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What does NCAA approval of 10th on-field coach mean for Clemson?

The NCAA Division I Council approved legislation on Friday that will give FBS programs the ability to hire a 10th on-field assistant coach. Currently, schools are limited to nine on-field assistants. However, the addition will not be able to take place until January 9, 2018.

That does not bode well for Clemson or head coach Dabo Swinney in 2017, who still plans to hire Lemanski Hall as it’s 10th on-field coach now that the new rule has passed. Hall is expected to coach the defensive tackles.

The 10th on-field coach legislation was proposed last year and at the time it was thought to be effective immediately once it passed. A lot of the Power 5 Conference schools already have qualified coaches on their staff ready to fill that role as a 10th on-field coach, but some of the smaller FBS schools expressed their concerns that having an immediate hire of a coach making more than $100,000 would make it difficult within their athletic department’s budget.

At least for the 2017 season, the January 9, 2018, starting date means Clemson will have just one coach coaching the defensive line this fall. After winning the national championship on Jan. 9, long-time defensive tackles coach Dan Brooks retired and a week later defensive ends coach Marion Hobby left to take a similar job with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Swinney hired Mickey Conn, who was already serving as a defensive analysis coach on his staff, to replace Brooks and then hired Todd Bates to be the Tigers’ new defensive ends coach. Swinney hired Conn at the time because he was under the impression the 10th on-field coach would be hired immediately after the new bill was passed on Friday.

Swinney calls Conn a younger version of Brooks, which is why he quickly elevated him to assistant coach when Brooks announced his retirement after the Tigers’ won the national championship.

“Being able to get Mickey right on the field, right now, and out on the recruiting trial was critical,” Swinney said. “He is a younger Dan Brooks. That is probably the best thing I can say. He coached high school ball for a long time and had a great relationships and he really understands the recruiting process.”

Conn, who was a teammate of Swinney’s on the 1992 National Championship team at Alabama, had spent the previous 16 years before joining Swinney’s staff in 2016, as the head coach at Grayson High School in Georgia. He was one of the state’s best head coaches in rolling up a 137-48 record in his 16 years, including seven region titles and a state championship.

Clemson running back Wayne Gallman, quarterback Nick Schuessler and cornerback Ryan Carter were all coached by Conn and were members of that state championship team in 2011. Conn of course is coaching the safeties in the secondary, while Mike Reed is the cornerbacks coach.

However, instead of having two coaches on the defensive line like Swinney has had since he took over the program in 2009, Bates will coach the defensive line alone this season until Hall is officially allowed to coach the defensive tackles on Jan. 9.

“Obviously, being able to get that extra coach, we wanted to be able to have two defensive line coaches and two secondary coaches,” Swinney said. “I had Hobby and he was going to be able to handle the D-Line until hopefully we get the tenth coach and then get back to having two D-line coaches, but then this came up with Hobby, and that one no one really knew. It just kind of happened, but I had a good plan on what direction I wanted to go to.”

That plan was Bates, who played for Alabama from 2001-2004 and graduated in 2005 with a degree in Business Management. While playing for the Crimson Tide, he was the only true freshman to play for the Tide in 2001. Bates came to Clemson from Jacksonville State, where he coached the defensive line the last three seasons. The Gamecocks were 33-6 during his three seasons there.

“I had my eye on Todd Bates for quite a while. I’m really excited about having the opportunity to bring him into the fold,” Swinney said. “I did not know him at Alabama. I did not recruit him and I was not there while he was there.”

Hall is currently working as a defensive analysis/research development coach on Swinney’s staff, a position he has the last two seasons. Hall is a former Alabama teammate of Swinney’s as the two helped the Crimson Tide to a national championship in 1992. Hall was a first-team All-SEC linebacker and was a captain on the 1992 team. He went on to play nine seasons in the NFL for the Houston Oilers, the Chicago Bears, the Dallas Cowboys and the Minnesota Vikings.

Prior to Clemson, Hall worked as a linebackers coach and fitness instructor for seven years at Ensworth High School in Nashville, Tenn. Hall also worked in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans through the NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship. In this role, he observed NFL coaches and worked with them to evaluate players.

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