With new contract, Clawson brings in new lineups, set to play spring game tonight

For BG head coach Dave Clawson, this spring starts a new football era at the University.

Following an appearance at the 2012 Military Bowl this past December, Clawson signed a contract extension through 2019, worth $400,000 per year.

Clawson took over as head coach in 2009 after serving as the offensive coordinator at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in 2008.

Since Clawson’s promotion, the team has experienced success in staying competitive both on and off the field.

“We’ve had a lot of stability here,” Clawson said. “It ensures recruits and their families that there has been a commitment to Bowling Green football.”

Clawson’s new deal puts him on par with the rest of the Mid-American Conference, but is below the Bowl Championship Series average of $1.7 million.

“The second thing that is important is that it keeps the compensation level for our staff competitive in the MAC,” Clawson said.

Since Clawson was hired in 2008, the team has gone through a rebuilding process. He took the Falcons from a 2-10 record in 2010 to 8-5 in 2012, the program’s best season since 2007.

The 2012 team nearly contended for the Mid-American Conference Championship game, made an appearance in the 2012 Military Bowl and had 10 players named All-MAC, the most since 2004.

“What we wanted to do was establish a culture here,” Clawson said. “That football was very important, that our guys did the right things on and off the field.”

Spring practice will be highlighted Friday with the annual spring game, featuring most of the current team members enrolled at the University.

“We’re making it orange versus white, with a couple guys in brown that we have to play on both sides,” Clawson said.

Teams were picked by seniors Paul Swan and Dominic Flewellyn in a draft format.

This year’s spring game will feature two guest coaches — Bowling Green mayor Dick Edwards and University Provost Rodney Rogers.

“This is a way of trying to involve the academic community and the city of Bowling Green,” Clawson said.

Another aspect Clawson influenced is the team’s Academic Progress Rate and grade point average.

“We’re especially proud that our APR score went from one of the worst in the MAC to one of the best in just two or three years. We have set three consecutive records for our APR,” Clawson said. “The team GPA has never been better. Our team last semester just set a record for cumulative GPA in a semester. We had seven guys get 4.0s and we had almost 40 guys get a 3.0 or better.”

In 2008, the year before Clawson became head coach, BG was given an eight-scholarship reduction penalty for a low APR from 2004-2008. The team’s APR for the 2007-08 school year was 920 — the lowest during that four year period.

The team’s APR has since jumped to 951 in the most recent four-year period (2007-08 to 2010-11). BG ranked fifth in the MAC for APR that year, behind Miami University (967), the University of Toledo (960), Temple University (959) and Western Michigan University (954).

Clawson recently announced the incoming class of recruits on National Signing Day, which includes 24 new players for 2013. It was unsure if there would be enough scholarships for each new player due to the number of fifth-year seniors in the program.

“We’ve had very little attrition in our program, and I think our players are developing,” Clawson said. “They are a much stronger football team, I think we’re a more athletic football team and I think there’s a buy-in in terms of the expectation level of what it involves to be a Bowling Green football player.”

Players have responded well to Clawson’s expectations.

“He’s a great coach,” quarterback Matt Schilz said. “That’s great for the school and that’s great for our team.”

Despite losing defensive lineman Chris Jones, arguably one of the best defensive players to play at BG, the defense’s depth still remains.

“We have a really good defense, so those guys bring it everyday,” Schilz said. “We have to respond as an offense every single practice and bring more energy than they do. So it’s definitely been a challenge.”

As spring practice ends, the team looks forward to competing on the gridiron and completing its goals.

“The goal is consistent — we want to get to Detroit,” Clawson said. “Our goal is to win the East and get to Detroit and win the MAC. But in order to do that we have a lot of work to do and right now our biggest goal is to be ready for Tulsa and be 1-0 after we play Tulsa in August.”

The annual spring game is set for tonight at 7 p.m.