ACC: Rob Spence

ACC's lunchtime links

January, 26, 2010
1/26/10
12:30
PM ET
And the winner is ...

  • North Carolina. Highly touted defensive end Kareem Martin chose the Tar Heels over Duke and Virginia Tech, but not without teasing the Blue Devils first. Poor Duke.
  • It's been a scary season for Georgia Tech safety Cooper Taylor, but he's on the road to recovery -- and so are his parents.
  • Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Al Groh has already been out recruiting for the Jackets, who haven't lost any commitments since the staff change.
  • There is a disparity in salaries for the current FSU staff and the previous one, but because Jimbo Fisher isn't making as much money as Bobby Bowden, it's actually quite similar in total expense.
  • Mike London still has lots of work to do, including finding an offensive coordinator. Guess who's name is reportedly in the mix? Former Clemson OC Rob Spence.
  • And some folks at ESPN aren't the only ones who considered the hire of London the best offseason coaching move.

Clemson's Parker looking calm

November, 21, 2009
11/21/09
4:30
PM ET
CLEMSON, S.C. -- Earlier this week, in an interview with Kyle Parker, I asked him what the biggest difference was with this year's offense. With a new coach, a new coordinator and a new quarterback, there were plenty of answers. But Parker said the offensive line's improvement.

He's right, and it's showing in this game and has been all month. Parker started this game a perfect 10-for-10 for 128 yards. Clemson still has the same talent it did under Rob Spence in guys like C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford. But now they're getting the blocks they need. Clemson's offense is moving today, and the reason Parker is looking more comfortable in it is because he's getting the protection he needs from the guys up front.

Clemson playing Beamer Ball?

September, 22, 2009
9/22/09
5:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich


Clemson coach Dabo Swinney seems to be embracing a philosophy shared by Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer -- just win, regardless of how many points the offense accounts for.

The difference is, that’s Beamer’s fundamental philosophy – something along the lines of manage the offense, just don’t screw it up. That’s not the mantra Swinney intended when he was auditioning for the job, and how he explains an average-at-best offense that features two of the fastest, most explosive players in the country to his fan base will be interesting if the offense keeps this pace.

Defense and special teams are what have the Tigers at the top of the Atlantic Division standings, and at this rate, that’s what they’ll need to keep them there. Clemson has scored just five offensive touchdowns in three games heading into Saturday’s matchup against TCU, and three touchdowns on special teams. It’s not like they’ve been playing Alabama’s defense every Saturday, either, though Boston College has looked fundamentally sound and smart scheme-wise despite the inexperience among the front seven.

Veteran running back C.J. Spiller, who has now been hindered by injuries in two games, has yet to score a rushing touchdown, though he has scored three times this season – once on a punt return, once on a kickoff return and once on a reception.

The offensive progress under the new staff has hardly been a lights-out difference so far from last year, and that’s mainly because Clemson is continuing to struggle up front. That wasn’t Rob Spence’s fault last year, and it’s not Billy Napier’s fault this year.

Clemson’s longest drive against BC was six plays for 40 yards. When they get into the red zone, the Tigers can’t seem to buckle down and finish. Teams have to be able to run the football in the red zone and Clemson couldn’t. When the field gets cut down, it’s much tougher to throw a deep ball. Defenses don’t respect it, and they start to press their coverage and make it difficult to throw the ball in a limited space. While the defenses are doing their job, Clemson’s offensive line is struggle to protect and run block well enough to make a difference.

The offensive line, which has shown some improvement, will need some help against TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes, especially if left tackle Chris Hairston misses the game with a sprained MCL. In two games (including one against Virginia), Hughes has five sacks and is ranked third in the nation. The Horned Frogs, in large part because of Hairston, rank first in the nation with 11 sacks in two games.

Clemson’s defense is scary good. Clemson allowed just 25 yards passing against Boston College, the fewest by a Clemson opponent since 1991 when Temple had just 15. The seven turnovers on offense haven’t been too detrimental only because the defense has gotten nine takeaways.

Offense is only a problem if the Tigers start losing. After all, the last time Clemson beat TCU, it only took three points to get the win, as the Tigers won 3-0 in 1965. And Virginia Tech’s philosophy – while not always a fan favorite, has resulted in three of the last five ACC titles. When offense isn’t the strength, Beamer Ball is really the only alternative.

Jury still out on Clemson's offense

September, 8, 2009
9/08/09
3:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich


It was the heart of Clemson’s problems last year -- so much so that former offensive coordinator Rob Spence was fired, the offensive line took most of the heat, former quarterback Cullen Harper was benched in favor of Willy Korn, and a team loaded with speed and talent baffled anyone who watched with its ineptitude.

As the Tigers head into Thursday night’s game at Georgia Tech -- the ACC’s marquee matchup of the week -- they do so still having something to prove offensively under first-year coordinator Billy Napier and coach Dabo Swinney. First-year starting quarterback Kyle Parker, who showed his potential in Saturday’s 37-14 win over Middle Tennessee, will face one of the better secondaries in the conference, as the Jackets are led by safety Morgan Burnett, and a linebacking corps that is more experienced and healthier than it was a year ago.

“I think our secondary is pretty good, and our guys have to go against them in practice every day, so they’ve been matched up with good guys before,” Parker said. “They’re definitely going to have to play lights-out to be successful, but I think they’ve seen the caliber athletes we’ll be matched up against.”

Parker completed 9 of 20 passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns, but the Tigers left a lot of plays on the field in the process. There were several dropped balls, including two wide-open passes to top receiver Jacoby Ford. And while the receiving corps is no doubt talented, its consistency has been in question since summer camp. Injury-prone running back C.J. Spiller left the game early with a minor foot injury, leaving some to wonder if he really can carry the offensive load by himself. And, finally, just how much better is Clemson’s offensive line, which returns all five starters from a year ago?

“There’s a lot of room for improvement,” Parker said. “We’re just going to go out and work on it. We kind of limited ourselves and we made a lot of mistakes, but I don’t think it’s anything too big to worry about. I think our guys will get better.”

The Tigers were 4-of-14 on third-down conversions, lost a fumble and threw an interception. And Parker said there were a few times he could’ve gone somewhere else with the ball, but he’s convinced he and his receivers will get better with time.

“I think the chemistry is pretty good. In the game Saturday they dropped some balls early on, but you could definitely tell they were getting better and they made some plays later on in the game,” Parker said. “I think they’ll get better every time they go out there and get experience.”

Thursday night’s game will reveal a lot about how far the Tigers have come under the new staff, and how much more experience is needed.

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

April, 13, 2009
4/13/09
2:00
PM ET

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."

So long, 2008

January, 14, 2009
1/14/09
9:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

It was a great season to cover ACC football, with plenty of memorable moments, games, plays, coaches, players and issues -- some good, some not so good. Here are a few things I won't forget from 2008, in no particular order:

The jumbled, exciting race for the ACC title -- It was arguably the most competitive season in ACC football history, as the race to Tampa came down to the final weeks in November, and four teams finished with 5-3 conference records and six teams finished at 4-4.

Tommy Bowden resigns midseason -- On Oct. 13, 2008, Clemson announced that Bowden would no longer be head coach, and wide receivers coach Dabo Swinney took over the program and made immediate, sweeping changes, including the firing of offensive coordinator Rob Spence.

Miami's quarterback controversy -- It all began when starter Robert Marve was suspended for the season opener, and ended with him being suspended for the Emerald Bowl. Jacory Harris or Marve? Following Marve's transfer, there's only one choice.

Myron Rolle wins a Rhodes Scholarship -- There might not have been a more positive story in ACC football this season, as Rolle interviewed for one of the prestigious scholarships on the same day Florida State played a critical Atlantic Division game at Maryland. Rolle won the award, and flew to Maryland in time to contribute to the 37-3 win.

Virginia Tech wins the FedEx Orange Bowl -- The Hokies did the most with the least this season, as Frank Beamer did arguably the best coaching job of his career and led Virginia Tech to its fifth straight 10-win season. The 20-7 win over Cincinnati gave the ACC its first BCS bowl win since 1999.

Jeff Jagodzinski gets fired -- After only his second season and back-to-back appearances in the ACC title game, Jagodzinski decided to interview with the New York Jets, knowing it would cost him his job. A private matter of trust between Jagodzinski and athletic director Gene DeFilippo became public.

Bye-bye coordinators -- Virginia coach Al Groh fired his son, offensive coordinator Mike Groh, Miami coach Randy Shannon fired offensive coordinator Patrick Nix, Clemson coach Swinney fired offensive coordinator Spence, and both Maryland and Clemson's defensive coordinators both bolted for K-State. BC will need a new defensive coordinator now that Frank Spaziani is the new head coach.

Georgia Tech's 45-42 win over Georgia -- The Yellow Jackets earned their first win in the series since 2000, and they did it on the road and in Paul Johnson's first season. Georgia Tech broke a seven-game losing streak to the Dawgs and rushed for 409 yards in the process. It was arguably the ACC's best nonconference win of the season, though the Hokies' win over Cincinnati had a bigger impact.

The poor attendance at the ACC title game in Tampa -- Having seen it first-hand, it will be tough to forget. According to the St. Pete Times, the turnstile count for the game at Raymond James Stadium was 27,360, about half the tickets that were sold and distributed (53,927).

NCAA-record 10 bowl eligible teams -- Heading into the season, it didn't seem as if the ACC would be strong enough to have even a ninth team qualify to play in the inaugural EagleBank Bowl, but the conference became the first to send 10 teams to bowl games in a single season.

Clemson announces staff assignments

January, 12, 2009
1/12/09
2:59
PM ET

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

Clemson season review

December, 15, 2008
12/15/08
10:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Overview: The Tigers went from preseason No. 9 to desperate to qualify for a bowl to the Gator Bowl. And they lost their head coach and both coordinators along the way. It was a wild ride for Clemson, which replaced former coach Tommy Bowden with receivers coach Dabo Swinney on Oct. 13. Swinney guided the Tigers to four wins in their final five games and his interim tag was officially dropped on Dec. 1, when he was named Clemson's next head coach.

One of the things that contributed to the 3-4 start was injuries to key players on both the offensive and defensive lines. Clemson started seven different offensive line combinations in the first nine games. The Tigers have had 42 different players start a game this season, and only eight started all 12 games. One of the main reasons for the preseason hype was the plethora of playmakers on offense, but Clemson didn't start to make use of them until the final few weeks of the season. The difference was a healthy offensive line, and a new offensive coordinator combo in Swinney, who fired Rob Spence, and Billy Napier.

Offensive MVP: Tailback/returner C.J. Spiller. Since he returned from a pulled hamstring he suffered Oct. 9 at Wake Forest, Spiller has had 845 all-purpose running yards. Over the past five games, he has contributed an average of 169 yards. He leads the ACC in all-purpose running yards per game. He leads all ACC running backs in receiving yards, and finished with 430, a single-season school record.

Defensive MVP: Safety Michael Hamlin. He ranks sixth in the nation with six interceptions, and his 111 interception return yards ranks second in the ACC. Hamlin is second on the team with 102 tackles and has had at least six tackles in every game and a combined 41 tackles in the past four games.

Turning point: Clemson 27, Boston College 21, Nov. 1. This was Dabo Swinney's first win as head coach, and it was the first time the Tigers beat BC since the Eagles joined the ACC. Both receiver Aaron Kelly and Spiller set school records, a sign that the Tigers' offense hadn't disappeared. The road win snapped a three-game losing streak.

What's next: Clemson will face Nebraska in the Gator Bowl, a matchup reminiscent of the 1982 Orange Bowl. It was the only other time these programs have faced each other, and Clemson's only national championship. This year, the Tigers are in the midst of staff changes and will face a tough Nebraska offense without former defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, who resigned earlier this month.

Swinney expected to be named Clemson coach

December, 1, 2008
12/01/08
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Dabo Swinney could be announced as Clemson's next head coach as soon as today, multiple sources told ESPN on Sunday.

 
 Rex Brown/Getty Images
 Dabo Swinney is 4-2 since taking over for Tommy Bowden.

It's too early to tell whether this is the right move.

All eyes will be on Terry Don Phillips on this one, not necessarily Dabo Swinney. This is Phillips' hire, and it needs to be his signature hire. He could have gone outside and gotten a much more experienced coach. Somebody like Bobby Johnson, or Jim Grobe. Heck, he could have even gotten somebody with prior experience as a coordinator, something Swinney never was before taking over for Tommy Bowden.

Clearly, though, he sees something in Swinney that gives him confidence.

Considering what Swinney has done, he should.

Swinney took over a program in absolute shambles. From preseason No. 9 to coachless in midseason and headed for disaster. He made the necessary changes, which at the time seemed rash, and they have proven to be the right moves. The offense is more effective without former offensive coordinator Rob Spence, but the offensive line also has something to do with that.

This team was 1-3 in the ACC after Swinney's first game as interim head coach, which was a 21-17 home loss to Georgia Tech. I was there for that. Aside from the pregame pagentry and Tiger Walk, it seemed as if little had changed besides the face of the program.

Swinney proved otherwise with his 27-21 road win over Boston College the following week. Since taking over for Bowden, Swinney has gone 4-2 and made the Tigers bowl eligible. That seemed impossible a month ago. And he had to beat rival South Carolina to do it.

So right now, he looks like a good choice for the job. It was a choice Phillips said would be "easy" if everything worked out the way he thought it would. It's like running a play out of the shotgun, though, on third-and-1 when you have James Davis on your roster -- it only looks good if it works, and when it doesn't, it's not the quarterback who takes the heat.

It's the man who called the play.

Game-day links

November, 22, 2008
11/22/08
12:08
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Happy game day, ACC fans! Enjoy it while it lasts, because it's almost over! Here's what everyone is saying today across the league.

  • First of all, good luck to FSU safety Myron Rolle today, who, as we speak, could be interviewing for a Rhodes scholarship. As soon as I get to Byrd Stadium this afternoon, I'll give you an update on his travel plans.
  • Maryland running back Davin Meggett has carried an important role for the Terps this season, but his biggest burden might be carrying the legacy of his father's NFL career.
  • Several ACC coaches looked at NC State quarterback Russell Wilson and passed on him. Now he's returning the favor. UNC on the other hand, has some issues at quarterback. Ken Tysiac breaks downs the pros and cons of both. It will be a game-time decision. Don't think the Pack doesn't have anything on the line today in their rivalry game against UNC.
  • Boston College has never won in Winston-Salem in its three tries, but if the Eagles pull it off today, they're one step closer to Tampa. Then again, Wake Forest is still playing for that trip, too.
  • C.J. Spiller is back in the spotlight for Clemson. Since the departure of former offensive coordinator Rob Spence, the Tigers have been making sure their "horses are getting plenty of water." Virginia, of course, is tasked with stopping those horses if they want to get to a bowl game and stay in the Coastal Division race.
  • Forget the fact that Virginia Tech has lost three of its past four. Everything has worked out for Dustin Keys. Well, almost everything. The Hokies are 0-4 when he misses a field goal. He has a secret motivator, though, to make them. It's possible Duke quarterback Zack Asack will play his first full game since 2005 today. Regardless, the Blue Devils are trying to do what their coach preaches -- finish.

ACC's lunchtime links: In defense of coordinators

October, 30, 2008
10/30/08
1:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

If Wake Forest fans want to pick on somebody, coach Jim Grobe says pick on him. It was a clear message, unlike Ralph Friedgen's earlier defense of his defensive coordinator, Chris Cosh. Friedgen supported Cosh, but also said Cosh is too emotional on the sideline:

"As a coordinator, you can't do that," Friedgen said. "If you want to be an assistant coach, that's fine. But if you are going to call defenses, you have to be, 'What's the personnel group? What's the down and distance? What is my call now?' You don't need to be going, 'Uh, uh, uh, uh', or screaming or yelling. I just can't operate like that. That is about the only criticism I have."

Clemson's Swinney more concerned about unity than winning

October, 18, 2008
10/18/08
6:46
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

 
 Brian Schneider/US Presswire
 Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper (talks with head coach Dabo Swinney during the second quarter of Clemson's 21-17 loss to Georgia Saturday.

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson interim head coach Dabo Swinney wasted no time in making this his program despite the temporary title, and his bold move of firing offensive coordinator Rob Spence was just the beginning.

Swinney started the well-received "Tiger Walk" tradition.

He re-introduced the three-point stance to the offensive linemen. He cut media access to coaches and players during the week. He even went so far as to change how the team runs down The Hill, separating himself about five yards in front of the team and running down first.

What he didn't change, though, was the end result. Clemson lost, 21-17, to Georgia Tech.

At home.

Again.

The Tigers have now lost three straight, including two in Memorial Stadium. But Swinney will tell you it's not about wins and losses, that he could "give a rat's tail what the scoreboard says."

Tell that to Tommy Bowden.

For Swinney, Saturday was all about unity.

"This wasn't about the game," he said. "You get put in this kind of situation, all of a sudden you're thrown in the fire, you've got coaches' livelihoods at stake, you've got all these players looking to you for leadership, fans just wanting to hang onto anything, looking for anything - shoot, I just sat down and thought about what I felt like we needed to do here. The biggest thing I wanted to accomplish was unity, embracing some things, creating some pride in doing the little things right."

Swinney took the blame for the bad calls, and gave the credit for the good ones to his assistants. He made reporters laugh in his post game news conference. He said things like "Rome wasn't built in a day," something probably more appropriate to the Duke football program than his own.

Swinney is a pretty smooth talker, but can he win football games?

"I know I can do the job," he said. "I don't have any doubts about that at all. That's for other people to decide."

The less they win, though, the more quickly the search for a new coach begins.

(Read full post)

Tommy Bowden getting some peace

October, 18, 2008
10/18/08
5:52
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Behind the closed doors of the locker room following Clemson's 21-17 loss to Georgia Tech, interim head coach Dabo Swinney said a prayer that included blessings for Tommy Bowden, former offensive coordinator Rob Spence, and their families.

Bowden, though, finally seems to be getting some peace.

He sent a text message to defensive coordinator Vic Koenning late this week, very similar to one he sent in the spring while Koenning was out recruiting and he was at the beach:

"Just as I suspected. Fall tides are the same as spring tides. Eleven waves per minute at the shore."

Koenning smiled as he told this story. He said his friend is fine, and left before it could get any worse.

"Nobody likes to get beat up," Koenning said. "He got to get out before they threw stones on him. They threw enough."

What to watch in the ACC: Week 8

October, 17, 2008
10/17/08
9:04
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

One thing that doesn't really count for this list but that Boston College fans should be aware of is that former quarterback Matt Ryan will be on the sideline Saturday. The Falcons are off. Here's what to watch on the field this weekend:

1. Clemson interim head coach Dabo Swinney. He has already taken a different approach than his predecessor with Saturday's "Tiger Walk," but he'll also be calling the plays along with recruiting coordinator Billy Napier. How much different will Clemson's offense look without Rob Spence?

2. Clemson quarterback Willy Korn. The fans have been clamoring for Korn, and now they've got him. It doesn't matter if Brett Favre is back there, though, if the line can't protect him. We'll see if Korn's mobility can provide the spark the offense needs.

3. Wake Forest in the red zone. The Demon Deacons have been inside the 20-yard line 23 times and have scored just nine touchdowns. They have the worst red zone offense in the ACC, and have just one offensive touchdown in two league games.

4. Maryland wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. Coaches throughout the league will tell you he's one of the most talented receivers in the ACC, but he has yet to reach his potential. He didn't have one catch against Clemson, and the Terps will need more from him in the second half of the season.

5. Turnovers in Charlottesville. North Carolina will pounce on opponents' mistakes, and Virginia can't afford to give away any freebies. UNC has scored three touchdowns off interceptions.

6. It's all about the Benjamins, baby. Miami true freshman Travis Benjamin leads the Hurricanes with 569 all-purpose yards, and is 18th nationally in punt return average with 14 yards. But Duke's punt coverage unit is one of the best in the nation, allowing just 3.86 yards per return.

7. Holes left by injured UNC receiver Brandon Tate. Brooks Foster has three starts at wide receiver this season, including against Virginia Tech, when the Heels went with a three-wide receiver set. Hakeem Nicks will handle the kickoff returns and Kendric Burney the punt returns.

8. Boston College's rushing defense. The Hokies have been hanging on with their running game and are averaging 174.7 yards on the ground, but the Eagles are holding opponents to just 99.8. Of the Hokies' 15 touchdowns this season, 13 have come on the ground.

9. Miami quarterback Robert Marve. He threw three interceptions in a shaky performance last week against Central Florida, but has completed 65 percent of his passes in two road games this season.

10. Boston College quarterback Chris Crane. The Hokies have a better pass defense (185 yards per game) than NC State (260.2), and Crane will have a tough time repeating his impressive peformance. Defensive end Orion Martin has had a sack in each of the past three games.

QB Harper benched as Clemson's offensive woes continue

October, 10, 2008
10/10/08
5:41
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

This is not the answer.

Quarterback Cullen Harper has been nothing but the consummate Clemson teammate. He has said all the right things, and never once criticized anyone in the struggling program despite being given ample opportunities to do so after the past two losses.

"Cullen doesn't let on that this stuff bothers him," center Thomas Austin said earlier this week. "He's definitely the leader of our team and one thing I admire about Cullen is -- and I said this at the team meeting -- he's never pointed fingers, mentioned the young, inexperienced offensive line, never said, 'Hey, we don't throw the ball enough,' or whatever.

"He doesn't make excuses. He just goes out there and works hard and he demands respect and I have a tremendous amount of respect for Cullen and what he's done this year. He's a very good player and he's definitely the guy we want at quarterback right now."

Unfortunately, Tommy Bowden is using Harper at starting scapegoat instead.

(Read full post)

SPONSORED HEADLINES