Clawson's basic principles fit with Fulmer

Coordinator wants to get ball to playmakers

University of TennesseeÕs new offensive coordinator Dave Clawson, left, speaks to media at the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center during a press conference Satuday where he is introduced by UT head coach Phillip Fulmer. Clawson is the former head football coach at the University of Richmond.

Photo by Clay Owen

University of TennesseeÕs new offensive coordinator Dave Clawson, left, speaks to media at the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center during a press conference Satuday where he is introduced by UT head coach Phillip Fulmer. Clawson is the former head football coach at the University of Richmond.

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.”

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Comments » 98

KSMC9107 writes:

I like him already..."ball to playmakers...get them in space...allow them to do creative things..." LOVE IT!!! GO VOLS!!! COACH PHIL STILL HAS THAT FIRE LIT UNDER HIM!

jobrando#216494 writes:

When do they reloacate and go to work?

jevolball7 writes:

I bet he literally drools looking at our players,as compared to what he had!! Kinda like looking back at what you took to your prom 10 years after you realised you could've had prime rib,but took tripe.

vol94 writes:

i too am very excited about the hire(S).
No reason we should Not have high expectations the next few years. i think these new hires can Coach and will relate to the kids, especially recruiting.

any news today about the recruits at ktown today?
let me know!

thanks guys!

dave1#220678 writes:

here is the video highlights of the press conf today:

http://www.wbir.com/video/player.aspx...

icecream writes:

Hey man dont you know that we run the sideline play here? You know the Qb takes the snap and whips it over to a reciever near the sideline on 3rd and 17. We pick up two yards then punt. Thats play #1, Play #2 IS GIVE TO THE HALF BACK UP THE MIDDLE WITH NO FRIGGIN FULLBACK. Better learn those 2 quick, it's Phils favorite 2 plays.(only 2 plays).

icecream writes:

Forget going deep, we dont allow that here buddy!

gohawks1 writes:

Wow! I just watched the press conference here:

http://utsports.com/home/

How can you not be excited after hearing these guys talking about the upcoming year?

Can't wait for '08!

mtnvol writes:

I like what I read!

SFOrange writes:

wow--look around...the negativity is gone. Why? Because we've (fans) been pressing for a fresh approach, for a pov outside the UT "family", for a youthful aggressive smart offensice mind. Lets face it---this OC hire seems to deliver. Fulmers press conference comments indicate he realizes its time for change. Good call. Go Vols.

FWBVol writes:

jobrando, from what I understand about these things, they may get a day or two here and there to take care of things in Richmond between now and signing day, but they should be in Knoxville pretty much full time going full speed from now on. The wives are the ones that have to put up with all the household stuff. The coaches clean out their offices and unpack in Knoxville. UT will probably put them up in an apartment or extended stay hotel until they can get their families in town.

icecream, we went deep plenty in 2006 with Meachem and Company. If you haven't heard, Ainge was playing with a bum shoulder much of the year. CPF has said the offense is in Clawson's hands and it is his to put his mark on. That's a huge plus.

Chainsaw writes:

This guy, and the new RB and WR coaches as well, appear to be first class hires. Kudos to Coach Fulmer, AD Hamilton, and anybody who had anything to do with bring the new guys to BOC!

Now, counting the days until it's once again FOOTBALL TIME IN TENNESSEE!

vol4jesus writes:

Hoskins hounding for Ben & Jerry's before he sees what flavors are offered. Don't judge a book by its cover please. That appears to be what the icecreamy man is scooping out. I for one am excited about the possibilities for our VOLS!!!

THANKYOU4GETTINGRIDOFTHENOTSOSLIMONE writes:

What a great philosophy. "Get ball to playmakers"
I thought the idea was to get the ball to the guys who were not any good. This guy is a genious!

Chainsaw writes:

Your moronic comments are no better than your spelling, "genious".

dfreeman writes:

Soccer in KY must suck for someone to be this unhappy!!

vol4good#206163 writes:

I must Say, I am very excited about this hire. Clawson seems to be very smart. I also think Latrell is probably excited as hell with the talent TN has at WR. Good days are ahead fellas. Now we need some dominant DT's.

wp4ut#536099 writes:

I like what I'm hearing,but its what we will see on the field Aug.30th that will count.

DennisVols writes:

What a philosophy “"I’d like to say that my style is we’re going to get the ball to our playmakers,". Where has then kind of thinking been for years at UT? We all wanted to see those freshmen play makers we had heard so much about this year and with few exceptions we really didn’t see it happen.
I for one can’t wait for the Orange and White game to get a look at what we are going to see. Can you imagine Foster & Hardesty, or Hardesty & Creer in the backfield at the same time? How would you defend some of those possible combinations? Who do you key on? Throw in Crompton’s added mobility and the options are endless.
GO VOLS!!!!!!

stroker writes:

Where are the spread offense supporters? Mallett is leaving UM. The smart athletes that want to go NFL ain't going to those schools. Just had to say it one more time.

heathut15 writes:

i think this will help our recruiting cless this year.he seems to have his stuff together,look what he done at richmond,he had some pretty good numbers in his second year

DenmarkVol_aka_Mbumburu writes:

Coach Fulmer, congrats on what appear to be great hires. We're behind you out here.

PLEASE just let Coach Clawson be Coach Clawson. Let him do what he wants. Turn him loose.

I for one believe we are facing a rebuilding year. In my lifetime, a "rebuilding" year means a new QB primarily. It also means we've lost a lot of great playmakers either to graduation or to the NFL. It means we're young at several positions.

The 2008 season qualifies as a rebuilding year, in my mind, even though we return a number of tremendous players. We have entirely new offensive leadership at the top and at key positions (backs, receivers).

I expect a few losses, as in previous rebuilding years. However, 1998 was supposed to be a rebuilding year after Peyton graduated. We had a new QB in Tee Martin.

I can swallow a few losses this fall, if we're at least competitive in each game, getting better each week, and the future looks bright. But I expect this team to come out prepared -- unlike this last season.

Sure hope Coach Clawson keeps -- even raises -- the work ethic Coach Cut installed in the practices.

Faster, smarter, tougher, meaner, nastier, quicker than ever -- that's what I want from whatever team shows up. If that's unfair, sue me.

Get to work boys...and you just might be surprised at how much you can accomplish.

LouneyTom writes:

Coach Clawson....Good luck and remember if you happen to read these blogs, there ARE alot of DA's that will pound you just because they are unhappy with their own lives. Make us all proud as you are now a Tennessee Vol!!!!!

FWBVol writes:

Please get rid of all the negative ones!!! This is a day for new beginnings on the offensive side of ball for the Vols. I believe we will see some exciting things on the field.

I hope there is some way for me to get to Knoxville for the spring game, but I doubt if my job schedule will allow it. Still it's a great time to be a Tennessee Volunteer.

GO BIG ORANGE!!!

vol_in_lsu_land writes:

I see our Crimson Tide fan named "Pleasegetridofthenotsoslimone" has graced us with his ignorance again. How about this for a screen name: "Pleasepayalabamacoacheswhattheyareworthsomethinglikeabuckandaquarteranhour"

jsaintge08 writes:

The guy sounds good

rockyknox writes:

Lost in the discussions of coach replacement is an area that many felt Fulmer was ready to correct. We recruit great defensive backs but don't seem to coach them up. That was very evident early in the Fl and Bama games. It stuck out like a sore thumb in the KY game. I hope Fulmer will take care of some unfinished business and get some fresh ideas in the defensive backfield coaching staff as well. Go Vols!

gaVOLman writes:

Sroker - .. you're wrong there buddy. Prostyle QBs may not want to go to the spread offense schools because no one in the NFL runs it, but the best athletes and WRs must love to play in it. I mean they get the ball in lots off space to make plays without ever having to worry about the RBs getting their touches. Not to mention running QBs that are really effective in college love to run that offense as well. Great players will still want to migrate towards it, but utimately I think the school and facilities wins in the end.

VolBall writes:

It is encouraging that the cronyism and tribal logic of our couching staff will finally see some new personalities and minds. These new couches are classy and will represent UT well, both on the field and with recruiting efforts.

dkerr#270212 writes:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, boy.

utmdm writes:

I had wondered all along if the big surprise was on defense. Maybe with Slade's reported health issues and a couple of comments he had made that we might have changeover there. With our low ranking on recuits and many of our potential recruits stating that Slade had developed relations with them, maybe that has been put off for the good of the team.

stroker writes:

gaVOLman you may be right,some good athletes will like it but I believe not pro style RB's QBS and lineman. So if the QB is not a good passer the D can cheat and in a few words I believe it will go the way of the wish bone when the novelty wears off and the D catches on. Just a layman viewpoint.

Where are the spread offense supporters? Mallett is leaving UM. The smart athletes that want to go NFL ain't going to those schools. Just had to say it one more time.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

No d-line push means the DBs are left on an island. It leaves the LBs trying to decide whether to drop back or fill a gap. And it leaves the opposing QB with 3 extra seconds which is deadly.

Pressure on QBs mean the best play in the football world will go astray. Thats why you see RBs getting hit in the back with quick passes and interceptions by cheating-uo corners. D-line is not glamorus but necessary. We just lived thru a season of it, Must be corrected by fall, somehow.

invisiblekid writes:

Clawson has some talent to work with next year, I feel like the offense will be in good shape. The biggest question mark in my mind at this point is whether some of the young guys like Langley, Walker, Brimfield, and Martin are ready to step up and turn the defensive line into a feared unit across the SEC again.

SCOR writes:

Guys, I really think this is alot like "98". We will be under the radar and if we can get to Atlanta again, we got a good shot. As we know the NC is totally up to the voters to get in, but the SEC has alot of pull right now. Does anyone know the date of the Orange and White? Can't WAIT...

1974Vol writes:

Not only does he get the ball to the playmakers, he designs his offense to match the skills of his playmakers. This could get real interesting. TDTN I think Kesling will be call your name alot next year! Touch Down Tennessee! Has a real nice ring to it. Looks like that doughnut eatin' Foolmer has done it again!

vol94 writes:

i read this site daily and never comment until today. i too am very excited and feel the program is heading in the right direction.. Maybe no natl title in 08 or even 09 but i truly feel we will at least be in the Mix by 2010.. just my opinion for what it is worth..
Go Vols!

rockyknox writes:

Hey dash727, I guess you liked Slade's prevent defense on the 10 yard line in the Ky game. Let the guy catch the ball on the 1 and hope the db's can prevent 1 YAC.

britt writes:

Less than 2 months until spring practice! Cant wait to see this guys changes in action.

RemembertheAlamo writes:

Why are we not hiring a Special Team Coach? Did we not have problems on Special Teams this year?

paulvol writes:

Sweet talk those 12 college football prospects visiting this weekend. There isn't much else out there anymore so we need to do well with those few high school football visitors left over by proving to them that UT and its new coaches will lead them to champianships. This is the weekend of the most visitors we have had at once this recruiting season they say. Let's get it done players and coaches to win them over.

pearlman writes:

I think it is great that Fulmers got someone that he can get new ideas from. Good to hear they are already arguing about different concepts. Looks like its going to be a godd '08.

alfrizzle097 writes:

Sounds like we might be looking at the next head coach of UT. Guy has head coaching experience and now will get 1-A experience. Also hiring people he has worked with points in the same direction.

Sounds like he will get full run of the offense. Why do we even need Phil? (Joke... don't take my head off)

volunteer_cowboy writes:

this is what the alabama news paper is saying: How much might Tennessee drop without offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe? The last time he left Knoxville, the Volunteers failed to win ten games three of the next four seasons and bottomed out at 5-6 in 2005.

ellisonfamily writes:

Maybe we could give PF a raise to $4 million and go 6-6 like our friends in Trailer Park U.

OldNumber7 writes:

Al, you said exactly what I was thinking. Clawson said this is a step in the logical progression of things - next obvious step is 1A head coach. It may be at Tennessee like you said.

I'm impressed with Phil here. He states willingness to hand-off the offense unlike ever before to the "expert" and allow him to work. This is a management feature that is required for greatness - empowerment. I didn't think Phil had it in him. I'm also impressed that the interview process created discussion that spurred on some disagreement, so what does Phil do?....hire the guy. That's a sign of a great manager (Phil) - a willingness to accept that his view in the end may not be what's best for the program. I must say this seems like a tremendous move in the right direction, and a major maturity step for Phil as a leader.

EastTennVol writes:

This should turn out to be a great hire for Big Orange Country. All of the new coaches seem to be the right fit for our program. One thing for all the haters out there.....the last time UT hired a coach from a mid-major school it turned out to be one of the best hires in school history! Just keep on hating and we'll keep on winning!!!

ChesterDrawers writes:

Agree with RocketVol, this restores my faith in Phil Fulmer IF he lets the new OC have a free hand to do his job. No more 3rd and 10 shotgun formations from our own endzone, or the horrid wide slants after a pitch back on 3rd and one!

LargeOrange writes:

I like this guy and Drayton. I, for one am not surprised that CPF did his homework and did what is right for the program. I am also really glad to see almost all of the Phil Haters realizing that he is not a donut eating moron and is truly a great CEO and Chairman for our program. I believed in Coach all along, but am glad to welcome back to the fold all of the second guessers and glass half full guys. Phil will run the program, and Chief and Clawson will run the x's and o's, just like before, only better. Time to take a big sip of my Kool-aid and put back on my Orange Shades, because the future is looking bright ORANGE!!

BigOrangeFan writes:

Good post LargeO - It is good to see the wayward sons coming home. This leadership will bode well for the Big Orange Nation for the future. Question, someone asked earlier, does anyone know the date of the Spring Game (O&W) this year? I didn't see it on UTSports.com. Anybody out there know?

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