From Garrett Riley to Clemson – what that means for Dabo Swinney, the Tigers, and TCU

After a second season of three straight losses, Dabo Swinney is reformulating Clemson. Last year, the Tigers’ head coach was promoted from the inside when former coordinators Brent Venables (Oklahoma) and Tony Elliott (Virginia) got jobs as head coach.

But after offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter was fired Thursday, ESPN sources said Sweeney will appoint TCU’s Garrett Riley to the same position. It’s a change in a program known for continuity — Sweeney hadn’t fired an assistant coach since 2011 prior to this transition.

Fresh start Riley won Broyles Award as the nation’s top assist while helping guide the Horned Frogs to the national title game in his senior season in Fort Worth.

What kind of caller do tigers get? What do you say about Clemson State? And what’s next for TCU? David M Hill and Dave Wilson break it all down.

What prompted the move from Clemson?

It’s hard to say Streeter is responsible for Clemson’s offensive issues in 2022. The fact is that in his first year as coordinator, Streeter led the offense to significantly better numbers than in 2021. But Streeter was also very much a continuation of Clemson’s past. He may not have been responsible for the economic downturn, but it seemed clear that he wasn’t going to steer things in a new – and needed – direction. Instead, Swinney seems to have found someone in Riley who could add some serious spice to a crime that was, from X and O’s point of view, pretty vanilla. Vanilla has worked with Trevor Lawrence, Deshaun Watson, and a host of NFL running backs and receivers. Without it, vanilla looks… bland.

But perhaps the other big problem here is QB Cade Klubnik. After DJ Uiagalelei’s failed tryout, Clemson can’t afford to see another blues QB fall short of expectations. That Klopnik couldn’t win the job throughout the regular season despite Oyagalele’s hiccups, and that his performance in the ball game showed some serious missteps made by rookies, too, must have been a belief that a change was needed to ensure Klopnik’s talents weren’t there. He’s not wasted, and he could look more like Lawrence than Uiagalelei in 2023. Given Riley’s success in turning the powerful, if unspectacular, QB in Max Duggan into a Heisman finalist, that’s a “no excuses” move for Klubnik, too. – cardamom

What does this say about where Sweeney thinks the program is?

It’s hard to know exactly what Sweeney’s mindset is. He was troubled by even the slightest criticism of the recent offseason when outsiders suggested his promotion of two in-house candidates to play caller jobs — Streeter and Wes Goodwin — might have been too shortsighted. He spent nearly 2022 praising Uiagalelei as well, even blasting the media for being skeptical of the QB—then he pinned Uiagalelei three times during the season and admitted, after the ACC championship game, that he had hoped Klopnik would hold the position for weeks. Now he’s finally backtracked on his insistence that Streeter is the right guy for the OC job, and he’s out to land as big a fish as he is in the coordinating ranks. Perhaps the real takeaway here is that Swinney has a formula he believes in, but he’s also smart enough to know when something isn’t working. However, what remains to be seen is if this is the latest of the staff’s changes and, perhaps more importantly, if it changes its view on the transfer portal to address some of the roster’s limitations as well. – cardamom

What Kind of Coordinator Does Clemson Get in Garrett Riley?

Riley, like his brother Lincoln, was the quarterback under Mike Leach at Texas Tech and then began his coaching career in humble fashion, as a high school QB coach in West Texas, then in places like Augustana, East Carolina, Kansas, and Appalachian State. Where the backs coach was running. TCU coach Sonny Dykes believes he complements his passing philosophies with an elaborate plan for the running game, so he elevated him to OC/QB coach and primary caller at SMU. In his senior season in 2020, with Shane Boychell at QB, the Mustangs averaged 38.6 points per game, 15th nationally. The following year, with Oklahoma transfer Tanner Mordecai at QB, the offense ranked tenth, leading the AAC in passing and averaging 38.4 ppg. Then, in his first year at TCU, he helped turn Duggan, a four-year junior who had never thrown for more than 2,100 yards or 16 TDs in a season, into a Heisman runner-up who had 3,698 yards and 32 TDs. Riley is a patient player who doesn’t flash, but instead blends a solid running offense — Kendre Miller has run for over 1,200 yards between tackles this season — with a streamlined Air Raid passing scheme to wear down defenses and appear big on the play. Riley has already worked wonders in just three seasons as coordinator. – Wilson

What was Riley’s first job order at Clemson?

Riley needs to evaluate everything. All five offensive assistants on the field, prior to Streeter’s firing, had been without FBS coaching experience except for their time at Clemson. Will Riley want to keep these employees safe? Clemson’s receivers have failed to develop young talent in recent years, and in each of the past two seasons, the offense has relied heavily on true freshmen. Are there options in the portal to help add some maven presence? Will Shipley is a budding star, but using it under Streeter has always been a little weird. Riley will need to figure out how to maximize such a valuable weapon. The offensive line showed some flashes of improvement under first-year line coach Thomas Austin last season, but he also gave up 26 pressures in the Capital One Orange Bowl against Tennessee. But then again, no problem looms larger for Riley than turning Klopnik from rookie with potential into another Heisman candidate. The fate of the Clemson offense will be as much about that relationship as any changes to the offensive scheme. – cardamom

Where does TCU go from here?

Dykes has a vision of what he needs in a curator. For his first five years as head coach, longtime RAID assistant Tony Franklin ran the offense. Since then, he has mentored young coaches, such as Jake Spavital at Cal and Rhett Lashlee at SMU, who went on to become head coaches. Despite Dykes’ own background as a playcaller, his assistants are free to plan the game and play calls, which makes the job attractive. In nine of the past 11 seasons, Dykes’ offense has never ranked lower than 22, with three top 10 performances. He has a web of options as the air raid spreads across college football. This position is one he can manage with confidence. – Wilson

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