From Garnet to Orange

CLEMSON – With the first full year as a member of the Clemson football coaching staff coming to a close, defensive line coach Chris Rumph is as comfortable with the Tigers as a 10-year veteran would be. And this is coming from someone who played defensive end for hated rival South Carolina.

But that level of comfort didn't happen over night.

It took Rumph, who was hired during the first week of March, some four months to get fully acclimated and at ease as the newest member of the Clemson coaching staff.

"I think around July is when I started to feel comfortable," he said. "Once we went through spring ball, I got a taste of what that was like. It was July when things really started to slow down for me. I came in on a Tuesday and spring ball started on a Saturday. Everything was flying at me so fast that (the other coaches) didn't have a chance to get with me and do some of the things they probably wanted to do, because they had to get their guys ready.

"I think going through spring ball and then May recruiting and then going through the summer camp, and that's when I really got a chance to just know the (coaches) and be around them. That's when things started to slow down and really started clicking."

Though Rumph had never coached the defensive line before, he did play defensive end for the Gamecocks, which obviously gave him instant credibility with the players and coaches.

Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden never once swayed in his decision to hire Rumph. The fact that Rumph hadn't coached the position before was irrelevant. After all, new tight ends coach Billy Napier had never coached that position before, either.

Bowden liked everything he saw and heard from Rumph and about Rumph.

"I was a pretty good tight end coach and never played it and I was a pretty good running back coach and never played it," Bowden said. "I've been under the impression if a guy can coach, he can coach. There are things you want to stay away from, like putting (offensive line coach) Brad Scott in the secondary."

Eager to prove his capabilities, Rumph jumped into the new position with both feet and went full bore. He soaked up everything little piece of knowledge he could as to how to be a good defensive line coach.

"Whether I've coached the position 10 or 15 years, I'm always going to try to go somewhere to learn more," he said. "I'm definitely going to try to some more camps this year and maybe an NFL camp and go see some coaches that coach the position. I don't care where it is. I'm just eager to learn."

"I was a pretty good tight end coach and never played it and I was a pretty good running back coach and never played it," Bowden said. "I've been under the impression if a guy can coach, he can coach."
From a game and coaching standpoint, Rumph was never caught off guard by some freak situation or circumstance. Whatever the problem may have been, he was there ready with a solution.

And if he didn't have the answer, he knew he could look toward defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, inside and Will linebacker coach David Blackwell and Bandit and Sam linebacker coach Ron West for some guidance and help.

"Those guys, Vic and Blackwell and Big Daddy (West) did a real good job of helping," Rumph said. "We as a defensive staff do a real good job of working together. We sort of look out for each other. Those guys really helped me out a lot.

But there was really nothing that caught me by surprise because I prepared and I studied. I wanted to put myself into a position to be ready for anything that came my way. I felt I was prepared for every game and for every situation. Sometimes the situation worked out good and sometimes it didn't. But you've got to learn from the good and the bad."

Rumph came to Clemson from Memphis and aspects of recruiting were the only things he had to adjust to. He didn't fully realize the difference in recruiting at a major school in a BCS conference and one that is a mid-major in a lesser known conference.

"I really didn't have a taste for recruiting on this level," he said. "I had a chance to go through May and some of the recruiting. … The difference was just working at it every day. At Memphis, we recruited, but it didn't spill into the summer as much as it does here.

"It's pretty much every day that you've got to do something toward recruiting, whether it's writing a letter or during times when you can call or just something. Everyday you've got to find something to do to get guys to not only trust and believe in you and in the system and in the school."

He also quickly discovered what the differences between the two types of schools when he shows up places on recruiting visits.

"It's totally different," Rumph said. "I walk into a room and it's amazing. I just have a paw on (my shirt) and everybody knows exactly who I am. It's Clemson, it's Clemson, it's Clemson. Before, I had to have my name and school on. It's just surprising how the paw is recognized throughout the entire East Coast.

"The last three years, I was at Memphis and before that, I was at South Carolina State. Now, just to walk into a place and have secretaries and support staff at different high schools recognize you … they'll call the coaches and say there's a coach here from Clemson to see you and I'm like, well I didn't tell you who I was or where I was coming from."

Who would have ever guessed, a former Gamecock football player doing everything in his power to help lead Clemson to being the best football program in the state? Not Rumph.

"Never say never," he said. "It's a blessing to be up here. God has really showed me a lot of favor to be in the situation I'm in. … I'm a Tiger, glad to be a Tiger and happy to be a Tiger."

Then he added that there's no hesitation on his part when it comes to beating South Carolina on the field and in recruiting.

"There's nothing bittersweet," Rumph said. "I've got a house payment I've got to pay. I want to win, that's the bottom line." Top Stories