Clemson Offensive Coordinator Knows One Speed
By Helen Sowell, Staff Writer
New Clemson Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris knows how to get kids moving and he knows how to teach. He and his Tigers’ offense sit at #8 in the AP, with a record of 5-0 and ranked 16th nationally in yards per game. His system is akin to the spread attack that Auburn OC Gus Malzahn uses. In fact, Morris learned the offense from Malzahn when both men were still coaching high school football.
Morris, 42, was a successful high school coach in Texas, leading Bay City High to four state championship games and a Class 4A, Division I title in 2000. He moved to Stephenville (Texas) High School in 2002, finished 6-4 and missed the state playoffs. It was the first time in 15 years that a West Texas community didn’t go to the playoffs so Morris quickly realized he had to change his system. After several trips to Arkansas to watch Malzahn’s high school squad in action, Morris and Stephenville made the playoffs in the next four seasons. Next came a stint with Lake Travis High School in Austin from 2008 –09 going 32-0 and back-to-back Class 4A state championships. When Tulsa Head Coach Todd Graham needed a new OC after the 2009 season, Malzahn recommended Morris. The Golden Hurricanes averaged 505.6 yards and 41.4 points per game helping them to improve from 5-7 in 2009 to 10-3 last year.
Coach Dabo Swinney bought into this high-speed philosophy and hired Morris in January. When spring practice rolled around, Morris’ spread scheme proved to be a challenge for projected starter QB Tajh Boyd. In fact, Morris wasn’t convinced he would be able to deliver when the season started. But after spending the entire summer immersed in his playbook and watching film, Boyd took the reins and hasn’t eased-up yet.
Clemson is perhaps one of college football’s most surprising teams and Boyd is easily one of the best players. The Tigers ended defending BCS national champion Auburn’s 17-game winning streak on September 17, then spanked preseason ACC favorite Florida State the following week. Last Saturday, the Tigers completed a triple-play besting ACC powerhouse #11 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and becoming the first foe to hold the Hokies without a score in Lane Stadium since Cincinnati in 1995. The Tigers hadn’t beaten VT since 1989.
With Morris calling the shots, his goal is to run 80 plays per game, and the Tigers don’t waste much time between snaps either. Distributing the ball to multiple receivers and balance are among the staples of the Morris scheme. Five Clemson players have at least eight receptions and the Tigers have run the ball (215 carries) more than they’ve passed (169 attempts) through five games.
For a team that hasn’t won the ACC Championship since 1991, there’s a long way to go but the future looks fast and furious and it’s sure fun to go along for the ride.