O'Cain Discusses "New Role"

CLEMSON – When Clemson football head coach Tommy Bowden held a meeting with his coaching staff during the first week of February, quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain knew changes were eminent, but just not to what extent.

That's why O'Cain was nearly floored when Bowden informed him and the rest of the assistants that O'Cain was going to be the new offensive coordinator and the third person to hold that spot in six years. It was previously held by Brad Scott, who has moved to offensive line coach.

"I didn't have any idea. I was very surprised," said O'Cain, who is entering his fourth season with the Tigers.

"You just don't ever expect those things to go about that way. There were no prior indications or anything like that, other than he'd said at one time that there were going to be changes with the staff internally – just moving and shuffling some people around. He had thought out the possibilities of some things happening, but nothing specific or anything like that."

At first O'Cain was excited about the new position, but back in his mind was the prevailing thoughts of what Scott, his friend, thought of the move. He had no idea at the time at Scott had actually suggested the switch.

"You want to take over a situation where things are running smooth and you want everybody on the same page, so you didn't know exactly what everybody's thoughts were," O'Cain said. "When something like that happens, there is that possibility (that people were upset). I was happy. I wanted that position. But at the same time you want it under the right circumstances and the right conditions and that's something we addressed very, very quickly. And obviously everything was OK."

"We're dealing with professional people and people that don't necessarily like all the things that happen, but understand it and at the same time understand it may be a positive for our program. And that's what everybody's all about."

From the outside looking in, the change at offensive coordinator seemed a little odd. After all, Clemson was coming off a season in which it won its last four games, in which it produced a record win against its rival and a couple of dominating victories against two of the best programs in the country in Florida State and Tennessee.

Moreover, quarterback Charlie Whitehurst put together some pretty lofty numbers after he completed 62 percent of his pass attempts for 3,561 yards and 21 touchdowns during 2003. But when Scott was asked to be the offensive line coach, a position he held at Florida State, he told Bowden that maybe O'Cain should be the new offensive coordinator so that he could spend ample time on his new assignment.

Bowden had no problem with the recommendation. However, what every Clemson fan wants to know is what effect it will have on the offense, which seemed to hit its stride late in the season.

As of now, the top priority for O'Cain, as well as for offensive line coach Brad Scott, is solidifying the offensive line. "We still have to find another (right) tackle offensively," O'Cain said.
"The thing is, even though there is a title change and a different person as the offensive coordinator, there won't be a whole lot of change in what we do," O'Cain said.

"Things that we've done in the past have pretty much been done as a staff. We sit around, seven or eight of us in that room, and make decisions based upon what's best for us. It's not one person making that decision and that won't change. It will all be done staff-wise. And when it gets to the point where there's a decision to be made or we come to a problem area where somebody's got to make a decision, then where it was Brad's position to do that in the past, it will be mine. So, that will really be the only changes that we'll see."

However, there will be some slight alterations to the offense, all of which were approved by Bowden.

"There will be some things that we do a little different offensively, but it's not because I'm the offensive coordinator," said O'Cain, who was named the most valuable player of Clemson's 1976 team as a quarterback and punter.

"It's because we've decided as an offensive staff that these are things that can help us. We've visited some schools this spring and came up with a few new wrinkles that we think can help our offense in the running game and in the passing game. But that's something that we do every year, no matter who the coordinator is."

"There will be some changes that people will see. Some may be evident and very clear, but there will be some subtle changes taking place. But it will be because we as a staff sat down and said this is the thing to do. Things will be run very, very similar."

As of now, the top priority for O'Cain, as well as for Scott, is solidifying the offensive line. Then he can look to upgrade the other positions.

"We still have to find another (right) tackle offensively," O'Cain said. "I feel very good overall about our offensive line, but we're still a little weak at one offensive tackle spot right now. And when I say weak, it's inexperience. We're not doing quite the job in pass protection that we need to. Run blocking and things like that, I'm very pleased with it. But we're just not where we need to be from a pass protection standpoint at one tackle position."

"Hopefully in August, we can get that corrected. And if we don't … if the person or individuals over there don't seem to be able to do what we're asking them to do, then we'll help them. We'll do things within the scheme to make that position be successful."

"The other area … I feel very good about our top four receivers. But we've got to get a fifth, sixth and seventh receiver. With as much four and three wide-outs we play, you want six or seven quality receivers. We've got to get some young guys to step up and become those backup spots."

O'Cain said he knows the expectations from the fans and Bowden in regards to the offense are high. He also said he welcomes the challenge. O'Cain also wants it understood that even though he was head coach at N.C. State from 1993-99, doesn't mean that his time at Clemson is just a port in the storm until he finds himself another head coaching gig.

He's in it for the long haul.

"I like it here. I've always been the kind of person where I grow roots pretty quickly, and obviously my roots here go back many, many years," he said. "I didn't come here with the thoughts that I was only going to be here a short time and then go and try and find another head coaching job. I came here with the thoughts of staying here, to be honest with you."

"I'm not saying that if the right head coaching job came open and I thought there was an interest that I would not try to get it. But I came here with intentions of staying here for the rest of my coaching career, unless some pie-in-the-sky or some great situation opened up and I had a chance to become that head coach, then I would pursue it. I would like to do it again if the right opportunity presents itself, but it's not something where I wake up every morning with a knot in my stomach saying, ‘Gosh, I've got to be a head coach.' That's not the way I operate. I like it here and I would be happy staying here the rest of my career."

CUTigers.com Top Stories