When it comes to a base offense, new Tennessee offensive coordinator Dave Clawson doesn’t have one.
He has a whole bunch.
Clawson, the 40-year-old former coach at Richmond, was officially introduced as the Vols’ new offensive coordinator on Saturday morning, replacing David Cutcliffe who was hired as Duke’s head coach Dec. 15.
During a press conference in the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center in which a slew of recruits, UT coaches, administrators and even a few players watched from balconies, Clawson talked about what his offense will look like when the Vols open the 2008 season Aug. 30 in Neyland Stadium against Alabama-Birmingham.
Or rather, what it could look like.
“I’d like to say that my style is we’re going to get the ball to our playmakers,” Clawson said. “We’re going to put those guys in different positions and try to get them the ball in space, so they can do creative things.”
Ever since Clawson started calling plays at Lehigh in 1994, he’s had little trouble with creativity.
During Saturday’s press conference, he gave a rundown of all the different permutations his offense has taken in his nine years as a play-caller.
When Walter Payton Award winning wide receiver Bryan Finneran was at Villanova, Clawson’s offense racked up some 4,000 yards passing.
After Finneran went on to the NFL, Clawson changed Villanova into a mini-West Coast offense, paving the way for future Pro Bowl running back Brian Westbrook to become the first player in NCAA history to gain 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season.
At Richmond, the Spiders incorporated elements of the spread offense to accommodate an athletic quarterback, who threw for 2,000 yards and ran for nearly 1,000 more.
This past season, Richmond became a power running team behind a talented offensive line and tailback — all while winning a school-record 11 games.
But even though the look and the style changes, the basic principles behind Clawson’s offenses haven’t.
“It’s mixing and matching different pieces, but at the heart of it, we want to be very multiple personnel-wise, a lot of formations, a lot of shifts,” Clawson said. “At the heart of what we do is going to be a physical, downhill run game, with a strong fundamental base. And we want to line up in sets that give us the ability to spread the entire football field with the passing game. We want to be non-predictable. We want to play to our strengths. We want to be balanced.”
Those principles fit in line with what Fulmer said he wanted when the process of finding a new coordinator began nearly a month ago.
And it’s an offense that will be all Clawson’s, Fulmer said.
“It’s his offense,” Fulmer said. “It’s his offense to run. Whether it’s offense, defense or kicking, in the end, I’m going to be accountable to make sure that we’re doing things fundamentally and all those things, which I have no doubt about John Chavis doing that or about Dave Clawson doing that, as I didn’t with David Cutcliffe.”
Tennessee’s other two offensive hires, running backs coach Stan Drayton and wide receivers coach Latrell Scott, both have Clawson connections.
Clawson hired Drayton at Villanova, although the two were hired independently at UT. Scott, Richmond’s wide receivers coach for the last three years, was Clawson’s hand-picked choice to come to Tennessee.
“That gives Dave some continuity having a staff member that is familiar with his system coming in at the very important position of wide receiver,” Fulmer said.
And some help explaining his offense to Tennessee’s players and coaches before and during spring practice, which begins March 11.
Before then, Tennessee’s new coaches will be actively involved in recruiting. Then Clawson will go through the playbook with offensive line coach Greg Adkins, the lone returning coach from last season on offense, and the rest of Tennessee’s offensive staff.
Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo put Fulmer in touch with Clawson, who received calls from two other BCS schools this year about becoming their offensive coordinator.
Clawson chose only to interview with Tennessee, and both Fulmer and Clawson walked away impressed with the other after their initial meeting on Monday — Fulmer with Clawson’s knowledge and philosophy, and Clawson with Tennessee’s philosophy and its ability to compete and win at the highest level of college football.
“I had a great feeling in the interview when he was here,” Fulmer said. “As we were talking football, he was just hard-headed enough to argue with me about a number of things, which I really liked because I’m looking forward to moving on and looking at some other concepts that are out there.”
Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton, who attended Saturday’s press conference, is ready to move on, too.
After three seasons behind Erik Ainge on the depth chart, the sophomore is eager for his chance to become the starter.
Earlier this week, he watched Richmond’s season-opener against Vanderbilt, the only film of Clawson’s offense he could find in UT’s computerized game-film library.
What Crompton saw Thursday and Friday in the filmroom and heard on Saturday morning, he liked.
“Getting playmakers the ball, that’s how you win games, in my opinion,” he said. “Like he said, it doesn’t matter if you go from high school to NFL, it’s always going to be a different jump, but it’s still the game of football.”