CLEMSON – It appears that Dabo Swinney has survived the annual coaching-staff raids that have become commonplace this time of year, particularly for teams of Clemson’s pedigree.
In a college football coaching landscape rife with change, Swinney’s staff has remained a relative constant.
“It’s rare. It’s uncommon in this business,” Swinney said. “We’ve had great continuity.”
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables and co-offensive coordinators Jeff Scott and Tony Elliott were names mentioned in association with multiple openings in recent weeks, but Swinney says he doesn’t waste time fretting about potential departures.
“I don’t get too caught up in all that stuff,” said Swinney, whose top-ranked team is preparing to face No. 4 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1. “Whatever is going to happen is going to happen.”
The few departures on his staff in recent years have been attributable to upward mobility, as in former offensive coordinator Chad Morris to a head coaching position in 2014, and former defensive ends coach Marion Hobby to the NFL and former defensive tackles coach Dan Brooks to retirement, both last year.
“If somebody gets an opportunity to go and be a head coach, I’m always willing to help and be happy for them,” Swinney said. “When we have guys leave, it’s for some type of advancement.”
Sometimes that advancement comes by staying put.
“We’ve developed our staff, and when we’ve had opportunities we’ve been able to promote some guys from within,” Swinney said. “That has allowed us to have that continuity as well.”Buy Photo
It's also helped spur plenty of success.
Clemson is 41-3 with Scott and Elliott serving as co-offensive coordinators over the past three seasons. They’ve been on staff for 10 and seven years, respectively.
Because Swinney has been able to hold on to his primary assistants, including Venables, who is in his sixth season, the benefits are tangible, both on the field, where the Tigers have posted seven-straight seasons with 10 or more wins, and in recruiting, where they've hauled in eight consecutive Top 15 classes.
“You’re not starting over as far as who we are as a program,” Swinney said. “People know the philosophies, the way we do things, the recruiting relationships — you really don’t have gaps in that stuff. You hand the baton off and just keep going.”
Clemson’s newest coach, Todd Bates, has fit in seamlessly in his first year since replacing Brooks “He hit the ground running,” Swinney said. “He’s brought great energy.”
Swinney admitted that he’s impressed by Alabama’s perpetual success despite losing assistant coaches on a regular basis.
“That’s a credit to coach (Nick) Saban because he’s had a ton of change on his staff, it seems like every year,” Swinney said. “At the end of the day it all starts with him, and he knows what he wants and what it looks like.
“It’s no different here. It makes it a lot easier when you’re on the same page, but when you have change, I embrace that, too. It’s fun to be able to teach a new guy who we are and why we do things the way we do and create that vibe. If you’ve got a good plan and something you believe in, you should be able to maintain some consistency.”
Scott Keepfer, The Greenville News