Clemson University

Swinney's staff to be addressed after bowl game

CLEMSON -- No matter who is running Clemson's defense for the Gator Bowl, coach Dabo Swinney said the scheme will remain the same.

But that has not stopped Swinney from moving forward in his search to replace coordinator Vic Koenning, who resigned Tuesday upon learning he would not be retained next season.

Former Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis is believed a leading candidate, sources said Wednesday, and several media outlets have reported he is slated to interview with Swinney today.

Chavis, a 52-year-old from Dillon, spent the previous 20 seasons with the Vols. His defenses have ranked among the top three in the SEC in total defense nine of his 14 years as coordinator.

If hired, Chavis is expected to bring along veteran defensive line coach Dan Brooks, who earned a reputation at Tennessee for fishing top recruits out of the Carolinas.

Clemson could have competition for Chavis, who is also believed a candidate of interest at LSU should Les Miles shuffle his defensive staff as expected.

Attempts to reach Chavis on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Swinney said two longstanding Tigers defensive assistants -- inside linebackers coach David Blackwell and outside backers/bandit defensive end coach Ron West -- would oversee the unit for the Jan. 1 match-up with Nebraska. West is the only one with coordinator experience, having steered Louisiana-Lafayette's defense from 1986-1992.

While Swinney said he doesn't expect to have a coordinator hired before the bowl game, he couched the statement by saying if he did, the Tigers would adjust staff responsibilities as need be.

"There's a system in place here, and we want to give these kids the opportunity to continue their momentum and go play," Swinney said. "That's what I'm committed to, as opposed to changing everything for one game. We've got too many great seniors who've lead us and deserve the opportunity to go do what they do."

Counting the two graduate assistants promoted when Swinney became the interim, Koenning's departure leaves Clemson with eight assistants, one shy of the full complement.

Swinney said he expected that spot should be filled by the latter part of next week when the team begins bowl practices.

Swinney declined to comment on any specific candidates until they have completed their background checks and been formally hired.

One of two candidates seems most likely to take that slot. Former Maryland tight ends/special teams coach Danny Pearman has been hired, sources have said.

But with the Tigers without a secondary coach, the more sensible option might be Charlie Harbison, a Swinney friend recently released as Mississippi State's secondary coach.

To that end, Swinney said he told every member of Clemson's staff that there are "no guarantees" beyond coaching in the bowl game.

"There's a lot of reports out there," Swinney said. "I would just say there are a lot of great candidates that would love to work at Clemson. I'm having some great discussions with people, some very well-written about people.

"I've got a lot of friends on this staff, but this is a business, and everybody understands that. I have to put my stamp on it, my personality, so to speak. There will be a lot of questions answered, particularly after the game."