UT football drama surprises Clawson
Posted: Thursday, November 6, 2008 5:16 pm
By: By BETH RUCKER, Associated Press WriterKNOXVILLE (AP) — Dave Clawson is a bit
KNOXVILLE (AP) — Dave Clawson is a bit surprised at how his first — and perhaps only — season as Tennessee offensive coordinator is playing out.
Clawson, who came to Tennessee in January after four years as Richmond coach, said the forcing out of coach Phillip Fulmer came as a surprise because of the Vols’ success last season.
“This is ECS football. Winning is part of the deal,” he said. “But when you assess the situation, you just don’t think that would happen here with what the man’s done, especially when you look at a year ago.”
The problem is, this year hasn’t played out like last season, when Tennessee managed to erase early season struggles with 10 wins, an SEC East title and a win at the Outback Bowl.
Tennessee’s offense has dropped off dramatically after graduating four-year veteran quarterback Erik Ainge and losing several offensive coaches when former coordinator David Cutcliffe left for Duke.
The Vols (3-6) lost only two starters on offense — Ainge and tight end Chris Brown — but are averaging 17 points per game this season compared to 32.5 points last year. They’ve been outscored 126-47 in their five SEC losses.
The mistake-prone offense has struggled to find consistency at quarterback, switching from Jonathan Crompton to Nick Stephens.
“I’ve said all along, I’m disappointed in how we’ve played offensively all year. That certainly has contributed to the season we’ve had. I’m very aware of that,” Clawson said.
The upbeat and always-smiling Clawson wasn’t either on Tuesday when he spoke to the press for the first time after Fulmer announced he was stepping aside at the request of Tennessee.
“Having seen coach Fulmer talk to the team (Monday) is probably one of the saddest things I’ve seen in 20 years of coaching,” Clawson said. “You can tell how attached he is to the team and how attached the team is to him. That was hard to see, hard to watch.”
His job seems to be in jeopardy with the next coach likely coming from outside the Tennessee program. He said he’s thinking not about what his future holds after this season but rather how the Vols are going to find a way to win in their last three games.
After spending a combined nine years coaching Richmond and Fordham and five years as offensive coordinator at Villanova and Lehigh, Clawson took the Tennessee job with the goal of eventually moving into head coaching at the Football Bowl Subdivision level.
“I thought it would be a great place to work,” he said of Tennessee. “I thought it would be a great place to move my family, and I knew I was going to work for a great man.
“You certainly don’t take a job envisioning this is going to happen. But, again, it’s a big-boy business.”
Clawson was hired by Tennessee to bring fresh ideas to a program that has mostly hired from within. He said there are plenty of things he would have done differently with his offense if he’d had a crystal ball months ago.
He and Fulmer have had many frank discussions about what needed to be done differently.
“Usually that’s what you get the offseason for. You go back and you evaluate what you did and how you did it and how you taught it, and you come back the next year and it gets better,” he said. “We’re unfortunately not going to get that opportunity.”