In celebration of the new hire, I dusted off the ol' Excel to throw together a couple graphs. I was particularly interested in Clawson's reputation as a rebuilder. The following isn't any new information, but hey, graphs! Full disclaimer: I'm excited about the hire, and that probably comes across in my presentation. I've tried to stick to the facts (aside from some speculation regarding Tennessee).
For starters, here's Coach Clawson's win percentage each season over his head coaching career:
I think this shows a pretty clear history of rebuilding. He's only had 3 seasons where the team's record got worse on his watch, and two of those were dips to a still-winning record. Really, the only thing that stands out negatively to me is the
dip (okay, collapse) after his first year at Bowling Green (imagine how compelling a rebuilding story this chart would present if I left out that first year on the green series).
BGSU went from 7-6 in 2009 in Clawson's first year to 2-10 the next year. I was curious about this, so I dug into the team stats a little (using the NCAA database which doesn't allow a direct link). It turns out that after 2009 the team graduated:
- its three-year starting quarterback (who threw for over 4000 yds in 2009)
- its two leading receivers (including Freddie Barnes who still holds the NCAA record for season receptions with 155 that year for 1770 yds)
- four of its six defensive players with at least one interception
- seven of its eight leading tacklers including its three leaders in both forced fumbles and tackles for loss
In other words, Coach Clawson got there one season too soon for the rebuilding project. It certainly seems to me like the program was doomed to have a big slip regardless of the coaching situation. It bottomed out in 2010 after that senior exodus, then improved each year by 3 wins (5-7), 3 wins (8-5), and finally 2 wins (10-3).
Wake is facing a similar senior exodus (although we didn't have nearly as much yardage to lose on offense), so we need to brace ourselves for a tough 2014 campaign. To be honest, I don't expect much of a dip (if any) just because of the dismal way this past season turned out. We still have talent, and I'm hopeful we can start rebuilding by at least matching this season's 4 wins (including revenge on our bitter rivals at ULM).
I made another graph showing Clawson's average win % in each of his first five years as head coach of a program:
*Note: year 5 does not include Richmond as he was only there four years.
Obviously, this can't effectively be used to predict how the next few years at Wake will turn out. But I do think it supports the narrative that holistically speaking Coach Clawson has been an effective rebuilder. Really, there's just one year out of fourteen that significantly bucks the trend, and that involved the bulk of his offensive and defensive production graduating before his second year of installing his system.
Another note: these averages include the fall from year one to two at Bowling Green. There would be an even steeper upward slope if I had instead measured "years into rebuilding project" and started the Bowling Green data with the 2-10 season, but that's below even my standards of propaganda.
P.S. - Tennessee
As I'm sure some have noticed, I didn't address the 2008 Tennessee season. That's because I was trying to evaluate the narrative of Clawson the Rebuilder, and I didn't think that year would be useful in that endeavor. When I think of rebuilding a program, I think of its head coach and not its offensive coordinator. More importantly, I think of trends over several years and not a one-season snapshot.
However, I do have some thoughts on that year. Clearly, it did not go well, particularly on offense. Most people were quick to turn on Clawson and his Clawfense and I doubt there were many tears shed in Knoxville when Kiffin announced he would be replaced.
I'm not sure the blame is deserved, though. Prior to being hired as Fulmer's OC, Clawson had built a reputation based on his spread offense at Richmond. From a local report after the hiring was announced:
Many thought Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer would fill the vacant offensive coordinator spot with a coach familiar with his system.
Instead, Fulmer tossed the skeptics a curve ball Friday, dipping into the Football Championship Subdivision to hire Richmond coach Dave Clawson. [...]
Clawson ran the spread offense at Richmond, which would seem to clash with Fulmer’s proven pro-set attack based on a power running game.
But Fulmer hinted that changes might be on the way in a press release.
"I took the attitude that this was a great opportunity for me to evaluate the coaching talent out there and find the perfect fit for a new era of Tennessee offensive football," he said.
Based on reports like that one, I wonder if Fulmer was set on switching to the spread offense and overestimated how much slack was on his leash. Maybe he saw an advantage to be gained with the switch (Florida in years past and this year's division champions show it's possible to win in the SEC without just slogging through games). Whatever the reason may have been, the wording of Fulmer's press release seems to hint that he (wisely or not) wanted a significant change. If that's the case, and he went out and hired a spread offense coach specifically to install the spread offense, I don't know that Clawson should take much blame. I'm sure Clawson and Fulmer both expected such a drastic change to take several seasons to implement (primarily by recruiting the right personnel), but they were only given one. Maybe Clawson was single-handedly and stubbornly insisting on installing a scheme that didn't fit his roster, but it's also possible that he was following his boss' instructions to stick to the spread.
Either way, note to self: don't run a spread offense with Jonathan Crompton. Now it's on my list right under "don't run an option offense with Tanner Price."
I believe in Clawson's history as a rebuilder, and that's why I'm excited about the hire. Still, if I wasn't happy supporting Grobe based on his past accomplishments at Wake, I'm certainly not going to support Clawson based on his past accomplishments elsewhere. I expect, even in next year's rough season, to see signs that this was a good hire. I think that will happen, and I'm optimistic about the program getting where it needs to go in the next few years.