The bottom-up philosophy and Clemson’s troubling projected frontcourt

CLEMSON – The Clemson staff is wise to visit and entertain other college coaches as they did last season (Nevada, Oklahoma State) and have done again this spring, sending its offensive staff to Arizona State, and inviting the Ohio State offensive staff to Clemson.

No college staff has a monopoly on smarts.

(Urban Meyer did not visit, his OC did, but we know he loves Clemson and Chad Morris. The last time he was in Clemson he was an ESPN analyst and tried to hire Chad Morris away the following offseason when he took the Ohio State job.)

Last spring, Morris’ trip to Nevada yielded an understanding of the pistol formation which led to a much improved running game, and the trip to Oklahoma State in part resulted in leading DeAndre Hopkins to Justin Blakmon/Dez Bryant-like numbers.

As I’ve written about here before, what you have to like about Chad Morris and Tajh Boyd is neither is satisfied. Morris is always looking for a new wrinkle for his offense, and Boyd spent his spring break again working with George Whitfield to fine-tune his mechanics.

But college coaches have always visited with each other. What’s interesting is the other visitor that came to Clemson: the NFL.

The Atlanta Falcons defensive staff visited with Clemson’s coaches this spring. Why?

It’s because the hurry-up, zone-read and pistol formations are becoming more prevalent in the pro game. It’s not the NFL dictating to tactics to college football, it’s college football dictating to the NFL. It’s the bottom dictating to the top.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney sees this as a trend.

“I’d be surprised if there’s not an NFL team that hasn’t gone and spent some time with (college) coaches in the offseason,” Swinney said. “(NFL teams are studying) the  zone-read and what you are trying to coach offensively, but also things that give you problems from a defensive standpoint, like studying the pistol, with what you’ve seen in the league over the last year with RG3, (Colin) Kaepernick and Russell Wilson and the success they’ve had with the read option.”

It’s interesting that the NFL is finally starting to look toward the college for innovation, and they should. There are 120 Division I FBS programs, 120 laboratories. There are only 32 NFL teams. There should be more innovation coming from the college game.

And it’s why college coaches should consider hiring and listen to high school coaches. There’s even more laboratories at that level. And if no one every took a chance on a high school coach then we might still not know Gus Malzahn or Chad Morris.

Football is finally embracing the bottom-up approach.


So following the transfer of Bernard Sullivan, and the graduation of Devin Booker and Milton Jennings, Clemson is left with just two players on the roster who have bodies for the four and five positions: Landry Nnoko and Josh Smith.

Yeah, that’s scary.

Nnoko is intriguing but raw and he’ll be forced into starter’s minutes whether he’s ready or not. Smith appear to be more of an end-of-bench/depth-type guy.

I’m curious as to why Sullivan left. He was going to get starters minutes if he stayed. He would have to play. His development was slowed by an asthma issue which is why he averaged only 7 minutes per game as a freshman and 9 minutes per game last year. But I suspect his numbers would have doubled this season.

The 2012-13 season was ugly and 2013-14 might not be much better because Clemson could have the weakest frontcourt in the league. It’s yet another reason to go small and push the tempo. It’s another reason to think differently.

2 thoughts on “The bottom-up philosophy and Clemson’s troubling projected frontcourt

  1. Travis, I don’t have any background on this subject, but here’s a question for you: how common are transfers in college basketball. This seems extremely excessive to me, 5 in 3 years…wow. Is it Brownell’s system, his personality in practice and games, what’s to blame here? Granted, it’s not like Clemson is losing Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose, but why the exodus?

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