Tigers’ newest coach says coaching against his alma mater ‘will be a fun moment’
NEW ORLEANS — As he walked into the Superdome with all the other Clemson coaches for media day at the Sugar Bowl, Todd Bates just smiled a little bit. He was where he always supposed to be.
The difference, however, was the color shirt he was wearing. Back in the day, when he played at Alabama, Bates was wearing a Crimson and White shirt and always dreamed of playing in the Sugar Bowl. This time around, he is wearing Clemson Orange, and he could not be prouder to be coaching in the Sugar Bowl in his first year as a coach at a Power 5 school.
“It has been a blessing man. What can I say,” Clemson’s first-year defensive line coach said.
When Bates played football, he went to Alabama to play in games like the one he and the Tigers will play on Monday night when they face his alma mater in the College Football Playoff Semifinals at the Sugar Bowl.
Bates played at Alabama from 2001-’04 as a defensive end and participated in two bowl games. However, neither one was the Sugar Bowl. Now in his first season at Clemson, he is coaching on staff of the top-ranked team in the country, and of course the team the Tigers are facing is Alabama.
“That is going to be a fun moment,” Bates said. “They are always competing for championships, and if you are here, you are doing the same. That is definitely going to be a great moment when we get out here.
“However, you can’t get wrapped up in all of that. You have to focus on not seeing the faces in the crowd. And just focus on getting your guys where they are supposed to be.”
Bates has done a great job of coaching up his players so far. After all, he gets part of the credit for coaching what is known as the best defensive line in the country.
Monday’s game will not be about any of that, though. The Tigers know they have a tall task in trying to beat the Tide when everyone in the college football world will be watching.
“I know our guys see that every day,” Bates said. “We try to be even keel and not let the moment be too big. When I played as a player, I could never see the faces in the crowd. It was 88,000 to 100,000.
“If you see those people, then I think the moment can get too big. But as a performer, you learn to see your assignment. That is what I do. That is what I try to get across to my players.”