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Clemson's 'Coach Stiff' generates laughs, big plays for Tigers' football team

Charlotte Clemson Football (copy)

Clemson defensive end Logan Rudolph knocks down a pass thrown by Charlotte quarterback Chris Reynolds during their game on Sept. 21. Richard Shiro/AP

CLEMSON — There's perhaps nothing Logan Rudolph relishes more than a captive audience, and Tuesday afternoon at Clemson's practice facility, that's what the defensive end got.

As Rudolph sat down in front of media members, a Tigers staffer made an announcement:

"So, actually, before we open up questions to Logan Rudolph, we have a special guest, making some introductory comments. 'Coach Stiff.'"

With that, Rudolph slid a pair of glasses up to the edge of his nose, cocked his head to the right and pretended to talk into his cell phone.

"Big boy, how ya doin?'" Rudolph said, frowning, his voice taking on a gravely tone. "This is 'Coach Stiff'. I know it's been awhile since we've talked. Listen, I know Rivals had you listed as a 5-star (recruit), but buddy I wanted to let you know that you're a 6-star in our book. ... There's no reason to rush this decision. There's no reason to circumcise the mosquito, so to speak."

Rudolph introduced the 'Coach Stiff' persona in an Instagram video posted in July. The alter ego is a humorous nod to how some college coaches speak with high school players during the recruiting process and has become a hit with his teammates and coaches.

Saturday evening against Boston College, Rudolph was the center of attention again, but not because of his dry sense of humor. Early in the third quarter, the redshirt sophomore picked up a loose ball and returned it 39 yards for his first career college touchdown.

Safety Tanner Muse, who referred to Rudolph as, "my dude," said he heard the Chariots of Fire theme in his head as Rudolph recovered the fumble, which was forced by linebacker Chad Smith, and rumbled into the end zone. 

"He just throws his whole body into whatever he's doing," Muse said. "He probably uses his hands the best of anybody on the team, just being able to get off blocks, stay alive."

Rudolph added three tackles in the victory, as the Tigers' defensive line — an oft-questioned group in the offseason and lacking experience — was the story of the win. Clemson held Boston College, which entered the contest leading the ACC in rushing, to 97 yards on the ground.

It was a performance that left defensive coordinator Brent Venables pleased. Rudolph's scoop-and-score added to the good vibes as the line was without standout defensive end Xavier Thomas (concussion) for the second straight game. Coach Dabo Swinney said Tuesday that Thomas has not yet been cleared to return to the field. 

In the meantime, Rudolph has provided a boost.

"He's got a great get-off, so he gets his hands on people first, a lot," Venables said. "Plays with great leverage. Really, really strong pound for pound."

The 6-foot-2, 245-pound Rudolph is cognizant of his physical limitations as a defensive end. But he doesn't let his shortcomings define his play.

"I am by no means a specimen as far as my measurables," Rudolph said. "I am an undersized d-end and I know that. So I really do have to sell out on every play and give it my all, because I know there's other guys out there who may be bigger, faster or stronger than me."

But Rudolph, a Rock Hill native whose brother, Mason, is the starting quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, also provides a welcome change of pace in the locker room. Swinney said he's "hilarious." Muse said he's "ridiculous."

His sense of humor was evident in his college decision video. Shirtless and in short jean shorts, Rudolph appears in frame chopping a tree with an axe:

"Oh, I didn't see you there," he says in the video. "Just wanted to thank my family and coaches and everyone who's recruited me. But I'll be committing to Clemson."

"He's a character, for sure," Muse said.

Muse said Rudolph often sends him videos of skits, some of which are not "family friendly," but Rudolph's 'Coach Stiff' persona seems to have resonated with the team the most.

After Saturday's win over Boston College, Swinney called 'Coach Stiff' up to address the team, without warning Rudolph first. On Tuesday, Swinney recreated the moment. 

"Well, men," Swinney said, pointing his chin, altering his voice. "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."

Follow Joshua Needelman on Twitter at @joshneedelman.

Joshua Needelman covers Clemson for The Post and Courier. He's a Long Island, N.Y., native and a University of Maryland graduate.

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