Under the spotlight

CLEMSON - Billy Napier is very well aware of the doubters. The doubters who don't believe he's old enough, wise enough to be Clemson's offensive coordinator—doubters that he's the right man for the job.

Taking heed to the advice Clemson coaches give their players, Napier said the best thing he can do is be comfortable in the preparation for Middle Tennessee.

"I feel good, not only with myself, but with the coaching staff, Coach (Dabo) Swinney and our players—our program as a whole," he said. "I feel confident in our preparation. It's a team sport and I've tried to do my part in our preparation to get our guys ready to play.

"Ultimately, the guys have got to go play."

Napier hasn't put together the game plan by himself. He's utilized his fellow offensive coaches for opinions.

"This game is a team sport from a player's stand point and a coach's stand point," he said.

Throughout camp Napier has grown very sure of the five that will line up to protect Kyle Parker, open holes for C.J. Spiller and create enough time for Jacoby Ford to get the ball down field. Already with a year under their rather big belts, the offensive line is a year older and a year better.

Napier believes it also shows in the group's demeanor.

"I think they know what to expect. It won't be their first time getting on that bus and riding around the stadium and running down the hill," Napier said.

He'd be willing to put his mortgage on the first seven guys on the line. After that, things begin to look dicey. Staying healthy is an absolute must.

"There's still some development…but I feel good with our third tackle (Landon Walker) and our fourth best inside guy (Dalton Freeman)," Napier said.

Behind the line, Parker began to earn the right to start at quarterback during the spring.

The most well-documented position battle throughout camp, Willy Korn also proved his worth during the competition and will get his snaps on game day. His role as a leader will be seen both on and off the field.

"He's a great leader," Napier said. "He's got outstanding work ethic. It's a really good situation. Our guys are comfortable with it."

Both on and off the field he's evaluated the quarterback group as a whole to be a good one.

"These guys are class acts off the field. They really get along well. There's no bitterness at all," he said. "There's been a camaraderie that's come from the competition, a mutual respect."

Not looking to go too in-depth with Clemson's game plan for Saturday, Ford should have a presence early in the game to help Parker build confidence. Several steps have already been taken to lay the foundation.

Over the summer, the team was split into two with an inventory of play and quarterbacks called the plays, based on down and distance situations.

To help encourage ownership, Napier has the quarterbacks verbalize what they're thinking about both running and passing plays. The exercises were used to prepare for previous scrimmages.

"I like to know if (Parker) doesn't like a play," he said. "You've heard before: it's not what the coaches know it's what the players know and what they can execute. To some degree I want to know if there's something on the down and distance sheet or red zone sheet that, ‘Hey, I don't feel real good about that.'"

At times, Napier said, the coaches do want Parker to be aggressive. But there may be occasions when he has to turn the aggressive switch off and manage the game.

No matter what the situation, the focus for everyone on offense will be on playing Clemson football.

"That's being very disciplined from a penalty stand point. Controlling the turnover margin and realizing the value of winning that," Napier said.

Those tasks come back to his football belief system: fundamentals, technique, effort, understanding the big picture and anticipation.

Napier hopes the players find an identity that may have been missing in the past. Whether it's a physical running attack, a stretch the field air attack or a combination of the two, a tangible identity could also go a long way this year.

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