Clemson hires Garrett Riley: Tigers poach TCU offensive coordinator to help revitalize struggling offense

Clemson has hired TCU offensive coordinator Garrett Riley to the same position, the school announced Friday. Riley, 33, was named the Broyles Award winner as the top assistant coach in college football after helping lead the Horned Frogs to their first national championship game appearance. Riley’s contract is a three-year deal worth $1.75 million annuallywhich was approved by the Board of Trustees on Friday.

“I am super excited to welcome Garrett and Lindsay Riley and their two precious sons to the Clemson family,” head coach Dabo Swinney said. “Garrett has an incredible track record. His body of work — including this past season when his ninth-ranked scoring offense helped TCU transform from a five-win team into a 13-win national championship game finalist in their coaching staff’s first season – – speaks for itself… I know all of Clemson will help welcome the Riley family into the Clemson family with open arms.”

Riley helped oversee a transformation at TCU as the Frogs jumped from 5-7 to 13-2 under first-year coach Sonny Dykes. The Horned Frogs moved from No. 65 to No. 9 in scoring offense thanks to Riley’s efforts as quarterback Max Duggan earned a trip to New York as a Heisman finalist.

Like his older brother, USC coach Lincoln Riley, Garrett has a long history of utilizing the Air Raid offense … but with some wrinkles. Riley worked under his brother for two years as a graduate assistant before joining fellow Texan David Beaty at Kansas. He later spent a year learning the Appalachian State system with now-Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz and was set to take over play calling duties under Shawn Clark before Dykes poached him to lead the offense at SMU to great success.

“I am honored and excited to join the Clemson Family,” Riley said. “The opportunity to join a program with such a rich tradition and renowned culture was simply too good for me to pass up. I have always had a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Swinney and the program he has built. I am appreciative of the faith that he, Graham Neff, Clemson’s administration and the entire Clemson community have placed in me.”

Hiring Riley is a departure for Swinney, who historically leans on internal candidates to fill openings. Former offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter — a longtime assistant and Clemson player — was fired on Thursday just one year after earning the promotion from quarterbacks coach to play-caller. Previous offensive coordinators Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott were also internal promotions. 247Sports reports Scott will return to the program after South Florida axed him, but Swinney opted to go outside for an offensive coordinator hire and limit Scott to an off-field role.

“As the leader of this program, I am accountable for our staff and accountable for our results, and although we took a step forward offensively in 2022, after evaluating our offense in-depth, I felt it was in the best interest of our program to seek new leadership at that position,” said Swinney in a statement. “These decisions are never easy, but it is my job to evaluate and assess every part of our program every year, and this was just the right time to make a change.”

Streeter was Clemson’s quarterback coach from 2015-21, which saw him develop stars like Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawerence — both of whom were drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft. However, offensive numbers declined sharply in 2021 and were better — but not good enough — this past season. The Tigers finished sixth in the ACC in passing offense in 2022 at 232.4 yards per game and ninth in yards per passing attempt (6.8).

Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei received a bulk of the blame for the Tigers’ inability to stretch the field deep, and he was eventually replaced by true freshman Cade Klubnik in the ACC Championship Game win over North Carolina. Clemson’s offensive struggles hardly ended at the quarterback position, though. Clemson’s top receiver, Antonio Williams, only had 604 receiving yards. That is a far cry from what Clemson produced in the glory days with studs like Amari Rodgers, Tee Higgins and Justin Ross. But more concerning, Clemson lost six games over the past two seasons, the worst two-year stretch since 2012.

Dismissing Streeter is a 180-degree change from the head coach’s typical methodology. Swinney has been extremely loyal to his assistants, as well promoted by Wes Goodwin to take over the defense after Brent Venables left to take the head coaching job at Oklahoma. The method dates back to 2014, when Jeff Scott and Tony Elliott were promoted to co-offensive coordinators when Chad Morris left to take over at SMU. When Scott and Elliott left to take head coaching jobs, Streeter got his chance.

However, Swinney has a strong track record with external coordinator hires. Morris was a Texas high school coaching legend with only one year of collegiate experience, but he helped transform the Tigers into a perennial 10-win program before taking over at SMU. Venables was pushed out as defensive coordinator at Oklahoma, but joined Clemson and immediately established himself as one of the top assistants in football. He later returned to Norman in 2022 to replace Lincoln Riley.

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