Winning is an obvious trend in Dabo Swinney's football program. Apparently, so is hiring former players.
The Clemson head coach announced his finalized staff for 2021 this week, and he believes there are 21 Tigers who played for the program now working under Swinney in some capacity. While several left for other jobs in the offseason, he replaced them with more familiar names.
"I just think that's a really cool thing for me," Swinney said Wednesday.
Tony Elliott (offensive coordinator/tight ends) and Brandon Streeter (quarterbacks coach/passing coordinator), both longtime on-field coaches and former players pre-Swinney, were joined last year by receivers coach Tyler Grisham. This year, legendary running back C.J. Spiller took over the position he helped make famous at Clemson.
"C.J.'s got great experience," Swinney said about a player who was an All-American at Clemson before his 8-year NFL career. "Obviously, on and off the field he brings a lot of knowledge, and again, just perspective that I think is going to be awesome."
He's far from the only former Tiger added. While Clemson can only have 11 paid, on-the-field coaches (counting Swinney), there's a seemingly countless group of people in support roles. For this season, Swinney added former receiver Artavis Scott and offensive lineman Tyrone Crowder as graduate assistants.
"Artavis is coming in to be our other on-the-field offensive G.A.," Swinney said. "That's something Artavis and I have talked about a couple of times and he's kind of ready to transition. He's been in the NFL the last four years. He wants to coach, and man, it's just perfect timing. What a great addition he's going to be...excited to have him back."
Scott was a three-time All-ACC receiver from 2014-16 and set the Clemson record for most career receptions. Crowder, a first-team All-ACC selection in 2016, will take over as the O-line G.A. from Maverick Morris, another former Clemson lineman who became that position's coach for Terry Bowden at Lousiana-Monroe.
Another former O-lineman, Thomas Austin (2005-09), returned to Clemson as an assistant to position coach Robbie Caldwell. Tiger Nation will also reunite with former quarterback Cole Stoudt (2011-14), who joined the staff as a QB development coach.
This is a different Cole Stoudt than the one I first met, and I'm really proud of Cole," Swinney said. "It's hard to believe he's been gone six years. Cole spent three years at Jacksonville State, three years at Morehead (State) in Kentucky, coaching the quarterbacks, and just a great time to be able to bring Cole back."
Also, Elijah Turner, who played safety for Clemson last year, takes Xavier Brewer's role on the defensive staff. Turner is a coach's son who Swinneys said was already an extension of the staff when he was a player.
For Swinney, there's a great sense of pride having so much of his staff already in the family, and having so many former players like Spiller, the prized recruiting gem of Swinney's time as an assistant coach at Clemson, working for him now is likely to turn into quite the coaching tree.
"We've had a few changes there. Really only one on-the-field change with our 10 assistants, but we have had the most support staff turnover really that we've had in quite a while," Swinney said. "I'm excited for a lot of those guys that have been able to move on to some great opportunities but also excited about having the opportunity to kind of go to my (coaching) depth chart, if you will, and give some guys some opportunities."