Dabo has "It"

CLEMSON - Whether you believe Clemson interim head coach Dabo Swinney should be named the permanent head coach or not, his performance the last six weeks has been impressive on a number of fronts.

Certainly his team's 3-1 performance over its last four games has turned heads, especially tough road wins at Boston College and Virginia.

His understanding of what needed to be fixed after a disappointing start the season has also been spot on as he has addressed the lack of physical play, overall toughness and the abundance of mistakes during critical junctures of the game and been successful and correcting many of those issues.

And even in the last 10 days or so, he's starting to sound like he should be Clemson's next head coach.

Now here we are just days away from the annual rivalry game against South Carolina, with the future of Clemson's current head coach weighing in the balance, not to mention a bowl game.

And honestly, it seems as though Clemson's coaching search, led by athletic director Terry Don Phillips, has come full circle.

Swinney was thought to be one of the top candidates days after former head coach Tommy Bowden "resigned." Remember, he was even suggested by Bowden to be his replacement in the now infamous early morning conversation he had with Phillips on Oct. 13, the day his 10-year career at Clemson came to an end.

But then the Tigers lost two of three and there was more of a focus on other potential coaching candidates that could be available at the end of the season.

In fact one of the biggest agents in all of sports, Jimmy Sexton, even publicly proclaimed Clemson to be the top coaching job available this year because it's an "SEC school playing in the ACC," which prompted even more speculation the Tigers could be in position to land "the big name."

But now with Swinney winning his last two games in semi-convincing fashion, and with the public support of his players who are promising to write letters to President Barker or return for their senior seasons instead of opting to go to the NFL, momentum has seemingly turned back to his side.

However if you take a step back and look at the situation objectively, it's hard to say Dabo Swinney is the best man for this job.

Very hard.

After all he's never been a head coach. He's never even been an offensive or defensive coordinator. Heck he's only been an assistant coach at two schools - Clemson and Alabama, and was even out of coaching for a while earlier this decade.

And then there's the idea of building a staff.

While he's sure to retain one or two of the current assistant coaches if he gets the job, where would he find new blood to come in and help implement his system? Does he have the contacts to even do it?

Again, on paper it's hard to justify to Dabo Swinney being Clemson's next head coach, especially if a more-proven option, or the proverbial "big name" is available.

But when you listen to him and see how his players have responded thus far, it's hard to imagine him not being the new face of Clemson's football program.

Simply put, Dabo has "it."

I host a radio show with a former World Champion for the Los Angeles Lakers and a former outside linebacker for the New York Giants that played in Super Bowl XXXV, and every week they ask me, "do you think Dabo has 'it'?"

As former players operating under the biggest spotlight imaginable in the NBA and NFL, they say the "it" factor is enormous in dictating the success or lack thereof in any sport on any level.

And every week I've responded "I don't know."

Until this week.

I heard "it" in the locker room in Scott Stadium Saturday afternoon while he was talking to his team after the game. I saw "it" when he jumped on his players who weren't playing well and when he was the first one to meet them with a pat on the back after doing a good job during the game. And I felt "it" when he led his team out of the tunnel before the game.

I don't know what "it" technically is, but I imagine it some combination of the following: inspiring a program, creating a team environment, preaching toughness, uniting the fans, embracing tradition, creating new traditions, instilling passion, solving problems and overcoming obstacles that a previous "big name" couldn't and most importantly winning games.

Simply put, Dabo Swinney has "it."

Sure, I understand the argument that this is Clemson University and there should be a "big name" out there ready to sign his name on the dotted line to be the next head football coach here for the next 15 years.

I grew up a Clemson fan, graduated with a Computer Engineering degree from Clemson and have covered Clemson fulltime for the last seven years - believe me, I know.

And who knows, maybe that big name is indeed out there.

But you can't dismiss what Dabo Swinney has accomplished as an interim head coach- both on and off the field. You can't dismiss the mess he cleaned up in such a short period of time.

And while he'll never admit it, he's done exactly what he wanted to do the moment he was named Clemson's interim head coach - he's made Terry Don Phillips' decision extremely difficult.

And if he were to win Saturday's game against South Carolina, he may make it downright impossible.

Hey - if there's a proven a head coach who has won multiple championships in a BCS conference who's also ready to make a fresh start, Terry Don Phillips has my full support in naming him the next permanent head coach at Clemson University. Isn't that what most fans have said they've wanted since the day Bowden and Clemson went their separate ways six weeks ago?

But even then, I have to admit I'd wonder what would have happened if Dabo would have been named the permanent head coach?

Time will soon tell who will be the next head coach at Clemson, but in a short period of time Dabo has proven he's up to the challenge.

And he certainly has "it."

CUTigers.com Top Stories