CLEMSON – Close your eyes a few seconds. Postpone last-minute shopping. Imagine college football bowl season version 2021.
Yes, it’s the Medal of Honor Bowl at Charleston’s Johnson Hagood Stadium, Virginia vs. Kentucky. What a clash, what a coincidence: former Clemson offensive coordinators, ex-Tiger teammates and best buddies capping their first season as head coaches by facing each other.
Or maybe it will be Wake Forest vs. Ole Miss in the Camping World Independence Bowl. Maybe before 2021.
For now, Jordan Leggett knows he has it good. Not only does Clemson’s senior tight end get to catch passes from two-time Heisman Trophy finalist Deshaun Watson, he is surrounded by enough wide receiver talent to fill a few good rosters as he prepares for a Dec. 31 College Football Playoff clash with Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.
He also benefits from a pair of young offensive coordinators on their way to becoming head coaches, and good ones.
“They will both make pretty extraordinary head coaches,” Leggett said. “Coach Elliott, the way he knows the offense, the way he breaks down tape, the way he gets ready and prepared for games … It’s just ridiculous, honestly. Coach Elliott is probably the best guru you’ll ever meet.
“Coach Scott is a great offensive coordinator. At the same time he’s one of the best recruiters in the nation. He goes out and gets top tier guys every year.”
It’s good for Clemson that Elliott and Scott are well aware they are still in their second year of the coordinator thing, not out there beating bushes large and small for head coach gigs. But as the Tigers continue to thrive, it’s only a matter of time before these guys are representatives of the Dabo Swinney/Chad Morris Coaching Tree somewhere other than Death Valley.
27-2 as coordinators
“I go by the philosophy of ‘Bloom where you’re planted,’” said Scott, who turns 36 on Wednesday. “That’s something I’ve heard Coach (Dabo) Swinney say. Really, the premise behind that is that if you just do a great job every day in the job you have, eventually people will recognize that and you’ll get your opportunity.”
It sounds like the almost inseparable professionals have talked about this.
“I’m a man of faith. I believe when it is open, I’ll be led to go through that door,” said Elliott, 37. “The way I’ve lived my life is never to focus on the next step, to always be prepared for the next step. I’m happy here. I’ve got a ton to learn.”
Morris carefully groomed Elliott and Scott before leaving the Clemson offensive coordinator spot to return to his native Texas for the SMU head coach job after the 2014 regular season. The Clemson playbook still has Morris’ fingerprints all over it.
But a 40-6 walloping of Oklahoma in the 2014 Russell Athletic Bowl was no fluke.
Elliott and Scott, 27-2 as coordinators, know what they’re doing.
Elliott benefits from a scholarly approach to play-calling rooted in an industrial engineering background (he worked for Michelin North America for two years).
Scott learned a lot from his father.
‘Face of a program’
Part of the skill set is knowing when to look, leap or stay put. Current Clemson staff continuity is built around three things (not necessarily in order):
• Success on the field
• Swinney’s family-friendly management style
• Gobs of cash
Elliott and Scott each received 56.3 percent pay boosts in March, raising their 2016 salaries to $625,000 (Morris made $1.3 million).
“It’s one thing to be able to coach at a place like Clemson with all the success that we’ve had and where we feel we’re headed,” Scott said, “but also to be able to do that at your alma mater and at a place where my wife graduated. This is just a very special time in our life.”
Having a great quarterback makes preparation and games easier, too.
“When we have a young man like Deshaun Watson who understands what we’re trying to do and understands the alternative plan if it’s not there, he makes me look good,” Elliott said.
It doesn’t always work out. The unemployment ranks are peppered with standout coordinators who were unable to make the transition to head coach or got stuck in the muck of poor programs.
But Swinney and Leggett agree that Elliott and Scott will make “great head coaches.” Eventually.
“I could definitely see each of them being the face of a program somewhere,” Leggett said.
Perhaps in a bowl game against each other.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff