CLEMSON — Having Trevor Lawrence back at quarterback is a nice plus after his dazzling performances in lopsided College Football Playoff wins over Notre Dame and Alabama. Other reasons Clemson is the popular No. 1 pick going into the 2019 football season are running back Travis Etienne, wide receivers Justyn Ross, Tee Higgins and Amari Rodgers and a veteran offensive line.
But within the sausage-making process of spring practice — which includes replacing seven starters on defense — staff stability is huge, too.
Rare is the national champion with a group of coaches that return intact.
“We speak the same language,” Swinney said. “You can get from point A to point B a lot quicker. You just all know the expectations; you know each other.
“It’s good. It’s just one less box to check. When you have a lot of change — or even if you have just one (new coach) — you’re having to coach the coach, too.”
Brent Venables has been defensive coordinator since the start of the 2012 season.
Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott were promoted to offensive co-coordinators just before a 40-6 win over Oklahoma in the 2014 Russell Athletic Bowl.
“Whether it’s Brent or myself, or Jeff or Tony, we can go to work,” Swinney said. “And we can kind of focus on where the players are and try to get them to where they need to be.”
Compare that with Alabama.
Swinney’s staff stability is only slightly less surprising than Nick Saban’s sweeping changes over the last two years.
Saban had six new assistants for the 2018 season, which ended with a 44-16 loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff national championship game.
This year, Alabama has seven new assistants, including offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. Pete Golding, Jeff Banks and Karl Scott are the only Alabama holdovers from the 2018 staff, and Golding has been promoted to defensive coordinator.
Sarkisian was offensive coordinator at Alabama for one game during the 2017 season – the Tide’s 35-31 loss to Clemson in the national championship game in Tampa. He was promoted just after Lane Kiffin left for Florida Atlantic.
Sarkisian then left to become offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons.
Before returning to replace Mike Locksley, who left to become head coach at Maryland.
While there were no changes to the Clemson coaching staff, Swinney’s support staff got a notable addition in Chansi Stuckey.
A former Clemson and NFL wide receiver, Stucki led the Tigers in catches in 2005 and 2006 (and punt returns in 2005) when Swinney was wide receivers coach on Tommy Bowden’s staff.
Swinney got a kick out of pointing to Clemson’s current group of elite NFL prospect pass catchers and comparing them to Stuckey and Tyler Grisham, another former Clemson and NFL receiver on Swinney’s support staff.
“It’s not fair,” Swinney joked with Scott, the wide receivers coach. “Look at what I had to work with.”
Clemson will practice Monday and Wednesday and then take spring break off, returning for a March 25 practice.
The annual spring game is April 6 at 2:30 p.m. (ESPN2).
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.