Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott was a candidate for the head coaching job at Tennessee earlier this offseason after Jeremy Pruitt was fired.
Tennessee athletic director Danny White also considered Elliott when he was the athletic director at UCF and looking to replace Scott Frost, before ultimately hiring now-Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel.
Elliott’s name was linked to several coaching vacancies this offseason, but when it came down to it, despite his relationship with White, he felt it simply wasn’t the right time to leave Clemson for Tennessee or anywhere else.
“I thought I had kind of made it through unscathed there and then the situation came up late with Tennessee,” Elliott said following Clemson’s spring practice Wednesday. “Really appreciative of Danny White and just his interest in me and having an opportunity to talk to him and go through that experience.
“Definitely it was something that I really had to sit down and think about and consider and pray about, and talk to people and try to find the right confirmation. At the end of the day, when I put everything on the table, it just wasn’t the right time.”
Elliott, who has been on Dabo Swinney’s staff since 2011 and an offensive coordinator since 2015, loves Clemson and is content with the situation he is in right now.
Elliott appreciates the support he received from Swinney and others during the coach hiring process.
“I’m just so happy to be in an environment where people embrace me even though I was going through that, showing me support one way or another and having an opportunity to have those conversations with Coach Swinney just strengthens our relationship even more,” Elliott said.
“But at the end of the day, it just wasn’t the right time, and man I’m just so happy to be here. You guys know I love it here. It’s a special place, but it was good to go through that experience. But at the end of the day, Tennessee is a great program. Really honored to even be considered. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t the right time.”
Elliott spoke in length about what he is looking for in terms of a potential head coaching opportunity in the future.
“Trying to really stick to my guns,” he said. “Looking for alignment. Really just the same vision, from top to bottom, whether it’s the president or chancellor that runs the institution down to the athletic director down to the head coach – everybody’s on the same page, just in terms of their perspective of the student-athlete and what their mission is with the student-athlete, and then just how the program’s going to be run. An opportunity to win, definitely. There’s going to be high expectations wherever I go because of where I’m leaving, and I want to be in a situation where the people that I bring along, because it’s going to be hard work wherever I do decide when the Lord opens the right door. It’s going to be hard work, so really want to be in a position where we have a legitimate opportunity to win.
“I want to be in a situation ideally where I don’t have to move. I want to be in a situation where I can hunker down and really fully invest in the community, fully invest in the institution and fully invest in the program, build something special, have my family kind of grow up in that community, very similar to how Coach Swinney is. And so those are things that I’m looking for. An opportunity to recruit. So, just bottom line, an opportunity to win and win the right way and have the full support of every player that touches that program.”
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