This Week in Coaching: Why Clemson fans should be encouraged by Dabo Swinney's early spring comments, plus Alabama coordinators gets paid
Dabo Swinney showed how serious he was about fixing Clemson’s clunky offense when he poached wunderkind coordinator Garrett Riley away from TCU this offseason, and after just a single spring scrimmage, the Tigers’ head coach feels even stronger about his statement hire.
“Coach Riley’s done a great job. Offensively, we’ve got a lot in. We’ve actually been able to get a lot done. Probably the biggest thing, procedurally, we’ve really been clean,” Swinney said Wednesday following Clemson’s closed scrimmage.
“So I’m just very encouraged by what we’ve been able to do to this point.”
Dabo Swinney then made perhaps his most noteworthy takeaway, adding, “I’d say we’re ahead of where I thought we may have been at this point – going in, a lot of new people. Obviously doing some things new offensively systematically a little bit and some terminology. And they’ve done a great job. Coaches have done an awesome job. Really, really pleased with where we are right now.”
If true, that’s potentially monumental for a Clemson program looking for some offensive jet fuel to rocket them back into the College Football Playoff conversation this fall.
The Tigers haven’t been bad offensively the last two seasons, but no one would confuse them with being any good, either. Running an antiquated scheme that produced far too few “layups,” Clemson ranked 58th nationally in offensive EPA. The Tigers were 66th in explosiveness and 72nd in yards per play (5.6).
Swinney specifically targeted Riley because the reigning Broyles Award winner has shown an ability to develop quarterbacks and produce chunk plays (the Horned Frogs were 4th nationally in plays over 20 yards in 2022).
Former 5-star Cade Klubnik has a full spring to work with the 1s and operate Riley’s hybrid Air Raid scheme. The Tigers plan to implement more tempo — a Riley staple — next season, and the fact that Swinney said the offense hasn’t had many “procedural issues” suggests there hasn’t been a steep learning curve for the group.
“We can dictate the tempo. We can go fast. We kind of vary it, but we’ve got the ability to go really fast,” Dabo Swinney said.
“I think we’ve got all that installed, in terms of what we need to do procedurally. Again, that’s the thing I’m probably most pleased with is (in a new offense) you’re facing offsides, cadence issues, alignment issues, and we really haven’t had that.”
Clemson is beat up at receiver this spring, so there’s only so much progress that can be made. Still, it’s very encouraging for the Tigers that after six practices and a single scrimmage Swinney is already speaking so glowingly about the very unit that’s held his program back the last few seasons.
Billy Gonzales makes latest return to Florida
A week into spring practice, Florida filled its final opening on its offensive staff, as Billy Napier brought a familiar face back to Gainesville for a third go-round.
Billy Gonzales is once again Florida’s wideouts coach. Gonzales was a member of Urban Meyer’s staff at UF from 2005-09, and then coached Florida’s receiver from 2018-2021 as an assistant for Dan Mullen. In nine seasons as an assistant with the Gators, Gonzales has produced 10 NFL Draft picks — including first-rounders Percy Harvin and Kadarius Toney.
“Any receiver looking to go to college and be successful, I’ll say go to Florida for real, because of Billy Gonzales,” Toney said at his UF Pro Day according to Gators Online.
The former high school quarterback said Gonzales “really transformed me into what you see today.”
Gonzales spent the 2022 season at Florida Atlantic in the same role for Willie Taggert. He was briefly set to be a member of Marshall’s staff this fall before returning back to Florida this week.
Alabama’s new coordinators get paid
Nick Saban’s decision to move on from both coordinators this offseason didn’t come with a discount.
Salary details for Tide offensive coordinator Tommy Rees and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele were released this week, with both assistants set to make $1.9 million in 2023.
Rees reportedly had a similar compensation package at Notre Dame, but he received a fresh three-year deal at Alabama, with $100,000 salary escalators each season. The Tide was paying former OC Bill O’Brian $1.1 million annually, as O’Brian was also still receiving compensation from the Houston Texans.
Steele also received a three-year contract and is making slightly more than what Alabama paid Pete Goulding in 2022 ($1.73 million).
Alabama extended small raises to several other assistants, and its overall salary pool for the 10 on-field staffers is now the highest in school history at $9.17 million.