on April 1, 2009 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

Napier looking to bring edge to Clemson offense

CLEMSON — The final whistle at the practice fields had long since passed on Monday afternoon when Clemson assistant Billy Napier came off the field, but the Tigers’ new offensive coordinator was still hot, and with good reason.

Just two days after his offense dominated the first stadium scrimmage of the spring at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, his unit came out flat to start the week as the Clemson defense hit back hard for a bit of redemption on the practices fields behind the Jervey Athletic Center.

And Napier, entering his first full season as the Tigers’ offensive coordinator with all the competitive fire from his days as a standout quarterback at Furman still burning strong, made an emphatic vow that one bad day of practice was one bad day too many, and that he’s demanding much more from his new offense.

“I like our guys’ attitude, and obviously we’re trying some new things, but we’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Napier, who did his best to tone down his frustrations. “I’m glad we don’t play tomorrow.”

Just from the sheer passion and the downright aggression he showed on Monday, it looks as though Clemson fans can have something to look forward to as Napier fully assumes the reins of offensive coordinator.

Despite being new to the coordinator position, the 29-year old Napier is entering his fourth year on the Tigers’ coaching staff, as he coached tight ends for the better part of the last three years and served as recruiting coordinator the last two years.

But of course his duties changed last October when former Clemson coach Tommy Bowden stepped down, as Napier took control of the quarterbacks and assumed co-offensive coordinator duties along with now-head coach Dabo Swinney following the dismissal of former offensive coordinator Rob Spence.

And after handling those duties well to close out the season, Swinney said those weeks were crucial to completely handing they keys to the offense over to Napier.

“It was invaluable to us,” Swinney said. “It’s a huge asset that we had the opportunity to work under those circumstances together because it got us ahead. That’s one of the reasons I hired him.”

Now with the offense fully his, and the recruiting coordinator duties passed along to Jeff Scott, Napier is finding his way this spring as he continues to add his personal touch to the Tigers’ offense.

And given Napier’s personality, as well as Swinney’s, that will include a toughness that has been lacking in recent years around Clemson.

“I believe our offense will be a reflection of our coaching staff and our attitude as a staff,” Napier said. “Obviously we’re doing some different things from a tempo standpoint and we’re trying to be a little more physical at every position.”

The Tigers will likely continue to use a spread offense this season, with a new emphasis on running the ball with the quarterback, while the other nuances of Clemson’s attack will have to pass through Swinney as well.

“Obviously I’m going to direct everything as far if I like something or don’t like something, but I’m trying to give him as much freedom and responsibility as I can, but staying within what I like,” Swinney said.

So far, Napier’s changes have been met with enthusiasm by many of his players, who also pointed out they enjoy a closeness with Napier they didn’t share with Spence, who had turned 50 just before being fired on Oct. 13 of last year.

“Coach Spence was a real good guy, but I think with Coach Napier you get a guy that’s a lot younger and more able to relate to you because of his age,” redshirt freshman quarterback Kyle Parker said. “I think that’s the biggest thing, because we all have a genuine respect for him, but we all can kind of relate and understand him.”

With a combination of his rapport with the players, and his work ethic, Napier is hoping to forge a juggernaut out of the Clemson offense, as he hopes they’ll fall in line with his style and passion before the Tigers open the season against Middle Tennessee on Sept. 5 in Death Valley.

“Every opportunity we have to be physical we want to take advantage of it, and it really comes down to execution,” Napier said. “Hopefully our guys will be disciplined and control the things that they can control.

“When you put the tape on, hopefully you’ll see some guys getting after it and playing to the best of their ability and the echo of the whistle.”

From the looks of it so far, anything less would be far short of what Napier is demanding from the Tigers.