A stagnant offense responsible for Clemson's first losing season in 12 years cost offensive coordinator Billy Napier and assistant AndrePowell their jobs Sunday.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said following Friday's loss to South Florida he would "do everything and anything" in his power to make sure another losingseason did not occur during his watch. The process began with a shake-up of an offensive staff which produced the nation's 87th-ranked offense (329 yards per game) this season.
"This was a difficult decision, one that was not made hastily," said Swinney in a statement Sunday evening. "But we must make significant improvement on the offensive side of the ball. I have to do what I believe is best for the program going forward, and make sure we don't experience another season like the one we just had."
Swinney will not be available to the media for several days as he immediately begins searching for replacement coaches. Rivals.com's Tom Dienhart reported "rumblings" of former Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen emerging as a candidate Sunday night. Rivals.com also reported Tulsa offensive coordinator Chad Morris -- who utilizes Swinney's preferred style of spread offense - - was of interest to Clemson.
Two years ago, Swinney made Napier the youngest offensive coordinator in program history when he promoted him to the position as a 29-year-old with little play-calling experience.
Sunday's decision might be an indication Swinney is willing to offer a veteran coordinator complete autonomy in running the offense, much as Swinney did with his hiring of Kevin Steele as defensive coordinator.
During the last two seasons, Swinney often signaled in offensive plays and admitted he occasionally changed calls. In overall offensive philosophy Swinney wanted to implement some of his own ideas.
The decision also suggests Swinney believes there is little leeway for error going forward in regard to his own security. Former Clemson coach Tommy West was fired in 1998 in his second losing season.
In regard to Xs and Ox, there were also thought to be some philosophical splits between Swinney and the former Furman quarterback. Some observers perceived Clemson's offensive surge in the second half of 2009 in part related to Swinney allowing Napier more authority over the offense. Swinney is a believer in the spread, but in the second half of 2009 Clemson deployed more power formations.
Last season Swinney and Napier also were involved in a heated exchange during a practice.
Napier, who was the recruiting coordinator in 2007-08, was handicapped this year with a lack of difference-making skill players and a regression in play by quarterback Kyle Parker.
Napier did not return a phone message Sunday but did release a statement.
"It is unfortunate that my time at Clemson has come to an end under these circumstances," Napier said. "I want to thank Coach Tommy Bowden and Coach Dabo Swinney for the opportunity they gave me."
In early December Swinney said he did not anticipate making any staff changes. On several occasions this season Swinney indicated the offensive issues this season were more personnel related than coaching faults as Clemson recorded a program-record point total in 2009. But Clemson had the benefit of a 14-game schedule in 2009, and the Tigers gained only 28 more yards per game last season with C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford on the roster (362 yards per game) than they did in 2010 (334).
Napier's firing will also have an impact on recruiting.
Napier was one of the staff's better recruiters and had especially deep ties in his home state of Georgia, where his father was a long-time high school coach. Clemson's top prospect, Florida running back Mike Bellamy, has become a "shaky" commitment according to Clemson247.com. The Tigers' 2011 commitments rank amongst the nation's top-10 classes according to ESPN and Rivals.com.
As for Powell, the veteran assistant was not thought to be a major asset as a recruiter. He worked as the running backs and special teams coach.