CLEMSON – Clemson defensive backs coach Mike Reed had to hit the ground running when he was hired in early January.
On New Year’s Eve, he had double-duty – coaching his last game after five years at N.C. State in the Music City Bowl, and also taking in his new team’s game that night down in Atlanta, Ga.
“I may be the only coach to participate in two bowl games in the one day,” Reed said. “Physically I didn’t, but mentally I did because I felt like I was a part of the team. But I lost earlier in the day and won that evening.”
From there, he had no time for a formal introduction in TigerTown – it was the height of recruiting season and spring practice was quick to follow.
His recruiting influence was integral, taking not one but two former Wolfpack recruits with him (three-star DB Marcus Edmond and WR Kyrin Priester), in the little over a month to Signing Day. And also at his position, five-star Immokalee, Fla. product Mackensie Alexander announced his Clemson intentions on February 6.
Secondary progress, his coaching philosophy
The move from team to team in the Atlantic Division cuts down on some of the learning curve with a new job, but the pressure is only turned up. He transitions from a school that hasn’t won a conference title since 1979 to the school with the most ACC championships (14) and the favorite for another one this fall.
“Coming off a season like Clemson had last year, people are expecting this team to go further,” said Reed. “My thing is, hey, I don’t want to be the guy at the end of the stick. I want to be the guy where they’re saying, ‘Wow, their defense is playing lights-out.’
“The expectation level has risen, which I like. I’m a competitor. I’m a DB at heart. My name is on this.”
Reed received a scholarship to play cornerback at Boston College after playing only one year of high school football in Delaware, and was drafted after becoming an All-Big East performer, playing two years for the Carolina Panthers and later in NFL Europe.
After football, he quickly moved up the ranks, from NFL Europe to an assistant role with the Philadelphia Eagles to coaching defensive backs at N.C. State.
Reed says he’s been tasked by Clemson coach Dabo Swinney “to fix” a unit that’s dropped 21 spots on average in pass defense each of the last four seasons – from seventh in 2009 to 71st last season. He has two starters returning, in senior cornerback Darius Robinson and sophomore safety Travis Blanks, and a lot more unknowns.
“I’ve been thrown in the grease,” he said. “It’s okay. Fortunately, I played that position. I know what it’s like be out there on fourth-and-six and you have to make that stop…It’s something I relish and have handled before and I look forward to it.”
Reed says he takes a little bit from each of the coaches he played under, but the actual playing experience helps as much as anything.
“There’s a lot of coaches – no disrespect – that never coached the secondary,” he said. “It’s like I tell my kids: ‘The drills that we do every day – I do.’ I’m not looking into a book and finding a drill and saying, ‘oh, let’s do that drill today.’
“Every drill that I do, I still do to this day. Every drill has a purpose…There’s a rhyme or reason to everything I do.”
Coming to Clemson, interesting bowl season
The now eighth-year college assistant didn’t see everything he wanted from his players in his first look, but that wasn’t necessarily the aim in the transition period.
“It would be nice to sit here and say we’ve played our behinds off. We played top-notch,” Reed said, “but I’d rather have my guys peak August 31st than peak right now in spring.”
Clemson also didn’t have its full complement of players over the spring session, due to injuries and suspension, and several highly-rated defensive backs join the fray this summer from the 2013 class.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Reed said. “A lot of times, competition brings the best in all of us. You either succumb to it or take hold it and run with it. That’s what it’s going to be.
“We have some guys that got a little comfortable in their situation. We got to shake them up a little bit.”