The following is an edited transcript of Caldwell's interview.
It's got to feel good to be back in South Carolina. Why this job? Why now?
Caldwell: I've been out of the state for 25 years—obviously, recruited some here. We signed some over the years. It's home to me. I went to school right down the road. It's a pretty special place. I've caught a lot of fish over there in that lake, looking at that stadium, dreaming about it one day. Now, it actually happened. It's a very good feeling for me. Why? I got fired. I was unemployed and looking for a job. One thing you'll find out about me, don't ask me a question you don't want answered. I ain't afraid to answer and I ain't smart enough to lie to you. I'm going to tell you the way it is. That's why I appreciate it if you don't ask me anything too difficult. Those people at Furman would be mad if I didn't say I was very smart. I slid out of there with a diploma…it's a great thrill. I met coach Swinney during recruiting. He's just a great human being. Coach [Woody] McCorvey. I know him. I competed against him. Coach [Dan] Brooks, coach [Kevin] Steele, I've competed against them for a long time. Coach [Marion] Hobby was at Ole Miss when I coached against him. I feel like I've known these guys. It's just a great fit. Coach [Danny] Pearman, I recruited for about two weeks before I found out he was too good for us over at Furman. There are connections there. It's just a great feeling to be back in this area.
How did the opportunity come together?
Caldwell: Coach McCorvey called me one day, just to say hello. We were talking. I could tell in his voice that something might be up, but I didn't know. He didn't let the cat out of the bag. He asked me what my plans might be. I said, ‘I'm looking for a job. Enjoying my family right now.' It was the first time in 30 some odd years that I wasn't writing a recruit, calling a recruit, or something during Christmas. It was a pretty special time, being with my daughter and my wife. Then, I got a call, and coach said coach Scott had been talking to him about what he'd like to do, and he might recommend me, which meant a lot to me, because I've known coach Scott for a long time. I competed against him when he was at Florida State and I was at N.C. State. We had a great time competing against each other. I called on Jeff's school when he was coaching at Blythewood, so I got to know him. That was pretty neat. It's just a perfect fit for me.
Did you ever consider taking some time off?
Caldwell: Understand something, guys. I was not an SEC coach—money-wise. I took the job, and I was very tickled, but basically it was to keep everybody working. Coach Johnson retired and it gave me an opportunity to sit in the seat. I've been doing it a long time. It was great to get a feel for all the things you do in the process. I was training a football operations guy, an associate athletic director. I helped them do their job and mine. I was doing it all. That was a lot of fun, but it didn't work out. I just didn't feel comfortable sitting around. I was driving my wife crazy. I spent too much time at home. After 22 years, me being on the road recruiting, she liked her time and our time. Finally, one day, she said, ‘You've got to get out of the house.' Seriously, I never thought about not coaching…
What's your philosophy as an o-line coach? What's your philosophy on the recruiting trail?
Caldwell: My philosophy is pretty simple. I tell all my players, first of all, great character. I was a sorry student. I know all the tricks. I was captain of the study hall. I stayed in there for three years. It's nothing to be proud of, so they can't pull the wool over my eyes. I can tell you that I've been very fortunate, in all the years I've coached, I've never had a guy that played four years and didn't graduate. That's first and foremost. If you're a good person, you're being accountable. As far as football goes, number one, they've got to overcome their coaching. Number two, laugh at my jokes. If they do that, we're going to be pretty good. We're going to push them hard and go from there. I like to have fun. I just told them yesterday, in the brief moment I got to say hello, I said, ‘We'll have a time where we're going to have some fun, joke, cut up, have a big time. Then, we're going to turn that switch and go to work.' There's far more things in this world other than football…I'm going to coach them hard so they can be the best they can be and make us, as a team, be the best we can be. That's my philosophy, in a nut shell. I want them to have fun. This is a hard game. It's not for everybody…
It's a little different this day and time. I've never said a kid's got to be this tall or that tall to play. I've never told a kid he can't play. I've told them we might have somebody higher. I'm never going to discourage a kid. There's a place for everybody. If you want to play this game, there's a place for you. It may not be at Clemson, but size does enter into it. It's more about arm length, their ability to carry x-number of pounds. We may look at our linemen and what we're going to do offensively, and say, ‘You've got to lose 20 pounds.' We'll know more once we start working them and watching. I look for how well they can bend. How they can get in a stance. Not many young men get in a stance anymore, by that, I mean putting their hand on the ground. Most young men play in a two-point stance. It's a little more difficult. I used to work hard trying to teach them how to play in a two-point. Now, you've got to teach them how to play in a three-point with their hand on the ground. Everything's kind of reversed. Guards used to be the quick, fast guys. Now, they're the big bulky guys. Tackles were the big brutes. Now, they're the quicker, longer arm guys. It's a lot of different things we look for in the recruiting process. Inside, I don't have a problem with height. Outside, height usually goes with the arm reach—not always. It's still about leverage.
What do you know about the guys you already have in the cupboard?
Caldwell: Not a whole lot. Coach Scott has gone through the roster with me on all of them, personally, about their lives, what's going on, where they are academically, those types of things, and his opinion on how well they can do some things. Obviously, we're going to have to watch some. What I've tried not to do is watch a great deal of tape on them. I don't want to form opinions right now. Sometimes, I think all of us need a fresh start sometimes. We can start over, but we can have a new ending. That's kind of the way I approach it. I want to watch and see how much they progress from this point forward. But, you've got have a starting point, so some of it will have to be done. We have to set a two-deep and start out.
Caldwell on the job at Clemson
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