Tigers did not know they would have to use it so soon, though
Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott knew the second-ranked Tigers were going to have to anticipate adjusting to a few things in Friday’s Sugar Bowl against No. 3 Ohio State. However, he had no idea it would start before the game.
Twenty-four hours after speaking to the media in preparation for the College Football Playoff game, Elliott learned he had tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, he did not travel to New Orleans with the Tigers on Wednesday and will not be able to coach in the Sugar Bowl.
“I anticipate they’re going to have some things that we’ve got to adjust to throughout the course of the game,” Elliott said on Tuesday. “But it’s the combination of getting ready for this one, making sure that we understood from last year’s take where we needed to improve because, obviously, it’s professional courtesy.
“They’re going to try and attack some of the things they had some success attacking last year. And we’ve got to make sure we fix those. And then they’re going to build upon the strengths of this team.”
Clemson adjusted to Elliott not being available for the Sugar Bowl by moving passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter from the field to the press box where he will call plays in Elliott’s place. Head coach Dabo Swinney also announced C.J. Spiller, who joined the team as a graduate assistant in the summer, will coach the running backs in Elliott’s absence.
Swinney has proven throughout his head coaching career that he always has a plan. He has know for sometime Elliott will get his opportunity to be a head coach one day and when that time comes, he will have a plan of succession in place to move forward.
It appears he is having to use part of that plan on Friday, as the Tigers play their first game since 2014 without Elliott calling plays.
Streeter is no stranger to calling plays. The former Clemson quarterback spent six years as an offensive coordinator at Liberty and Richmond at the FCS level, where he had a lot of success.
But as Elliott said on Tuesday, the key for Clemson will not be on who is calling the plays, but more about being who they are and playing to their strengths.
“Even though the structure is similar, each team, just like us on offense, each unit will have its own identity,” he said. “They are going to play to the strengths of their identity. They are going to test and make sure that we corrected the issues from last year.
“But I think it’s just going to come down ‑‑ at the end of the day, you get to this point doing what you do. You’re not going to get away from what your base offense is. You’re going to have a couple of game‑plan wrinkles.”
And as Swinney said on Wednesday, it is not about the plays, but it is about the players making plays. And before Clemson left for New Orleans, Elliott had already done everything he could to make sure he has plays ready for his players to be successful.
“At the end of the day in this one, on the biggest stage, when the lights are bright, there’s going to be a lot of emotion in this game. You got to make sure that you put your players in a position to be successful. And the best way to do that is to just do what you do and do what has gotten you to the point to be in this game,” he said.