CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik loves the repetition and simplicity of Garrett Riley’s first spring as offensive coordinator.
Riley’s message is it’s more important to master a handful of plays he’s shown them this spring than overload players with new concepts and terminology.
“More than anything, lets get good at a few things and let’s grow from there,” Riley said. “Let’s dumb it down, start fresh. Come away with an identity, and that will grow. Don’t get bored with doing things over and over and over again.”
So far, so good, according to Klubnik, the sophomore who took over as starter late last season and will have full control of the attack this fall.
“I love the offense,” Klubnik said. “It’s efficient and productive. Doing less, doing it better and I’m loving it.”
Since 2011, the Tigers have been among college football’s most productive offenses. They posted seven seasons where they averaged 500 or more yards a game between, led by ACC players of the year in quarterbacks Tajh Boyd, Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence.
But when Lawrence left after 2020 to become the NFL’s No. 1 overall draft pick, Clemson’s attack took a step back. They averaged just 359 yards a game in 2021 and 410 yards last season.
The Tigers won their seventh Atlantic Coast Conference title in eight seasons, but that wasn’t enough to keep coach Dabo Swinney from making a change. He dismissed offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter and brought in the 33-year-old Riley. The younger brother of Southern Cal coach Lincoln Riley was already considered an innovator for his work under coach Sonny Dykes at SMU and TCU.
Swinney said Clemson’s been elite in the pass game with its quarterbacks and receivers for a while, a distinction he’d like to return to with Riley.
“I think he can help us do that without sacrificing the run game,” Swinney said. “Again, he’s an Air Raid guy, his roots, but as he likes to say, it’s a Power Air Raid.”
Klubnik was a five-star freshman who many Clemson fans wanted to see supplant last year’s starter, DJ Uiagalelei. Instead, it took until Klubnik subbed in with Uiagalelei struggling at the ACC title game against North Carolina to gain the spot as Klubnik led the Tigers to the 39-10 championship win.
Klubnik showed next time out he’s still got things to learn as Tennessee beat Clemson 31-14 in the Orange Bowl. Klubnik threw for 320 yards, but had two interceptions.
Riley recruited Klubnik while at SMU and the two are grateful to share the same sideline at Clemson.
“Just what he can do with any type of quarterback, it’s just exciting to me to see what he’s going to do with this offense,” Klubnik said. “I’ve got a long way to go.”
Riley has changed up things. He’s eliminated the large, four-sectioned posters Clemson used to hold up on the sidelines to signal plays. Riley will work from the sideline, not up in the coaches’ box. Riley will signal the play and it’s go time, tight ends coach Kyle Richardson said.
“In the past, there was a lot of stuff that had to happen for us to even get the call in,” Richardson explained. “And then from there, there was a ton of communication to get the call started. You don’t see that much in this offense.”
Riley’s found a willing group of players who want to continue Clemson’s championship run of seven ACC crowns, six College Football Playoff berths and two national championships since 2015.
“It’s definitely a fresh start,” Riley said. “But a lot of things conceptually are the same, just taught a little differently. That’s been neat to see from day one, the buy in from the staff.
“Our players are eager to learn this quickly and get into a groove.”
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