Will Clemson execute internal plan for Elliott's successor?

Will Clemson execute internal plan for Elliott's successor?

Football

Will Clemson execute internal plan for Elliott's successor?

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This turned out to be the year for Tony Elliott.

As they’ve gone by recently, Elliott’s name has constantly churned in the rumor mill as a candidate for head coaching vacancies. Each year, though, he’s either dismissed that kind of talk or declined more substantive interest from other FBS programs — namely Tennessee and Auburn last year — to remain in his role as Clemson’s offensive coordinator. 

Until now.

Elliott has given Clemson coach Dabo Swinney the sizable task of having to replace both of his coordinators when he finally said yes to Virginia, which announced Elliott’s hire Friday. It came just five days after Brent Venables, Clemson’s decade-long defensive coordinator, also took the opportunity to run his own program for the first time at Oklahoma.

Replacing Elliott, though, might be the easier of the two.

Not because Elliott isn’t highly thought of. While Venables, widely viewed as one of the best defensive minds in the college game if not the best, may have been on a different level in that regard, Elliott’s coaching star has quickly grown brighter at his alma mater with the way Clemson’s offense has produced under his guidance.

Four years after returning to Clemson as Swinney’s running backs coach in 2011, Elliott was promoted to co-offensive coordinator and then the Tigers’ full-time play caller when Jeff Scott left to be the head coach at South Florida following the 2019 season. In six of those seven seasons, Clemson has finished in the top 40 nationally in yards and points. From 2018 to 2020 – the last half of Clemson’s six-year College Football Playoff run – the Tigers were among the top five scoring offenses in the FBS.

It’s more about what the Tigers have been working on internally.

Ever since Elliott assumed some play-calling duties in 2015, Brandon Streeter has been Clemson’s quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator. And he’s had more coaching duties added to his plate recently.

Once Scott left, Swinney promoted Streeter to the role of passing-game coordinator. And unlike the defensive assistants still on staff, Streeter has been a coordinator before, holding that title during stints as an offensive assistant at Liberty and Richmond before returning to Clemson.

Streeter was the Tigers’ starting quarterback for two years in the late 1990s before first working with Swinney as a graduate assistant on Tommy Bowden’s staff in 2004 and 2005.

Since being back at Clemson as a position coach, he has also quietly helped recruit and/or develop some of the best quarterbacks of Swinney’s tenure at Clemson, most notably first-round draft picks Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence. He had a hand in recruiting current Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, a former five-star signee himself, and played an integral part in the Tigers landing a verbal commitment from another five-star signal caller, 2022 Westlake (Texas) High standout Cade Klubnik, who’s expected to sign with Clemson later this month and enroll early.

His experience, recruiting ability and familiarity with Swinney’s offensive philosophies make Streeter a prime in-house candidate that’s been groomed for this opportunity. Former NFL quarterback J.P. Losman (offensive analyst) and former senior offensive analyst-turned-director of player development Kyle Richardson are also in off-field roles on Clemson’s staff, and there’s belief they’re among the candidates to be promoted to coaching quarterbacks full-time if Streeter takes over as the offensive coordinator.

Streeter has called plays at Clemson, too, albeit on an interim basis. Swinney pegged him to fill in as the offensive coordinator during the Tigers’ CFP semifinal game against Ohio State last season after Elliott tested positive for COVID-19. Clemson lost that game in a rout, but the offense produced 28 points and 444 total yards.

Swinney could opt to bring in someone from the outside, something he hasn’t done with his offensive coordinator since hiring Chad Morris to replace Billy Napier in 2011. Or he could choose to put an internal plan in motion that’s seemingly been in the works for years.

It’s a direction that looms just as large as the one Swinney decides to go in on the other side of the ball.

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