CLEMSON -- One of Dabo Swinney's most questioned decisions as head coach was to name then-29-year-old Billy Napier as offensive coordinator.
It turned out to be one of his best decisions.
Swinney enjoyed a moment of vindication Tuesday, noting the Tigers broke the school's all-time scoring record this season.
While the Tigers did play a school-record 14 games, Clemson's offense was productive in the second half of the season, averaging 35.6 points during the last nine games.
Combined with his recruiting prowess, Napier, the youngest power-conference coordinator, has become one of the most valuable assets on Swinney's staff.
"Billy has done a tremendous job," Swinney said. "I couldn't be more pleased with the jobs Kevin (Steele) and Billy have done. That's why I hired Billy. I had all the confidence he would do a great job. No one works harder. He's extremely organized and detailed."
Napier is also a bargain. While redoing Steele's contract is a priority, according to a source, Napier enters the final year of a two-year deal next season making a relatively modest $200,000. With the rival SEC rich with television cash, redoing Napier's contract might also be a priority.
Swinney declined to comment on contract matters Tuesday.
"It's not worth talking about on this teleconference," Swinney said. "Right now, it's not something I want to discus in the media."
Still, a priority for Swinney is keeping the staff together, noting the importance of continuity. And Swinney was especially pleased with how Napier used Clemson's offensive assets.
C.J. Spiller became the first Tiger to record 1,000 rushing yards and 500 yard receiving yards in a season.
Without a proven wide receiver alongside Jacoby Ford, Napier adapted by leaning on Clemson's tight ends. Michael Palmer caught a school-record number of receptions for a tight end (43).
"I'm really pleased with how we used C.J.," Swinney said. "Nobody really thought we would involve the tight ends."
The offense impressed Kentucky coach Rich Brooks, who said prior to the bowl game that it was more diverse and complex than the Rob Spence-led Clemson offense he faced in the 2006 Music City Bowl.
Napier also showed he could identify problems and adjust during the season.
Clemson moved from a reliance on the spread to more power sets following the loss at Maryland. The result was Clemson rushed for 180 yards or more in six of the final nine games. The Tigers rushed for similar yardage totals just once in the first five weeks.
As essentially a rookie coordinator, Napier also adjusted how he managed his time, electing to delegate more duties midway through the season to spend more time with rookie quarterback Kyle Parker. The change, in part, led to improved play from Parker and a six-game win streak.
"The biggest thing was how to devote his time on a daily basis," Swinney said. "Focus on things that were relevant each week, each game plan. I was very pleased with the system of installation."
Napier himself said earlier this year that his on-the-job training has been a process, and the yield is a promising young coordinator.
"I'm just like any of you guys," Napier said to reporters several weeks ago. "The first year doing your jobs, you were probably better midseason than those first couple of articles.
"You try to get more efficient at it. You try to motivate better. You try to discipline better. It's like any other profession. You're constantly trying to get better."
Plan B update
Swinney said Tuesday he "expects" two-sport star Kyle Parker to return next season. Still, the plan is to get backup quarterback Tajh Boyd plenty of work in spring practice. Boyd still needs to master the Clemson offense after spending much of the season playing scout-team quarterback.
"The plan is to get (Boyd) ready, whether Kyle is coming back or not," Swinney said, "because he is going to be the second (quarterback)."
Dabo Swinney said the status of injured tackle J.K. Jay is the biggest health question going into the spring. Guard Mason Cloy is recovering from a broken leg.
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