Caldwell brings line skills, humor to Clemson
The way Robbie Caldwell explains it, the reason he is Clemson's new offensive line coach and no longer Vanderbilt's head coach is simple.
''I got fired,'' Caldwell quipped with a big smile Thursday. ''I was unemployed and I was looking for a job.''
After taking over at Vanderbilt in July, he said he thought he'd have more than one season to turn the program around. And though that didn't happen, Caldwell insists he isn't bitter.
He certainly hasn't lost his sense of humor.
''The way I look at it, if it hadn't happened, I wouldn't be here right now,'' he said.
The well-traveled Caldwell took the long road to get to Clemson.
He was at Furman, North Carolina State, North Carolina and Vanderbilt from 1978-2009 before Bobby Johnson's abrupt retirement last July elevated Caldwell to the top spot with the Commodores.
Vanderbilt struggled through a 2-10 season and Caldwell knew his time leading the program wouldn't last. He resigned hours before the Commodores' final game last November
''At first, it was like, 'We're going to give you time,''' Caldwell said. ''But you knew in your heart unless we did something special ... so it is what it is.''
Caldwell is replacing longtime Clemson assistant Brad Scott, who spent 12 years with the Tigers and is moving into an administrative role. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Caldwell and Scott share the same plainspoken style and drive to make offensive linemen better.
The two also share a legacy as fired SEC coaches: Scott was dismissed in 1998 following five seasons at South Carolina.
Caldwell may have coached against LSU's Les Miles, Florida's Urban Meyer and Georgia's Mark Richt, but he pointed out he didn't match up with them in other areas.
''Understand one thing guys, I was not an SEC coach - money-wise,'' he said.
Taking time off wasn't truly in the plans.
Caldwell wasn't ready to walk off the sidelines. He tried to occupy himself without recruits to call or offensive linemen to train. Eventually, Caldwell says, he wore out his welcome with his wife, Nora Lynn.
''Finally one day, she said, 'You've got to get out of the house,''' he said.
Scott spoke with Swinney in December about leaving his role with the offensive line and soon enough, Caldwell's name came up. Swinney discovered Caldwell's interest and soon, an agreement was reached.
''Robbie is one of the most respected coaches in the business,'' Swinney said. ''He is a proven offensive line coach and recruiter.''
Caldwell, a South Carolina native, had known Swinney and several Clemson assistants through years of recruiting.
''There are connections there,'' he said. ''It's just a great fit.''
And perhaps one that better suits Caldwell's passion.
''Where I was football ain't quite as important as it is around here,'' he said.
Caldwell inherits a line that brings back four starters. He hasn't looked too hard at his personnel yet and promised not to judge them from the tape he does watch. Just as he hopes he won't be judged harshly for last season as he attempted to hold the Commodores together.
''All of us need a fresh start sometimes,'' he said.