Official: Virginia hires Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott as next head coach – Yahoo Sports

Official: Virginia hires Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott as next head coach – Yahoo Sports

Both of Clemson’s coordinators are becoming head coaches.

Days after defensive coordinator Brent Venables was announced as Oklahoma’s head coach, Virginia announced Friday that it was hiring Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott after Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel reported that the two sides were finalizing a deal.

“Coach Elliott is a winner, in every sense of the word,” Virginia athletic director Carla Williams said in a statement. “He is known for his character, humility, work ethic, skill set, and passion for education. Coach Elliott is an exceptional leader of young men and he is highly regarded across college football as a talented teacher and coach. He is an outstanding recruiter who has been responsible for recruiting, signing, and developing scholar-athletes while competing for and winning championships.”

Elliott replaces Bronco Mendenhall, who announced last week that he was resigning to spend more time with his family. Mendenhall will coach Virginia in the Fenway Bowl against SMU. Elliott is also the third Black coach hired at an FBS school this offseason after Notre Dame promoted defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman to replace Brian Kelly and Colorado State hired Nevada coach Jay Norvell. 

Elliott played at Clemson and has been an offensive assistant with the school since 2011. He coached the team’s running backs for four seasons before he was named co-offensive coordinator along with now-USF coach Jeff Scott in 2015 after Chad Morris left to coach at SMU. Elliott and Scott shared those duties through 2019 before Scott left for USF.

Elliott has been Clemson’s sole offensive coordinator since 2020 and was promoted to assistant head coach in 2021.

Clemson’s offense has been phenomenal in Elliott’s tenure with players like Deshaun Watson, Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne and Tee Higgins. With Lawrence and Etienne off to the NFL in 2021, the Tigers’ offense did take a step back this season, though that clearly didn’t damper Elliott’s head coaching prospects.

After averaging 6.7 yards per play in 2020, Clemson’s offense has averaged just 5.3 yards per play in 2021. The team’s passing attack has struggled in the transition from Lawrence to D.J. Uiagelelei at quarterback and Clemson’s offensive line hasn’t been as good as it was in previous seasons.

Clemson (9-3) has thrown for just 192 yards per game this season and Clemson players have combined to throw for 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Elliott’s departure is a fascinating test for the stability of Clemson’s excellence under Dabo Swinney. A key part of Clemson’s ability to win national titles and be a perennial playoff contender was the consistency of its coaching staff. Unlike Alabama, which has had a revolving door of assistant coaches under Nick Saban, Elliott and Venables have been longtime assistants at Clemson. Venables arrived a year after Elliott in 2012. 

Their departures are also coming on the heels of the worst Clemson season in years. The Tigers hadn’t lost three games in a season since 2014, the last time it failed to make the playoff before 2021.