Napier optimistic for season opener

CLEMSON - Offensive coordinator Billy Napier talks about Saturday's season opener against UNT.


Napier: It's a great feeling to have some comfort level in the people that are around you. We're very blessed and fortunate this year to not have any turnover on the offense, at any level—full-time assistants and even graduate assistants. Last year, there as a lot of uncertainty in how we were going to go about in doing things, in terms of the game, managing that time. I think that we've been together for a year; we've kind of ironed that—benefitting from that already. I think that will ultimately help us be more productive on Saturdays.

Napier: I've been given different jobs throughout my time, as a player and a coach. This will be comparing, in my mind, I'm a returning starter or a fifth-year senior, in terms of a player. Or I'm a second-year recruiting coordinator. Now this is the second year as offensive coordinator. I feel like I did those situations. I've been through this process before and had all my notes and all my mistakes that I've made and lessons that I've learned over time, doing each one of these things. I feel like that we've improved in every area, in terms of being more efficient with our time. We're focusing on what's relevant during Saturdays in the fall—maybe not wasting on things that I thought might have been important.

Being more productive, just in your second year, the detail you can find in your system and each phase that you're doing. In season, in particular, I feel that we've done that 14 times. We've prepared for a game, managed that time within a game week preparation 14 different times. I think, as a staff, we tried to turn the clock back on Monday and treat it like a game week. I think you'll see the little things that took time to develop. Each assistant coach has taken ownership of his responsibility. There's just so much value in that. I'm extremely appreciative of the job those guys do and the attention to detail and the pride they take in their jobs.

"I've been through this process before and had all my notes and all my mistakes that I've made and lessons that I've learned over time, doing each one of these things."

Napier: This year, ultimately everything we do is suited toward this game. Each game, one of 12, as coach [Dabo] Swinney said yesterday, I like to use the term 14 games—you get 14 games—that's kind of an attitude or an expectation. The amount of time that our players, coaching staff and support staff and anyone and everyone that's involved in the process puts into preparing these guys for these moments, these games, given the fact that there are only 14 of them, I think each time that you approach one of those 14, it's exciting. You do all that work, because playing in games, you get that satisfaction of being productive, doing a good job at what you've been given to do. Ultimately, anytime you get to play this game, it's exciting.

Napier: I think we can be good. I really do. I'm confident in our returning players. The guys that have significant playing experience, I have a lot of confidence in those guys. I'm really anxious to see the first-year players, whatever age they are, the guys that this is going to be their first significant year of playing experience, those are the guys that I'm most excited about—seeing how they'll transition each week as they live and learn and prepare and learn what it's going to be like on game day and what our expectations are for them as a staff. What kind of roles can we develop for those guys?

Ultimately, I think that will define how good we can be or if we can be great, if we can play winning football each week and be a championship-caliber offense. Ultimately, that's where we're headed. We've got to maximize each repetition that we get, each meeting that we get. I think we're going to see if we can continue to develop an identity of how intense or focused we're going to be, buying into the routine of preparation—that Monday to Friday process, which is the process to get a football team ready to play. We talked a lot about that yesterday, kind of turning the clock back. What's a typical Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday supposed to be like? Even up to that 15 minutes before we get on the bus to come to the stadium—it all has a sense of purpose in it and a reason behind it. I think that's our focus right now, as a staff and each individual player. What's your role? What's your job? Bring a focus and intensity that we need to be productive once we do get into that game on Saturday.

"Andre [Ellington] went back in the offseason and gained more lean muscle mass. I think his focus is improving his durability so he can play with the intensity that he needs to play each play." - Clemson offensive coordinator Billy Napier. (Roy Philpott)
Napier: I think they're very capable of being explosive players. Jamie [Harper] has really improved in an overall attitude and identity about who he's going to be and what type of runner and approach he's going to take in each carry. Both guys really play well without the ball. Andre Powell has done a really great job of developing those guys as pass blockers, as route runners—they catch the ball well. Overall, the energy level and the blue collar approach they've had at practice has become contagious to the rest of our players. Rod McDowell has kind of taken on their identity because they've raised the level of play.

Andre [Ellington] went back in the offseason and gained more lean muscle mass. I think his focus is improving his durability so he can play with the intensity that he needs to play each play. He's getting ready for the mental toughness that he's going to have to have to carry the ball more than he's used to. Andre was an extremely physical, tough kid when he carried the ball in high school 20, 30 times a game at Berkeley, playing for Jerry Brown. I think he remembers—he knows what that's like. He had to get his body ready for the toll that it's going to take, not only from an injury prevention standpoint, but from a mental toughness standpoint. I think he's gotten ready for that. Both those guys are ready to have an exceptional year. I've been very impressed with their preparation.

Napier: I think yesterday was an outstanding day for him. I saw a guy, I wouldn't use the word anxious—I would think that he is anticipating what's to come. I think his focus has been really good. He had a little time there to take a mental break and a physical break. I think he's only going to get better from a physical standpoint…because of his career as a baseball player—physically he doesn't get to go through the offseason program. That's something that we've had to manage. Mentally, this is from a competitive identity standpoint, he is who he is. He's even stronger than he has been before because he knows how to prepare now. He's been in the games, he's come from behind, he's been productive, he knows what's relevant to him playing well on Saturday. His focus is on that and nothing else. The one thing that we've talked a lot about is trying to create and approach and environment where a guy can take a game-like approach in practice, get your mind mentally where it needs to be, from an intensity and focus standpoint, play by play, moment by moment focus throughout practice.

Napier: I think we've got a good group. I like the group's attitude. I think the whole group is very capable. I think we found roles for each guy. I think that, ultimately, we're going to reward production and accountability. I think everyone of the guys has a great work ethic, attitude. They all know what to do. Now we're to the phase of the game where it's about production. Ultimately, that's what coaches have to make decision on. They know that. Consistency is the number one ingredient for our team to be successful. In that group, I see guys that can do that. Now it's just when the lights are on and the real deal show, being capable of doing that and doing it in the game setting. Yesterday, they had a great day. We only had two balls on the ground all day yesterday. One was a drop and one was a tipped ball. I was really extremely pleased with the focus that our group had yesterday. Top Stories