John Thompson waited like the quarterback he once was in
high school back in Arkansas, and a receiver finally came open.
Well, actually, a receivers coach, the Clemson variety.
After several candidates had come and gone in what became a
lengthy search for an offensive coordinator for Thompson's first staff at
ECU, the best guy may have stepped aboard the Pirate ship after all.
If that name rings a distant bell in your memory, he was
Florida State's starting quarterback in 1980 and 1981. The Seminoles brought
turf home for their sod cemetery from LSU, Nebraska, Ohio State and Notre
Dame during that span. The Noles also laid a pretty healthy thumping on the
Pirates in Tallahassee in the Stockstill era, 63-7, in 1980.
I remember watching that one. FSU looked like it was in a
track meet — by itself.
Stockstill has been at Clemson the last 14 years. Head
coaches have come and gone for the Tigers during that span but Stockstill
has stood still, performing a variety of offensive roles, including
co-offensive coordinator from 1993 to 1995. That says a lot about his people
skills right there — that Danny Ford would hire him and three more coaches
would retain him.
Thompson, who has stressed staff chemistry from the get-go,
picked up on Stockstill's ability to mesh in an interview on Monday.
"Some of the other guys were more about 'Me,'" Thompson said
of candidates for the offensive coordinator position. "He said he wanted to
come in and work with 'Us.'"
Thompson's ECU coaching family is now complete and he
expressed the hope at the Raleigh Sports Club on Wednesday that it will be
together for a long time.
Family was a consideration for Stockstill in accepting the
ECU job as well.
"Sunday was the first time I had ever been to Greenville,"
said Stockstill, who was accompanied by his wife, Sara. "I've had several
friends here at Clemson who coached at East Carolina in the mid-1980s before
they had done all the facilities expansions — Les Herrin, Ellis Johnson and
Clyde Christensen. And I know Wayne Bolt, who had played at East Carolina.
All of them couldn't say enough about what a great place Greenville was to
raise a family."
Stockstill has a son, Brent, 8, and a daughter, Emily, 6.
Some assistants move to get a balance on their resumes.
Stockstill stayed at Clemson and accomplished the same thing.
He worked in Danny Ford's triple option, the wishbone attack
of Ken Hatfield, the three wideouts and two backs configuration that Tommy
West used and the spread style that Tommy Bowden brought to Death Valley.
Unless ECU reverts to the single wing, Stockstill should
have a working knowledge of practically anything the Pirates should desire
Spring practice will be a time to try and piece scheme and
talent together. Thompson wants deep passing ability and a power running
game because that's the toughest combination he's experienced as a defensive
coordinator at various Conference USA and SEC programs. Every player at
every position will be competing for a job.
Thompson said Wednesday that includes Paul Troth.
"We have three quarterbacks in the program and we can win
with all three — Paul Troth, Desmond Robinson and James Pinkney," Thompson
said. "We will play the best players. Whether Paul plays is up to Paul and
I've told him that."
As the last hire for Thompson, Stockstill pushes the staff
over the top. To attract a respected assistant from Clemson is significant.
The fact that he was a player of some note is gravy. It's obvious that he
can recruit when you consider that 10 of the players he has brought to
Clemson in the last eight years have been drafted.
Thompson did a good job of recruiting recruiters to his
coaching staff. Talent is the lifeblood of any football program. Defensive
coordinator Jerry Odom is already establishing a Florida pipeline. Offensive
line coach J.B. Grimes and defensive line coach Art Kaufman are established
There is youth. There is diversity.
And, finally, there's an offensive coordinator.
"I said all along the best guy was out there," Thompson
said. "And there's no question we got the best guy out there. I got a couple
of e-mails yesterday and they were from South Carolina people, saying,
'Please hire this guy. He has been a pain in our neck over the last few
years.' He's a great recruiter."
And so is Thompson when it comes to recruiting coaches, it
appears, now that the final piece of the puzzle is in place.