TAMPA – Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt carry a long history into Monday night’s national championship game.
Their relationship goes back more than 20 years, beginning when Pruitt was a walk-on defensive back at Alabama and Swinney was an offensive graduate assistant under then-coach Gene Stallings. By 1997, Swinney was the tight end coach and Pruitt a defensive GA on then-coach Mike Dubose’s first staff at Alabama. After that season they would never coach on the same sideline again, but they have ended up on opposite sidelines twice.
In 2013, Pruitt was a first-time defensive coordinator, at Florida State. FSU played at Clemson that season; both teams were 6-0 at the time, with Clemson ranked third and FSU fifth. But Jameis Winston and FSU rolled, thrashing Clemson 51-14. FSU went on to win the national title and Pruitt moved on after the season, to Georgia.
Coincidentally, Georgia opened the 2014 season against Clemson. The Bulldogs rolled over Swinney’s Tigers 45-21.
Can Pruitt move to 3-0 against Swinney on Monday night?
Less time off
Last season, the national championship game was played 11 days after the semifinals; this season, it’s nine days. And both coaches think that is better.
“I think that this year’s turnaround was probably a little closer to what a normal regular season would be relative to the number of practice days you have for a game,” Alabama’s Nick Saban said Sunday. “It’s more challenging preparation that way. But at the same time, I think the routine for the players is probably a little more satisfying.”
“I think at this point, less is more,” he said. “These guys just prepared almost a month for one game, and the biggest thing is getting these guys mentally and physically ready to go. You study the opponent and you try to put a good plan together, but we pretty much have treated it like a normal week and have tried to be smart with the amount of time we’ve spent on the field.”
Social media and recruiting
Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said social media has played a role – and a big one – in improving the Tigers’ recruiting.
“The way that recruits look at Clemson is different now than it was three or four years ago,” he said. “Not just because of the winning and what we’ve done on the field, but because of what they’ve seen through social media, the content that we’ve given them over the last few years.”
Scott said the players aren’t the only ones who’ve noticed.
“There’s so many high schools we go into for the first time, and the head coach will tell us, ‘Man, y’all put out the best videos, the best stuff on social media. I use a lot of your stuff all the time,’ ” he said. “Whenever that’s your very first meeting with a coach, he already knows all about you, your staff, your program, it definitely pays off.
Swinney: Saban’s accomplishments ‘incredible’
As everyone who follows college football knows, Swinney is an Alabama alum. He walked-on – “I was a crawl-on. I was one notch below a walk-on,” he said Sunday – and played wide receiver under Gene Stallings. He was asked Sunday about what Saban has been able to accomplish at his alma mater.
“I mean, I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “I mean, obviously I grew up, Coach (Bear) Bryant was a hero of mine, and everybody here knows about Coach Bryant. But with what Coach Saban has done, the amount of championships in the span of time with scholarships, it’s just incredible. I really have no words because it’s really hard to do.”
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