ACC: Danny Pearman

Clemson goes into the season in the national championship conversation, but if there is one overriding question about this team it is whether it has a championship-level defense.

How do the Tigers get there? Defensive coordinator Brent Venables should know, considering he coached a national-title-winning defense at Oklahoma in 2000 and won seven Big 12 championships during his time with the Sooners. When asked what it takes to reach a championship-caliber level, Venables said:

"It comes down to leadership, toughness, attitude, guys continuing to develop. Will our guys hold each other accountable? The best teams I’ve been associated with are player-driven. They have a special chemistry about them, a special focus, a willingness to be worked, a willingness to be coached. There’s a lot of time between now and next January. We’ve got as good a chance as anybody that’s out there. Do we have enough talent and ability? Yeah, but there are a lot of other intangibles. They have to come together, and there’s a lot of work to be done between now and when we kick off. I don’t really like to talk about all those things at the end. You have to earn it and earn it one game at a time and one day at a time. I’m a firm believer in that. That’s how I’m wired, that’s the family I’ve been brought up in this profession. It’s about the work you put in every day. If you do, you’ll have a chance. If you don’t, you won’t."

Venables is not the only coach on staff who has won a national championship. Dabo Swinney won one in 1992 as an Alabama player -- and current Clemson assistant Danny Pearman was on that Crimson Tide staff. Assistant Dan Brooks won one with Tennessee in 1998, too. Coaches on this staff have been through the drama, and the pressure, of trying to make a run at a national championship.

But it's not something any of them has even discussed with his players.

"To me, you don’t sit and promote that," Venables said. "You try to be as good as you can be today. Having an opportunity to compete for a national championship, you’ve got to win your division. You’ve got to win the opener. There are so many things that have to take place, and the good fortune you have to have to get to that point. When you start focusing on the wrong things instead of controlling the things you can control today, you’re setting yourself up for failure."

Dabo Swinney invests in his program

February, 16, 2012
2/16/12
11:15
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Talk about putting your money where your mouth is.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has taken it upon himself -- basically out of his own pocket -- to give his assistants raises.

There is a clause in Swinney's contract stating that if he won the ACC, he would rise to a certain level from a salary standpoint among ACC coaches. When he won the 2011 title, that meant this year's contract would increase by $422,000. He is taking $265,000 of that to give to his coaches. Technically, it's an allocation -- not money he has already received. It is money he would have received -- and that is the key difference between what Swinney is doing and what Georgia coach Mark Richt did.

Regardless, it's a true investment in his program -- one I've never heard of or seen elsewhere in the college coaching ranks -- and odds are it will pay off. It is proof of the literal value of coaching stability.

Swinney's decision stems from today's announcement that the Compensation Committee of the Clemson Board of Trustees approved a proposal from athletic director Terry Don Phillips to grant salary increases totaling $450,000 for seven assistant football coaches, and the head strength coach. It will be in effect for two years, and 60 percent of that money is coming from Swinney. The remaining 40 percent, or $185,000 will be provided by the athletic department.

According to the school's release, Swinney is expected to make $1.9 million in 2012, which will rank 46th nationally according to the most recent data available to Phillips. The staff, including the head coach, is expected to rank between 12th and 15th.

“Coach Swinney has opted to invest in the stability of the program with money he earned in 2011,” Phillips said in a prepared statement. “We have a young football team returning for 2012 and 2013 and he felt it was imperative to have stability from a staff standpoint. These are all options that had been in his existing contract.”

“I am extremely grateful to the Board of Trustees for its approval of these salary increases,” Swinney said in the release. “We have a great staff and I want to do everything I can to keep it together at a critical time in our program. We have a young, but talented team and I feel we have a chance to do something very special in the near future.”

Earlier, it was announced that offensive coordinator Chad Morris would earn $1.3 million and defensive coordinator Brent Venables would earn $800,000 during the 2012 season, meaning Clemson’s nine full-time assistant coaches will earn $4.2 million.

Here is the official run-down of the remaining staff salaries recently approved by the Board of Trustees:

Joey Batson (strength coach) $200,000

Dan Brooks $310,000

Robbie Caldwell $310,000

Tony Elliott $205,000

Charlie Harbison $375,000

Marion Hobby $375,000

Danny Pearman $310,000

Jeff Scott $215,000

At 29, Clemson's Napier tasked with leading Tigers' offense

April, 13, 2009
4/13/09
2:00
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson offensive coordinator Billy Napier folded his arms, leaned back in his chair in the offensive meeting room and stared at a play frozen on the projector screen.

  Clemson Athletics
  Clemson offensive coordinator Billy Napier hopes to make waves despite his age.
"Talk me through this, Kyle Parker," he said to one of his potential starting quarterbacks before a recent spring practice. "Two safeties, what are you thinking? ... We need to help these young buck receivers. Coach 'em up. Grab the guy, explain the concept to him. We gotta help those guys come along."

"Yessir," Parker said.

Their respect for Napier is evident, even though at 29 years old, he looks more like their older brother than a coordinator at a big-time BCS school.

"He's a very knowledgeable guy," Parker said. "You can tell he knows what he's talking about. He's a great guy to learn from. The plays are on the board, we're getting printouts every day -- he's always one step ahead and is always teaching us."

The thing is, Napier is learning, too.

Clemson, ranked No. 9 in the 2008 preseason, finished ranked 99th in the country in rushing offense and 88th in total offense despite having a 2,000-yard rusher, a 3,000-yard rusher, a 2,000-yard receiver and a 3,000-yard passer. While there were numerous problems and injuries up front on the patchwork offensive line, it was one of the most underutilized groups of offensive skill players in the country.

And Napier, who had never called plays at the BCS level until midway through last season when former offensive coordinator Rob Spence was fired, has been tasked with changing that.

"Yeah, I could've gone and brought some veteran guy in here, but I didn't want to have to learn his offense, and I didn't want to have to teach him what I want to do," said coach Dabo Swinney. "I have a great, young coach here. You just kind of know when things are right.

"I think he's a guy that will prove to be a great offensive coordinator, just like I hope to prove to be a great head coach. There's a lot of people out there saying to Terry Don, 'Gosh, this guy's not even 40. Why would you hire him to be the head coach at Clemson? He hasn't even been a head coach.' It's the same thing. I look at Billy in the same regard hopefully Terry Don looks at me, and that is, I believe in him."

Napier will have a few veterans in C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford and the offensive line should be notably better, but the Tigers will have a new starting quarterback. Parker, Willy Korn and Michael Wade are in a competition set to continue through August, but Parker had the best spring and put on a show in Saturday's Orange & White exhibition.

There are still plenty of questions surrounding the Tigers' offense heading into summer camp, and Napier is one of them. Those within the program, though, don't doubt his ability. Instead, they look to him for answers.

"Check that before I go any further," first-year assistant Danny Pearman said at a recent staff meeting, sliding his scripted plays in front of Napier.

"You want to run that one the other way," Napier said. "Get some vanilla looks."

"There was a respect there he had to earn, which I think he has," said offensive line coach Brad Scott, a former head coach. "The fact that he's so organized and he has a plan, you're -- as Dabo likes to say, 'all in' and want to help him and support him."

With the exception of Scott's son, Jeff, Napier is the youngest member of the staff.

"I have no trouble with it," Napier said of the age difference. "When it comes time to talk ball and get on the board, I hope they feel I look to those guys for their opinions and we make a lot of decisions as a group."

Napier's ascension to coordinator came quicker than even he expected, but he said it's something he's been preparing for since he played in college. (As a student and quarterback at Furman, Napier wrote a term paper on how he would run his own football program.)

Napier is a coach's son, and carried a lot of responsibility as the starting quarterback in Bobby Johnson's offense at Furman. He had never been a recruiting coordinator until his second year at Clemson, and he lured the No. 2 class in the country to Clemson in 2008. He had never been a tight ends coach until 2006.

"I'm just going to do as good as I can do," he said. "There's a reason I got the job. I'm looking forward to it. I've confidence in our players and our staff, and in the way I'm working. I'm going to work around the clock to get it done. ... I think we can move the ball and score points. I think I know how to win. I think I know what it takes to win. Obviously I've got a lot to learn -- make no bones about it. I want to make sure everybody knows that. I'm going to try to be as humble as I can be. But at the same time, I'm not going to be meek. That's not what's gotten me here."

This year, Napier and Swinney are intent on getting the ball to their playmakers, having the quarterback run more, becoming much more of a vertical football team, and attacking more downfield. This fall, Napier will be calling the plays from the box and Swinney will obviously have veto power from the sideline.

Clemson's offense did show some improvement in the second half of the season under Swinney and Napier, but the offense was held under 100 yards rushing four times in the final six games -- including a whopping four yards on 26 attempts in a 26-21 loss to Nebraska in the Gator Bowl.

Spiller rushed for only 17 yards in that game and only 18 in a 13-3 win over Virginia, but saw enough signs that helped convince him to return for his senior season instead of entering the NFL draft.

"I knew I was coming back in a great situation," Spiller said. "I know this -- I know coach Napier is going to do whatever he can to get me the ball and the other guys that make plays. That's what it's really all about -- just putting the ball in guys hands that are going to make plays for us."

Those within the program rave about Napier's work ethic, his attention to detail and preparedness. He and Ali Napier were married last July, and on the afternoon of their rehearsal dinner, Napier was still in the office working until around 5 p.m.

"Billy's doing his part and more," Scott said. "Obviously the proof is in the pudding as they say. We're going to have to deliver. I say 'we' collectively as a staff. It's not just all coach Napier's problem."

Maryland hires former Richmond assistant

February, 18, 2009
2/18/09
6:51
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Maryland has hired former Richmond assistant Charles Bankins to coach the special teams and tight ends, Maryland announced Wednesday. This will be Bankins' first coaching job at the FBS level, but he has ties to the area (Bankins is from Leonardtown, Md.) and is coming off a championship season at the FCS level. Bankins replaces Danny Pearman, who was hired at Clemson, his alma mater.

"Charles is very good person with a solid special teams background," coach Ralph Friedgen said in a prepared statement. "He also has local ties which should help us in recruiting. He's got a diverse background, having coached different positions and in both the NFL and college. He should be a good fit and we're glad to be able to add him to the staff."

You can find the entire press release here.

Clemson announces staff assignments

January, 12, 2009
1/12/09
2:59
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney today announced staff assignments, the most newsworthy being the official promotion of Billy Napier to offensive coordinator. Considering Napier and Swinney called plays together for the final seven games of the season, this shouldn't come as a shock.

It is, however, a big deal for Napier, who isn't even 30 yet (he'll reach that mark in July). Considering he and I are the same age, I'll be the last person to second-guess him because of it. His experience, though, is another matter.

Napier just finished his third season as a full-time assistant coach. He was previously the tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator, the latter being a position he'll continue to hold through the end of this recruiting cycle. Now he's tasked with helping an offense that was at the root of this program's problems this season, despite its numerous playmakers.

How much better was the tandem of Swinney and Napier than former offensive coordinator Rob Spence and coach Tommy Bowden? Not much, and don't forget they had a healthy offensive line to work with.

Despite the tandem of James Davis and C.J. Spiller, Clemson had just 4 yards rushing in the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl against Nebraska and was held to under 100 yards rushing in four other games under the direction of Swinney and Napier. Clemson averaged 85.8 rushing yards during the coaching change and 102 under the previous regime (and that's NOT including cupcake wins over South Carolina State and The Citadel).

Napier and Swinney did average more points -- 23.8 to Spence's 15 -- and had a slightly higher average in passing yards and total offense. The difference, though, was hardly glaring. Of course, they were in a transition phase, but if Clemson is going to rebound, the offense and play calling still needs a makeover, and it looks like Napier is going to give it one.

"We will have some changes next year," Swinney said in a release. "We will basically be a spread-formation team. What will be different next year is that we will use the quarterback more in the running game. Billy is one of the fine young coaches in the nation. He will be a head coach some day."

Swinney made a small but smart move in regards to the offensive line. Brad Scott will continue to serve as associate head coach and he will coach the offensive guards and centers, but Danny Pearman, who joined the staff at the end of the regular season from Maryland, will coach the offensive tackles and tight ends and serve as assistant head coach. Pearman is a former Clemson tight end.

This should help devote more attention to what was an obvious weakness.

Outside linebackers coach Ron West's name is nowhere to be found on the final list of assignments, so he will either find a new job or move into an administrative position. The trendy thing to do these days is name a co-coordinator, and Swinney did that on defense with Kevin Steele and Charlie Harbison.

Here is the final list:

Offensive Assistants
Billy Napier -- Offensive Coordinator, quarterbacks
Danny Pearman -- Assistant head coach, tackles, tight ends
Andre Powell -- Running backs, Special teams coordinator
Brad Scott -- Associate Head Coach, Offensive guards and centers
Jeff Scott -- Wide Receivers

Defensive Assistants
David Blackwell -- Defensive tackles
Charlie Harbison -- Co-Defensive Coordinator, Defensive Backs
Chris Rumph -- Defensive Ends
Kevin Steele -- Defensive Coordinator, inside linebackers

Swinney hires Maryland assistant, Koenning moving on

December, 3, 2008
12/03/08
8:34
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Former Clemson defensive coordinator Vic Koenning had one question for his new head coach on Monday, and it was a fair one: "Am I your guy?"

Dabo Swinney couldn't answer it.

"He said I can't promise you anything past the bowl game," Koenning said.

It wasn't like that with everyone on staff. Swinney is moving quickly in building his staff.

He has already hired Maryland assistant Danny Pearman, and Koenning said Swinney is looking at Mississippi State assistants Charlie Harbison and Woody McCorvey, both whom have Alabama ties like Swinney.

Maryland athletics director Debbie Yow confirmed Pearman's move, as he is a former Clemson grad and coach of Swinney. Pearman played tight end at Clemson and coached at Alabama from 1990-97. He spent one season at Maryland, where he coached the tight ends and H-backs, and was the special teams coordinator.

Koenning said he didn't think it was fair to have his future remain uncertain, but there is no animosity, and that he was the one who "pushed the issue."

"They were being very noncommittal with our future, and we had already been through seven weeks of that," Koenning said. "With what we'd done on defense here, not just this year, but four years in a row, the best they've had over a span in the school's history by a lot. ... Over a four-year period there might be one or two defenses that have been better. For them not to be able to commit ... I just didn't think it was fair.

"In the same regard, every coach has the privilege and the right to bring in his own guys, and coach Swinney wouldn't commit that I was his guy and that's all within his right and I'm for him on that and in agreement on that. I'm the one that pushed the issue."

Koenning will put his house up for sale and move on, but didn't say where he expects his next coaching stop to be. His resume will help him surface fast. He will miss his secondary, though.

"I love my players," he said. "I truly believe we've got one of the best secondaries in the country. The proof was in the pudding. We went nine weeks in a row and didn't give up 200 yards passing. ... I just believe in those guys and think they've done a great job. Anybody they bring in, my guys are trained well and know what to do. Because of the break here this would be a better time than to wait for the Christmas holiday."

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