In which we look at the Clawfense from the third person perspective. Quite possibly the cheapest brain massage you'll ever receive.
Perusing through the archives of Rocky Top Talk, I had a little fun looking at the posts from about a year ago. There was some good news, like the commitment of Josh Nunes (boy, wouldn't it be nice to have him aboard right about now?), a certain Fulmer Cup news item from a certain university to the hotward side of Tennessee, some reasons to be excited about having a brand-new starter at the quarterback position, and the requisite excitement about the mysterious Clawfense.
Yes, those were the days, when we had no clue what the Clawfense was and we liked it that way. Nowadays, we have too much of an idea what it's like, and we liked it much better when we didn't know. (Hey, it's a mistake we all make at some point in our lives. We fell for the pretty avatar and the cute IM chats, and we learned our lesson the hard way when we decided to meet Tracee1639 for a blind date - only to find out we've hooked up with a plumber named Jack in a cheap blond wig. Sober up, cowboy.)
Well, if you haven't gotten over 2008 yet, there's not a whole lot I can say. But life goes on, and at some point you offhandedly wonder just whatever happened to that crazy plumber. For UT fans, the answer is as close as the internet.
Every once in a while over the last few months, I would take a quick look through the news feeds to see just what's become of our once-beloved offensive coordinator. We all know he got the head coaching gig at Bowling Green, but that's about as far as the story has traveled around here. Granted, some of you would like to leave it there, but it's the summer and news is scarce, so now seems like a good time to run through Clawson's offseason and see how things are going.
But first, just in case you blocked last season from your memory, here's a little video Joel whipped up a while ago. Remember, a repressed memory will only hurt; let it out and be free from the pain.
A Quick Reminder
Some of the post-partem news from the UT front included a little venting from Josh Briscoe: "That offense wasn't putting us there. That offense held us back a lot." In that article, it seems that the team was told straight-up that the offense was a multi-year project. (Which would have been nice for the fans to know, rather than being told that the scheme wasn't the problem.) After getting picked up by the Steelers, Ramon Foster was happy to bid the Clawfense farewell: ""As far as that strong/weakside stuff, I wouldn't venture that I would ever see that again." An interesting side note about the offensive line last year was the issue of weight gain, and just how much heavier (and slower?) they were under Clawson.
A New Home
But hey, there are two sides to every coin. As happy as Big Orange Nation was to see Clawson go, I'm sure that he was happy to leave and start anew. We weren't a very fun lot to be around last year and I'm sure that the Clawsons found that traditional Appalachian hospitality to be a little lacking by December. Clawson must have been happy to be so warmly received in his new digs. (Photos here.) And with a new home comes new hope: Rivals.com was kind enough to point out that Clawson was inheriting a better team than the 6-6 record suggested. (snicker) Clawson even had plenty of story lines to keep things interesting. For one, he'll open the new season against a former quarterback of his - from Richmond. The Bowling Green faithful were happy to hear of the talent he was able to assemble at his 1-AA stop in Richmond. (With links, links, links, and more links. NFL Talent! Yay!)
And hey, this Bowling Green team was able to do something last year that Tennessee couldn't. Beat Wyoming. In Laramie. So when these Cowboy-killers got their hands on the 1-AA hotshot coach, what could possibly go wrong?
SEC fans love them some spring practice, but sometimes we forget just how well off we have it in the South. Take spring practice in Bowling Green Ohio, for example. Clawquote: "To win championships in cold weather, at some point you have to have the ability to run the football. If your offense is dependent on 80 degrees and sunny, this probably isn't a great place to do it." Yeah, I guess that makes sense. If you're not going to pass the ball for the first two years, someplace freakin' cold would be the place to do it. By the way, this may answer the reason that Big Televen teams don't play football in December: the football players are on standby for snowplow duties on the weekends.
Nonetheless, the offense was excited to have Clawson. The offense is mysterious and is still being "kept under wraps". Clawson plans on getting the ball to the playmakers and will be flexible. He promises. The experienced quarterback appeared to have the inside track for the starting gig, but the offense may be run-first. Overall, the offense brings back a lot of starters and chemistry. The defense?
Four three returning starters. More on that in a bit.
Keep the "new starting quarterback" thing in your head, though. I never did track down the numbers, but I had heard several times on the Sports Animal towards the end of last season that the Clawfense took a full year to get on track if the qb was a returning starter, but two full years otherwise.
I'm sure they have a fancy title for their spring game but I'm not inclined to look it up. If you're desperate enough for something resembling football, you can always check out the video highlights here (and then check into rehab). They used an offense-friendly scoring system and saw the day end 66-47 in favor of the offense. However, reading into it, it sounds like the defense really had the better of things on that day, shutting down both the 1st- and 2nd-string offense for most of the day, including the first five drives in a row. The offense did get on track in the second half, and I'm sure that had nothing to do with the offensive play calls being tailored to the defensive calls.
That wouldn't necessarily stand out as a problem, except that the only returning D-line player (and arguably the best player on the team), Michael Ream, was dismissed two weeks prior to the spring game. As it turns out, the dude (who has a great photo and undoubtedly kept his head warm through the Ohio winters) got the "violating team rules" boot, which means that the BGSU defense dominated the offense without any returning starters on the defensive line.
Vols fans, if this isn't providing any catharsis or closure yet, just remember where we were last year and re-run the implications of Bowling Green's spring practices and scrimmage through your head. May your road to recovery be gilded with visions of schadenfreude.
Preseason: Bringing it Home
In light of all that has transpired in Clawson's career and in the spring for Bowling Green, Rivals.com has seen fit to predict a strong offensive season for the Falcons. (Go ahead and re-read that.) The Boy from Rock M Nation has an in-depth preview of Bowling Green because Missouri will play them this year. It's interesting that he sees a rebuilding project underway for the Falcons. Athlon Sports also warns of this 2-year window that Clawson seems to carry around.
But perhaps the most interesting piece of predictive writing comes from this Athlon article. In it, they posit that Bowling Green was trying to get over some ethics and integrity problems in the team that weren't well-checked by the previous staff. That would make Clawson their 'straight-arrow' guy - somebody brought in to clean house more so than build a dynasty. The dismissal of Michael Ream seems to fit that pattern, so perhaps the whole 'offensive genius' thing isn't the real draw that brought Clawson to Bowling Green.
Which would make sense.