CLEMSON – Last offseason Clemson’s offensive coaching staff made spring visits to Nevada - to learn more about the pistol formation - and to Oklahoma State, to study how to get elite receivers the ball when everyone in the stadium knows they are prime targets.
The pistol formation was largely credited with improving Clemson running game. Clemson was often in the pistol and rushed for nearly 300 yards against Auburn in the season opener. It became a go-to formation for the Tigers throughout the season. In the passing game, Clemson receiver DeAndre Hopkins broke single-season program receiving records in catches, yards and touchdowns.
Clemson made wise visits last spring and the coaches have been scouring the country again for answers this offseason. Clemson’s offensive assistants traveled to Arizona State earlier this offseason to meet with the Sun Devils’ offensive staff, which is led by 31-year-old coordinator Mike Norvell. Novell was an assistant with Morris at Tulsa when Morris was the offensive coordinator there in 2010.
Clemson also hosted much of Ohio State’s offensive staff, including coordinator Tom Herman. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer did not make the visit, though Meyer clearly likes the Clemson offense having tried to hire away Chad Morris after the 2011 season.
“The coaches went out to Arizona State and had a really good trip out there,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said, “and we brought Ohio State staff here. …. We learn from everybody. We don’t have all the answers here, we are far from that.”
Clemson had another interesting visitor: an NFL team. The Atlanta Falcons defensive staff visited earlier this spring. Visits from pro teams are something Swinney believes will become a trend for college staffs.
“I’d be surprised if there’s not an NFL team that hasn’t gone and spent some time with (college) coaches in the offseason,” Swinney said. “(NFL teams are studying) the zone-read and what you are trying to coach offensively, but also things that give you problems from a defensive standpoint, like studying the pistol, with what you’ve seen in the league over the last year with RG3, (Colin) Kaepernick and Russell Wilson and the success they’ve had with the read option.
“Football coaches, they beg, borrow and steal from everybody they can get something from. We don’t just give them information, we learn as much as we can.”
In good hands:
Swinney said sophomore Zac Brooks has looked excellent at tailback this spring, particularly his pass catching out of the backfield. While Swinney has noted Roderick McDowell is the No. 1 tailback, he indicated Brooks and D.J. Howard will be part of a rotation that is something of a timeshare.
“(Brooks) looks like he’s been here a year,” Swinney said. “He’s catching the ball well…. We’ll need all of them.”
Dabo said it:
Swinney on senior quarterback Tajh Boyd: “He’s got a real sense of urgency (he knows) it’s against the rules for him to stay another year.”