CLEMSON, South Carolina (AP) — Garrett Riley is almost familiar with his new facility in Clemson — focus on approx.
Riley, who led TCU’s offense on its run to a National League title last season, has taken over as the Tigers’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Just days after the Horned Frogs lost the CFP Championship to Georgia last month.
Since then, he’s warned recruits when taking them around Clemson’s massive operations center, “You better not ask me where something is,” Riley said Wednesday in his official introduction.
Clemson signed all of its 27-member class in December prior to the offensive change. The program celebrates its new members on National Signing Day, said Tigers coach Dabo Sweeney, and there is no more important newcomer than Riley.
Riley, 33, is the winner of the Broyles Prize As the best assistant in the game for what he did at TCU, which went from five wins in 2021 to the College Football Playoff.
Things happened quickly — Sweeney and Riley spoke for the first time the night after defeating TCU — and Riley didn’t get a chance to fully celebrate his accomplishments last season.
“It was a whirlwind,” he said. “It was a great run (at TCU), just like it was at Clemson.”
Sweeney paid tribute to his former coordinator, Brandon Streeter, who led an offense that improved in yardage and points from 2021-2022 and won an Atlantic Coast championship in his only season at the helm.
“I just felt like it was the right time,” said Sweeney. “We weren’t quite where we needed to be.”
Sweeney spoke to Riley’s brother, Southern California head coach Lincoln Riley, about Garrett before speaking directly to him. Sweeney said Garrett Riley was the only person he talked to about the job.
Garrett Riley played quarterback for Texas Tech and was set up in the “Air Raid” offense of the late Mike Leach.
Riley said Leach, who died two months ago while coaching Mississippi State, had a profound impact on his coaching career — not necessarily on the X and O.
Reilly said that Leach and his “out-of-the-box thinking was very attractive to me”.
What Sweeney liked most was Riley’s use of running. TCU finished 31st nationally in approximately 194 yards rushing per game. Riley is still learning new staff but believes the foundation for success is with Tigers runners Will Shipley and Phil Maffah.
A first time All-ACC selection, Shipley gained 1,182 yards and 15 touchdowns. Mavh had 515 yards and four TDs.
Sweeney said Riley is nicknamed “Air Raid” because of his background. “But if you study him, he runs football,” the coach continued. “I have no doubt he will make us better offensively.”
Riley recruited prospective Clemson starting quarterback Kid Klopnik to SMU when he was working there a few years ago and believes they will have a strong and productive partnership going forward.
Every aspect of the Clemson program gives Riley confidence that the Tigers can get back to where TCU has been this year in the CFP semifinals, which Clemson has missed the past two seasons after making six consecutive seasons from 2015 to 2020.
Klopnik became a starter late in the season, replacing DJ Uiagalelei early in the ACC game, and led the Tigers to a 39-10 victory over North Carolina. Klopnik and the Tigers struggled in the Orange Bowl loss to Tennessee, 31-14.
Riley sees the future potential of his new group and sees Klopnik as a driving force.
“I know this kid froths at his mouth just like the rest of our players, and trust me, we coaches are ready to go, too,” Riley said.
Riley, who was born and raised in Texas, said he and his family were happy at the University of North Carolina. He wasn’t looking forward to leaving, especially after the Horned Frogs’ historic season. But Clemson offered Riley an excellent opportunity to further his career. He was awarded a three-year contract worth $1.75 million a year.
“It had to be something that was going to tick a box across the board,” Riley said.
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