The Clemson Tigers hired a new offensive coordinator this offseason following a year of inconsistency on that side of the ball. Dabo Swinney hit a home run with his addition of Gerrett Riley to the staff, but had he swung and missed with the TCU play caller, fans likely would’ve been infuriated with his second choice.
The Tigers saw somewhat of a down year in 2022, which is crazy to say considering they won 10 games for a 12th straight year as well as an ACC title. That feeling of disappointment comes from the finish to the year.
After starting the season 8-0, Clemson dropped three of its final six games including the instate rivalry against South Carolina, which ended a 40-game home winning streak. That loss to the Gamecocks, combined with a blowout defeat against Notre Dame earlier in the year effectively eliminated the Tigers from College Football Playoff contention.
They’d go on to get walloped by Tennessee in the Orange Bowl, 31-14.
Much of that subpar finish can be attributed to the offensive output. Clemson scored 30 points or more in each of its first seven contests. They reached that mark just four times over the final seven games, and it’s really three when you consider that nine of the Tigers’ 30 points versus South Carolina came on defense.
Many pointed to play calling and quarterback play as the main issues.
Tigers see changes at OC, QB.
Brandon Streeter took over play calling duties following the departure of Tony Elliott to Virginia. His quarterback, former five-star passer DJ Uiagalelei, entered his third season under center for the program.
Both struggled in 2022.
Though a threat with his legs, Uiagalelei’s inability to play consistently and push the ball downfield cost the Tigers. The signal caller failed to top 200 yards in four of his last five games, including a 99-yard dud against the Gamecocks. Over those final five contests, Uiagalelei threw just five touchdowns to five interceptions after notching a 17-to-2 ratio over his first seven starts.
Despite the slipping outputs, Streeter continued to call the passer’s number. Look no further than that South Carolina game as proof as DJU threw 29 passes (completing just 8) in a game Clemson led for more than three quarters.
The Tigers’ rushing attack piled up more than 230 yards on 6.4 yards per carry throughout the day, yet Streeter continued to air it out. Play calling and a costly interception allowed the Gamecocks to get back into the game and escape with a 31-30 victory.
When the offseason hit, both DJ Uiagalelei and Brandon Streeter were shown the door. Uiagalelei ended up at Oregon State for his final season while Streeter is now an offensive analyst at Georgia.
Clemson hires offensive coordinator Garrett Riley.
Uiagalelei’s decision was no surprise after seeing freshman Cade Klubnik take over his starting role in the Orange Bowl. Streeter was a bit more of a question mark. Dabo Swinney has a tendency to keep things close to the program, and it was unclear whether he’d let Streeter go following one bad season, given he’d been on the staff for 15 years.
It seems he was close to keeping him.
Swinney sat down to speak with Kelly Gramlich and Eric Mac Lain this week, and he dove into the OC hiring process.
“You know, honestly, it was Garrett [Riley],” the head coach said when asked why he made the OC change. “I had an opportunity to hire Garrett, and I felt like it was just the right change… I thought that he was the shot of confidence that we needed.”
Garrett, the brother of USC head coach Lincoln Riley, had previously been at TCU where he helped the Horned Frogs reach the national championship game. Considered one of the best play callers in the country, he chose to break away from Sonny Dykes’ shadow and give it a shot in the ACC.
He’ll have plenty of talent on offense, particularly in the backfield with Klubnik and all-conference rusher Will Shipley. Last year with Max Duggan under center, Riley’s group averaged 38.8 points per game, good for the ninth-best rate in the nation.
Swinney acted fast after that national championship game to contact the offensive coordinator, and it paid off. The home run hire sent immediate shockwaves throughout college football, riling up rival fans on their team message boards.
But had he not made the move, it likely would’ve been Clemson fans that were frustrated.
Swinney said that had Riley not been available, Streeter would’ve kept the play calling duties.
“Honestly, if it wasn’t for Garrett, I would not have made a change.”
Now, that could be a comment made as to not throw Streeter under the bus after he spent a decade and a half on staff. But given Swinney’s past hiring history (i.e., defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin), it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see Streeter retained.
Many Tigers fans commented in disgust on just the thought of keeping Streeter as OC.
the part about not making a change if he couldn’t get Riley floored me. Maybe he’s just saving Streeter’s feelings but I would’ve taken 120 other coordinators last year.
— j, cfb (@CFBJAY) August 28, 2023
So, Riley not available would’ve meant sticking with Streeter!?!? C’mon man.
— Occam’s Toothbrush (@LMFAO59268149) August 28, 2023
Really no reason to come out and say this nonsense. https://t.co/wkmHa3ZXS7
— Clemson Bagman (@ExcessDepth) August 29, 2023
Hmmm. I’m hoping he’s exaggerating a little by saying if not Garrett, then no change….. https://t.co/qvivUnKbnH
— John Suly (@TigerNE_CU) August 28, 2023
Luckily for those Tiger fans, there is a new offensive coordinator in Clemson. We’ll see if he can help get the program back to the College Football Playoff in 2023.