With the arrival of Gus Malzahn as the next head coach at Auburn, two years after former head coach Gene Chizik's national championship year with current Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, he has started rebuilding the entire staff from the ground up, and he started with hiring Clemson's defensive backs coach Charlie Harbison.
Harbison had spent four years on Clemson's coaching staff, but he had started to face more scrutiny after the underwhelming play by Clemson's secondary in 2012, which was unarguably its worst in the past four years.
With Harbison's departure, Clemson is in the market for a defensive backs coach. But just who should head coach Dabo Swinney hire next?
Well, he should look no further than former Clemson and NFL safety Brian Dawkins, who recently started getting into broadcasting for ESPN.
But why does hiring Brian Dawkins make sense for this team?
First off, Dawkins would be returning to his alma mater, where he was a three-year starter and a second-team All-American, and where he was inducted into Clemson's Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009 and named as the first-team safety on Clemson's all-centennial team. During his tenure, he was a hard-hitting. ball-hawking safety, the kind that Clemson has been lacking since he played, which was best picked up by former safety Deandre McDaniel.
Dawkins also has strong NFL credentials, having played for more than 15 seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles and the Denver Broncos. He knows what it takes to play the position, and will probably become the first and only Clemson football player to be enshrined in the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was grouped among a unique group of playmaking safeties that included the Pittsburgh Steelers' Troy Polamalu and the Baltimore Ravens' Ed Reed.
Dawkins was a solid NFL safety, and a solid, aggressive tackler. The Clemson secondary struggled in most aspects, especially in tackling. Having an aggressive-minded coach like Dawkins to shore up the tackling issues of the Clemson secondary could be a very big asset.
Clemson fans would love nothing more for freshman Travis Blanks, who is finally moving to safety full-time for the Tigers, to learn the safety position from one of the best to ever play the position at Clemson and in the NFL.
Blanks has been the lone bright spot of the Clemson secondary, and he was even named a second-team Freshman All-American this season. And being moved to safety in the offseason will definitely require an adjustment from the Nickel/LB hybrid position he played this season with linebacker Quandon Christian.
Blanks has a bright future, and Dawkins could mold his talents, make that future even brighter for Blanks and improve the play of the rest of the young defensive backs.
Of course, the biggest knock on Dawkins is that he is still fresh out of retirement. The question is whether he would want to jump straight into coaching after being retired from the NFL for a year and if he'd be an effective coach. But he has solid credentials, and Dawkins would energize that Tiger fanbase, which has been eagerly awaiting a return from the former hard-hitting safety of the 90s. Also, Dabo has been known to take chances on coaches.
That could be something to keep an eye on. Or at the very least, it's something that Clemson fans could dream for.
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