Bowden Adjusting to Change

CLEMSON – When Clemson football coach Tommy Bowden hired Rob Spence as the new offensive coordinator, he promised the assistant complete and total control, which surprised quite a few people. <br>

And why shouldn't it have. After all, even though current offensive line coach Brad Scott and recently fired Mike O'Cain had each served as offensive coordinators for the Tigers the past three years, it was still Bowden's offense.

But after seeing it flounder in recent years, especially in the running game, Bowden decided a drastic change had to be made and as a result, he handed the keys to the offense to someone else.

"I've been talking about being more productive in the running game the last two years and I haven't gotten it done," Bowden said in an interview from his office with CUTigers.com. "And I blame myself, being the head coach. … (Passing for 3,000 yards and rushing for 2,000 yards) is what we used to do here and that's what made me do it."

Some eight years ago at Tulane, Bowden, along with former offensive coordinator and current West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez, and current Tigers running backs coach Burton Burns, created their own version of the spread offense.

They designed the plays, formations, blocking schemes and terminology. That offense helped Bowden go undefeated in his second season with the Green Wave, which allowed him and his assistants to get the job in Clemson.

In his first few seasons with the Tigers, Rodriguez called the majority of the offensive plays. But when he left for the job at West Virginia, Bowden assumed control and has had it ever since.

Now for the first time in eight years, it's someone else's formations, blocking schemes, terminology and play calling, which could cause problems if Bowden the rest of the assistants don't pick up on them quick.

"You've got to be on your Ps and Qs before you go out there and say something to a player and you say the wrong thing," Bowden said. "That's not going to be any good and it's going to slow the operation down. So you really have to be careful from my perspective, especially this year. …

"In saying that though, it's not like you've been speaking English and all of a sudden you're learning French. It's a no-huddle with one back. All the ingredients that we were looking for he has. … It's his terminology and the wrinkles he's added to be more productive in the running game are his."

Bowden says giving up the offense and going through this transformation wasn't as difficult for him as some might think.

"(Spence) has been calling plays for a long time and been productive," he said. "It's not like you're turning it over to an inexperienced guy who hasn't done it. And I'm very familiar with his style and what he's done, so it's not as drastic. I've been in that environment before I feel very comfortable and confident about the operation and how it's going to be run."

Where Bowden use to call every play in spring drills and scrimmages, Spence now will. Where Bowden called approximately 50 percent of the plays the last few years, Spence will now call "the majority." However, Bowden quipped, "But if we lose, he'll call 100 percent."

Other than whatever success the Tigers reap from the change, there has been one fringe benefit with Bowden taking a step back.

"It really frees you up to do other things," he said. "In my job, you can be called away in a heartbeat on about anything. I think most guys would like to migrate toward this because of the responsibility you have in all positions."

He was then asked if he thought the job being head coach as well as having the job of leading the offense was too much to handle or if it made one duty take away from the other. Upon which Bowden strayed from his usual upbeat and positive personality and offered a rare glimpse of defeatism.

"No, I just think I did a poor job," he said. "I don't think it was too much. A lot of people do it. I just didn't do a good job of it."

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