Tough part hasn't started for Clawson

Since being hired as Tennessee's new offensive coordinator in January, former Richmond coach Dave Clawson has been a busy man.

First, it was jumping into the Division I recruiting pool with both feet. Since then, it's been endless hours spent preparing to install his offense when spring practice starts March 11.

On Tuesday, Clawson sat down with the News Sentinel to discuss those and other topics.

Q: You spent four years at Richmond, and you've been a lot of different places. How has Knoxville been so far?

A: It's been good. To be honest with you, I'm either in my office or in the hotel, so I haven't been able to get out and see Knoxville, learn Knoxville. I'm sure once my family gets here in the summer, there will be a time for that. Really it's just been pretty much working.

Q: Is that what you expected when you took the job? Did you think it would be hit the ground running and take a breath in June?

A: I think anytime you take a new job, you've just got to dive into it. There are certain things you have to get done. If you've been somewhere for three or four years, the preparation for spring's easier because you have an installation schedule and the players know the offense, understand the offense and the terminology. It's really a painstaking process to go through, 'What do you call a tackle on the inside shave? What do you call a tackle on an outside shave?' Once you get through that once, it becomes the language that you use. So much about football is getting people on the same page with terminology.

Q: Making the adjustment, you've obviously been a head coach for a while at different places, what's the adjustment like for you moving from a head coach to a coordinator?

A: You do the job you have. My job now is to not manage an entire program, it's to assist the head coach in those things. My primary job is to make sure the offense runs well. Some of the good things have been you can really spend more time with the players. You can spend more time doing football stuff. I've enjoyed that. I've enjoyed being able to go into a film room and watch film for three hours and to not be interrupted by other things that are happening. When you're a head coach, those other things really have to take priority.

Q: Talking with someone at Richmond during the hiring process, they said they couldn't wait to see what you could do with the chance to devote all your time and energy to planning an offense. Is that an exciting thing for you?

A: I did things a little unusual. Even in our conference, I think I was only one of two or one of three coaches that was a head coach that ran a side of the ball. I was always worried about turnover on my staff at the I-AA level. I had to worry about maybe the defense changing, the special teams changing, but at least I knew that one side of the ball would never change. But in doing that, you're really wearing two hats. I think anytime you have two jobs that require a full-time commitment, there's times you don't feel that you ever do either one as well as you'd be capable of if you could totally devote all your energy to just one of the jobs. It's been fun for me to go back and just devote myself to the one thing and not be responsible for all the other.

Q: I have this vision that the process of deciding terminology is like the French language. They have this group of about 40 people who sit in a room and decide what words make the dictionary.

A: It's almost like that. We'll talk about combination blocks. What do you call that double team? Do you call it a 'toy' block for tackle and Y? Or do you call it a 'tate' block for tackle and tight end? Why'd you call it that? Does this imply they're going to this backer or that backer? Sometimes you do two or three hours of it, you just say, 'Hey, we need a mental health break.' It's also fun because you get to revisit. I've been running the same offense for 14 years. Sometimes it's like, 'Why'd you call it that?' I'm like, 'I don't know. We just called it that.' You get caught in that trap of you just do it because that's how you've done it. It needs to make sense for an 18-year-old coming out of high school, not to a 41-year-old that's been coaching football for 20 years.

Q: I wanted to ask you about your philosophy of getting the ball to your playmakers. It seems like a pretty pragmatic approach. How did you arrive at that, and what were some of your influences in arriving at that sort of philosophy?

A: Everywhere I've been, to me there's been one or two skill guys that stick out among the rest of the group. If it ever came down to a play to decide a game, I wanted to make sure that one of those two or three guys was given a chance to make a play. I don't think it was any different in basketball. When the Chicago Bulls were trying to win a championship and they were down one with 10 seconds left, somehow, someway Michael Jordan was either going to take the shot or he was going to draw so many people that someone was going to be wide open. In football, you have the five O-linemen, you have the quarterback and there's five skill guys. To me it just makes sense. The best basketball players get the most shots. Well, the best football players should have an opportunity to have their hands on the ball more than the rest of the guys. I just think it's a philosophy of think players, not plays. Everything looks good on a board. But a lot of times we've run a bad play with a good player and it works. At times we've run the perfect play, but because we weren't running it with a good player, it doesn't work. When we had Brian Westbrook at Villanova, there were a lot, a lot of bad play calls that I made that ended up being long touchdowns. Think players not plays. Not that plays aren't important, but when the play's over, who has their hands on the ball is really a lot of times the most important factor in whether a play is good or not.

Q: I'm sure you've spent time watching film of this team from last year. What impressed you about this offense as you've watched film?

A: I thought the offensive line played well. They protected the quarterback extremely well. To me they seemed like they were an extremely well-coached group. Coach Cut was a good coach, a very good coach. Still is. It's not like you're taking over a situation that was disorganized or in disarray. Not so much any one particular offensive player, but just the amount of depth. You do have depth at the tailback position. You do have depth at the wide receiver position. I think the big thing I'm looking for during the spring is who separates themselves. We have all these receivers who played: Austin Rogers, Lucas Taylor, Josh Briscoe, Denarius Moore. All these guys played, but who in that group is really the one or two best? Who are the guys that are going to do things in the spring that are going to force us to gameplan for them?

Q: You talk about finding those one or two players, and I wondered if in watching film, have you been able to identify one or two of those playmakers or is that something you'll look toward spring practice when you see them in pads?

A: I don't want to go in, in my mind with a preordained idea of who those guys (playmakers) are. I want to see guys in spring practice distinguish themselves and separate themselves. Those are the guys that show up every day and compete hard every day. A guy can be a real good player, but if he doesn't practice hard every day, I'm not sure I want him to have the ball in the fourth quarter of a game.

Q: Generally, what do you think the most important factors are in finding a starter at quarterback? What are you looking for when you're evaluating those guys this spring?

A: Who moves the team the best. Good quarterbacks come in all different shapes and sizes. At the end of the day, who do you want in the huddle with two minutes left, and who does the team look at as the guy that's going to get us where we need to go? Part of that is a film evaluation, but again, it's working with guys on a daily basis and see how much they put into it and how much work they're willing to put into it. Not necessarily how much can they memorize, but how much do they truly understand? Do they understand the defense? Do they understand the application of the play to the defense? Is the ball going where the ball should go?

Q: When you look at the offense you're installing now, how much of a change do you anticipate for the quarterback from where it has been in the past?

A: There may be similar concepts (in the passing game), but the way that we teach it will be different. Not that it's better or not that it's worse. It's just there's a certain way I've learned offensive football and just a way that I've taught things that's going to be a little bit different for the quarterbacks. I think we'll look a little bit different. There's going to be similar principles of attack, but the way we look doing it and the way we go about it will end up looking a little different.

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Comments » 169

BOASoldier writes:

Ah yeah ... change it up... I have a feeling it's going to be an exciting year

budd#207344 writes:

guy not afraid to talk football good sign

GerryOP writes:

Right budd, and none of the balderdash we are used to hearing. Very refreshing!

nicksjuzunk#646117 writes:

Finally. An article on FOOTBALL that doesn't bash the discipline issues or call for the coaches' head.

Let us join hands and sing Rocky Top together... yea, for a moment only, but let us unite in the bliss of this article.

givehim6 writes:

Getting the ball in the best players hands! Wow, what an idea! Why havn't we thougt of this before?

TommyJack writes:

I have a good feeling about this guy.

utchris writes:

Sounds good so far. As long as he does not equate different by putting the dunk in front of dink...haha

It will definitely be interesting to see whats ahead

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Right utchris, we've seen the dink-duck, maybe a shot of duck-dink with a long dink (over 6 yds) thrown in. Clawson sounds good. How will "different" play out?

And if Chief will boiiiing a few ball carriers and maybe make the opposing QB not have time to do a crossword. Who knows!

Get 2 or 3 DTs who can get a push actually accross the line of scrimmage. UCLA will show us quick if we're ready. Hope UAB doesn't roll up and down the field.

Wish Clawson and co. all the best. Man, Spiderball, comin' at ya!

tigervol9802 writes:

I dunno...just getting the ball into playmakers hands? After all I have read on here from what people want, that almost sounds too simplistic for their tastes.....

Does seem like a no nonsense kind of guy though. I like that. And I bet he would never run the fade to Leonard Scott in the endzone.

CoverOrange writes:

Thank you Drew Edwards.

VOLinDAWGland writes:

Best antidote for a porous defense is a dominating offense. I think we'll live or die by how well this offense performs. It may be 2010 before we see a deep and talented d-line like we've been used to in the past.

Great article...'bout damn time. Keep them rolling. I'd like to see something on Scott and his views of the recievers he's inherited and his plans for them. I'd like to hear from the RB coach.

Anyone ever hear anything about Ainge at the combine? I haven't been able to find anything as I don't pay for premium access to ESPN.

SFOrange writes:

this guy is nothing if not pragmatic. suspect the offense will be too. think it thru, run it, next play. with the QB undecided and a new system for the team to learn...could be a sloppy but interesting spring. my hope is that the SEC sees a different UT O on the field come fall.

mbradshaw1#655539 writes:

Love the article, and it sounds like he knows offense. I also hope he is able to do the things he want's to do with the players we have. We will just have to see if they can learn a new offense and be productive. It might take a little longer to accomplish than we all hope but I think coach Clawson will give Tennessee fans something to cheer about.


invisiblekid writes:

It's been a long off-season and I think it will do everyone some good to actually hear some pads popping on the field. Agree with TJ, I have a good feeling about Clawson. I think simple will be refreshing after years of 8 WR rotations under Washington and 3 years of experience needed to learn blocking schemes for the RB's.

invisiblekid writes:

pdhuff, I wonder if Robosaurus has any eligibility left at defensive tackle?

VOLinDAWGland writes:

invisible...good point! It will be interesting to see if this staff can get players contributing earlier than the past. In this era where Freshman have to contribute and if they do you can count on them leaving after their Jr. year, they need to contribute ASAP. UF always seems to have a Freshman playmaker.

If anything, I think Fulmer's actually been too hands off in the past. We didn't see those power/stretch offenses that Fulmer ran when OC when Cut and Sanders were the OC. I think Clawson will have plenty of space to do his thing. He's already introducing new terminology and new way's of teaching/practice. That is probably exactly what this program needs. I'll bet he'll feel like a kid in a toy store as he's probably never had the quantity and quality of playmakers that he now has at his disposal. Instead of figuring out how to get the ball to his one playmaker, he should have 3 or 4 viable playmaker options with this crew...that's fun!!!

pdhuff#552644 writes:

invisiblekid - In the racing industry, you become fairly jaded with "been there, done that". but Robo at Charlotte several years ago was awesome. As I said to see a full size Econoline van bitten nearly in half and burning made you want a cold one. The pierceing scream/roar (great speakers) was awesome.

Would recommend going to see him for anyone who hasn't. I assume he'll be back out there. He would have made a 5-star d-tackle. Not that we need any.

Think we'll throw any 15 yd passes this year? It'll be nice to see.

invisiblekid writes:

Thanks VolinDawgLand. I am honestly excited to see what Clawson can do with an upgrade in talent as well. I am really intrigued with the fact that Clawson coached Westbrook. I don't know that any of the RB's are as dynamic a player as him, but I like the idea of receivers coming out of the backfield. Foster hit for a couple of big gains catching the ball last year and I don't think it was utilized enough. If nothing else, Clawson should help break some of the more obvious tendencies in play-calling that Cutcliffe sometimes displayed.

gohawks1 writes:

I'm pumped about what this guy is going to bring to our O. Personally, I don't think we need to go to the spread, and I don't think Clawson will do that either. He will, however, get the ball to the guys who can make the plays. Should be an exciting time in the fall.

invisiblekid writes:

pdhuff, I remember hearing the advertisements for Robosaurus on the radio a few years back in Charlotte and regret that I missed it. I am not really a tractor pull, drag racing kind of guy but that had to be a sight to behold. I used to run about every piece of heavy equipment you could think of and, as a red-blooded Southern boy, always enjoyed doing a little damage when I got the chance.

Back to football, I honestly don't know what to expect out of Spiderman. He seems to be a chameleon based on his resume. If last year was any indication, they were a heavy running team but they had a running QB. I don't expect to see Crompton doing too much running though. I think a 15 yard pass would be a swell idea, maybe a seam route with a TE or some of those old corner routes that Spurrier used to have Wuerffel shot put down the field.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

invisible- I have to give credit where credit is due and Wuerffel was a master at putting that drop into a 1 yd area. Believe ol' ball coach believes now what we all know. Football is a lot tougher at SC than Gatorland.

Clawson has to be the man. Maybe Chavis can coach them up. Maybe we can surprise some foes, maybe not.

Last saw old Robo at 600 mile race at Charlotte about 1996 or so. Marvel of engineering. Like you said, can't imagine telling Ma, "Come and see what I got"?

hmhawk writes:

Go to and click on the sec voicemail article under rumors,etc.It'll make you mad but the truth is it it both truthful and humorous.

Orangebrewbasher writes:

Forget winning or losing for the moment, its just exciting thinking about new plays. I don't think my couch can take the beating it took like the one I gave it last year after watching screen pass after screen pass, five yard pass after five yard pass, it just got too ridiculous.

GerryOP writes:

Thanks hmhawk. It is always interesting to see how others view Coach Fulmer.

hmhawk writes:

Gerryop.Your welcome.I was just watching the race and decided to check back.I may not like it but I do enjoy the humor.If not then I'd have to quit picking on Spurrier and that ain't gonna happen LOL.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

hmhawk good link - you will ruin some "Ites" din-din with info like that.

GerryOP writes:

Known fact ... KNS hates UT/Fulmer, ESPN hates UT/Fulmer, CBS Sportsline hates UT/Fulmer, Fox Sports hates UT/Fulmer ... Just trying to save the Fulmerites a few keystrokes. Probably should consider changing the fight song from "Rocky Top" to "Nobody likes us, everybody hates us, guess we'll go eat worms..."

Stay the course ... it is well.

LargeOrange writes:

pdhuff, This poorly put together myspace link was mildly humorous and poked fun at many SEC Coaches, I seriously doubt anyone's din-din will be ruined. What you Hater-Aid drinkers don't get is that it is to be expected to have the fans from other schools to ridicule your coach and team, that is the way it has always been and is part of the rivalry, but what sux is people who still claim to be Vol fans ridiculing publicly and constantly our own. Q. How can you tell the difference between a Florida or Alabama fan posting and the HaterAid crowd's postings? A. You can't. To start this phooey up again on an article as exciting and promising as this one shows what an obsession you have.

TommyJack writes:

PD: Other than with Ralph's fritters, are you obsessed?

pdhuff#552644 writes:

tng 6:07 I am obsessed with the moles. I am possessed of the scars of 100 laid on us by Bama and Fla. I am in awe of 2.4" finger-changing leaps and fritters.

I pay little attention to the blotter of the KPD preferring to get roster info from Tenn, since one is not quite as complete as the other. I cannot remember seeing a picture of a SEC Champ ring. Will there be available a 10th anniversary no-ring ring?

My din-din has been upset with losing 18 of the last 28 games vs top 25 teams and being aware of it. What time is the next herd move toward the ice cliff? Gotta find those orange-colored blinders......

goldengate writes:

Thanks for the link, GerryOP.

Now who was represented there on Saban, Spurrier, Meyer, Fulmer, Miles ... pretty much the SEC's national championship club. And they all had nasty comments as their "voice mail" messages.

Look at Richt's. Nice guy. Nice comments. NO national championship.

And by the way, if you read the whole thing, most of those comments are apparently from the "left coast", so I'm not too worried 'bout what they have to say.

Thanks for putting into perspective what many of us need to remember: if you're a winner, others, quite often, will hate you for just that fact. And thanks for reminding us that Fulmer is in that elite club of SEC coaches who have accounted for 40% of all the BCS National Championships.

hmhawk writes:

If you go back to the FSN satire of the SEC coaches you will also see that they are gonna do it to coaches in every conference.I bleed 10ec orange but I love humor also.Remember if you can't laugh at yourself you lose the right to laugh at anyone.GO VOLS!

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Well-said hmhawk 7:41am. Part of being realistic is realizing humorous things happen in life.

Roll with the flow. Smile. Things like dogs and sunshine and family are more important than a game. Life's big stage (SEC coaches, etc.) brings the heat along with the $$$$$$. Celebs thrive off of it.

tngeoff - you are the master of links. I have one you might store away for future repartee.

Hope that's correct, steam from computer gets in one eyes.

GerryOP writes:

goldengate (What a "sweet" name!) give credit where credit is due. hmhawk provided the link. BTW, always, always ignore the message and shoot the messenger.

New names for the Fulmerites: The Oblivians (They are oblivious to reality.) Or maybe the Blissfuls? (Ignorance is bliss.)

pd: Is Cracker Jacks handling the distribution of the no ring-ring?

Happy Monday ya'all!

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Frackenrack #$%##$- try

GerryOP- They got after me for hmhawks link, so don't feel bad. We could always see LSU's ring.

Somewhere the sun is shining, somewhere kids shout, but here is no joy in Mudville, because......

(or something like that).

GerryOP writes:

pd: Feel bad? Not me! I thought it was a great link and hmhawk should get the credit!

I agree, we should all look at things with humor. Since everyone else laughs at Fulmer, we should too? Still finding it hard to view the Cal, FL, AL, SC, Vandy, KY, and WI games to be humorous. I'll try again tomorrow.

jobrando#216494 writes:

Take away CPF's headphones during game

orangebloodgmc writes:

Great Clawson article. I am pleased that he is noticing that we have multiple running backs who could get the job done. Will be interesting to see if one or two stand-outs really will emerge at receiver. Wonder what Ahmad Paige will do when he gets on the field?

goldengate writes:

Gee, having a bad morning GOP?!

I was merely saying thanks.

losvolsganan writes:

Good job Drew and KNS! Thanks! More of this sort of stuff, please!

GerryOP writes:

No goldengate, everyday I wake up without a tag on my toe and on the green side of the grass is truly a great day! I just wanted to make sure you knew that hmhawk actually found the link. He deserves the thanks!

leedsvol2007 writes:

Its interesting he did not mention Gerald Jones is the list of experienced receivers returning.

Wonder if that means he is deep in the dog-house or that they are planning for him as a QB?


pdhuff#552644 writes:

Good morning, sjt18. Enjoyed the Ky game,
hope Clawson is the answer, oops, he's not a defensive man is he?

Seen any DTs anywhere? Glorious day in the foothills awaiting the storms coming in from Miss.

vscebail#247785 writes:

"TOUGH PART HASN"T STARTED FOR CLAWSON." -- No kidding! Just wait until we lose a couple of games and then people start scrutinizing him the same way that they do Coach Fulmer. Enjoy it coach -- Fans on this site can be ruthless. It'll be a short honeymoon.

waterskier3#226480 writes:

Go VOLS!!!!! we'll see soon what type of offense he runs once spring practice starts.. should be interesting to see if we have different formations... that will be the tell tell sign if fulmer has let him make changes............................

VOLinDAWGland writes:

It's not so much the formation that matters, but what you do from those formations and the sequence and logic of the plays called.

I'm sure we'll see 2 back 3 wide and 4 wide and TE and 1 back formations, same as Cut because Cut ran an pro style offense and all indications are that Clawson will as well.

orangebloodgmc writes:

Can anybody tell me if the other qb's, Stephens and Coleman, can run at all, or just throwers only?

orangebloodgmc writes:

Thanks, sjt18. I trust they will all get a good look and sorting out this spring.

orangebloodgmc writes:

Well, I remember once when he did dive over the pile for a td, somebody said it looked like an octopus falling out of a tree! Bless his heart. But he did get us 6 pts that time.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

tngeoff 11:35 for some reason it won't let me post the whole link. Easy - google - lemmings
click on page 2 - halfway down is Lemmings artic wildlife- click on that link and laugh. Photo is great.

It cut off last 3-4 ltrs of web address both times. Plot by aliens, methinks.

Did you get the Goodwill link a friend sent to me?

Bet ol' Clawson's chomping at the bit to roll thru UAB, then comes the 2nd U. We'll know then.

Maybe our "D" will step it and avoid any more jailbreaks. Sure hope so. Bet Phil hopes so too.

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