovich, Clemson’s athletic director, wisely made a long term commitment to Dabo Swinney and his staff. Not only did he bump Swinney’s contract up to eight years with an annual salary exceeding $3.15 million, but Radakovich awarded over $700,000 to be spread among the assistant coaches. The head coach receives much of the fanfare, but the assistants do much of the heavy lifting for any college football program.
Staff continuity plays a major role in the long-term success of any college football program. Take a look at the staffs at Alabama, Oklahoma, and LSU and you’ll notice that each has several assistants that have been with the head coach for years. With the pay raise for the assistants, Clemson will likely have the highest paid staff in the country entering the 2014 season. There is no doubt about the CU administration’s commitment to maintaining success on the football field.
Swinney has provided enough tangible results to deserve this kind of support from the University. Under his watch, the Tigers have a 51-23 overall record, won their first ACC Championship since 1991, and, most recently, defeated Ohio State in the Orange Bowl.
The retention of superstar offensive coordinator Chad Morris, though, is the most significant news of the offseason as it pertains to the 2014 season. The Tigers have won 10 or more games in each of the past three seasons; a streak that most prognosticators believe will end this coming season. Morris, already the nation’s highest paid assistant at $1.3 million a season, has engineered one of the country’s most potent offenses.
The Tigers have finished in the top 10 in both scoring and total offense the last two seasons, but have many question marks due to significant personnel losses. QB Tajh Boyd, LT Brandon Thomas, RG Tyler Shatley, and RB Roderick McDowell exhausted their eligibility. Each garnered All-Conference honors this year. Moreover, the Tigers’ two best receivers, Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant decided to enter the NFL draft early.
Thus, Clemson will be breaking in a new quarterback, who will have to throw to an inexperienced group of receivers. Clearly, this is a tall task, but keeping Chad Morris in charge of the offense will ease the transition. He’ll earn his paycheck next year.
For the first time in years, Clemson will likely be led by their defense. The defense has improved in its first two seasons under Brent Venables and could become an elite unit this season. They return seven starters, including All-American defensive end Vic Beasley and All-ACC linebacker Stephone Anthony.
Obviously, there is a lot of work between now and August 30, when the Tigers begin the 2014 campaign against Georgia, but Clemson made the right decision to commit to Dabo Swinney and his staff. This bodes well for 2014 and beyond.
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