Clawson, Bowling Green look to turn corner


Bowling Green head coach Dave Clawson, right, was Tennessee's offensive coordinator under Phil Fulmer for one season. (The Associated Press) under Phil Fulmer in 2008. (The Associated Press)

Published: Monday, August 27, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 27, 2012 at 5:05 p.m.

You think 2010 was a rough year for Florida's football team.

Facts

Season opener

Who: Bowling Green vs. Florida
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
TV: ESPN
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM850
Series record: First meeting

For Dave Clawson, it was brutal.

The Bowling Green coach was in his second year on the job and he inherited a mess. Because of Academic Progress Rate deficiencies, the program was docked a dozen scholarships. He had a plan for the future, but it would mean sacrificing a season.

Clawson decided to redshirt 20 players. At times, in part because of injuries, his team had only 45 scholarship players available. Not surprisingly, Bowling Green went 2-10.

It got better last season and should be even better this season.

“The numbers got right last year, but we were super young,” he said. “There were times we had 10 freshmen on the field on defense. What we went through the last two years was a struggle, but we look like a Division I football team now.

“I'm excited about this team.”

Bowling Green will come to The Swamp on Saturday with what is probably the best team Clawson has had in his four years at the school.

After last year's 5-7 record, he believes his plan has worked to get the program back on track.

“We played 34 freshmen and sophomores last year,” Clawson said. “We have 20 starters back. We're a year older, a year more mature. We're improving. It might not have helped us to play all of those players who redshirted, but I like where it puts us now.

“We don't have a lot of seniors, but it's a team that listens. What I did is a luxury to have in this conference (The Mid-American Athletic Conference) that you don't have in (the SEC). When I was hired, I was given a 6-year contract. They knew it would take time. They knew it would be a developmental program.”

Florida fans will remember Clawson from a short stint he had as offensive coordinator at Tennessee after successfully turning around programs at Fordham and Richmond. Clawson was hired by Phil Fulmer, but the staff was terminated before the season was over.

Tennessee writers called the Vols' attack the “Claw-fense”, but it finished the season ranked 116th in the country in total offense and the Vols went 5-7. Florida beat Tennessee that year in Knoxville 30-6.

“But I have no regrets. I learned a lot. Mostly, I learned about recruiting. It was intense. You go against Urban Meyer and Mark Richt and Steve Spurrier and it's going to be extremely competitive.”

This is Clawson's first trip to Gainesville as a head coach, but he did make a trip to Gainesville when he was the offensive coordinator at Villanova to watch the Gators practice in the spring.

“It was in the mid-1990s and we watched practice and I went over to The Swamp to see it,” he said. “Steve Spurrier was down on the field riding his stationary bicycle working up a sweat.

“We'll find out a lot about our team (Saturday). We know we're going to play an excellent team in the premier conference in a difficult environment. Our players always get excited about these games. It's an opportunity our players dream about. I don't think we'll have any guys back down.”

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