|by David Hood|
Clemson’s offense wore out LSU’s vaunted defense, plain and simple, but Morris wanted more. He told me recently that Clemson’s offensive players were coming to him as early as the third quarter in the bowl game and wanted to push the pace even faster, confident that LSU was already beginning to wear down.
So Chad Morris The Actuary – he was going to be a stats guy if the football gig didn’t work out – found safety in numbers. Specifically, changing the way he calls plays, shortening his plays and making them simple numbers, something Clemson’s offense has worked on this spring as Morris endeavors to fine tune an already high performance engine.
Watch out ACC and the rest of the country.
Clemson’s offense ran 1062 plays from scrimmage last season – not counting penalty plays – an average of 81.69 plays per game, which was good for seventh in the nation. Twice, Clemson ran over 100 plays in a game, including in the bowl game. The Tigers ran three more plays than Oregon, and finished 98 plays behind Tulsa, which led the nation with 1160 plays.
Morris wants even more plays this season, and figures his new play-numbering system might be good for five-to-seven more plays per game.
“We want to go fast with it,” Morris told me after practice last week. “We want to cut the verbiage down, and it will make us less predictable. If you do the same thing over and over, you won’t get the same results because you become predictable. It will also help out with the way people scout us. The way this business works, it will take some of that away. People will have a hard time keeping up with us.”
Morris then said it’s also a way to keep his offensive players on edge – he doesn’t want them to sit on their laurels after last season’s success.
“I want to mix things up and keep them on edge a little bit,” he said. “It keeps guys on their toes and they are forced to learn a little bit. I think it is something you have to do. They need to think out there.”
Morris said he didn’t want to get too deep into what all the numbers mean – Chad Morris The Coach knows that great coaches keep some of their secrets. However, the big signs will remain
“It’s really hard to explain without giving too much away,” he said. “Guys are forced to learn that one thing they have known, it may still be that but it is also something else. It allows me as a playcaller to go faster, and force these guys to go faster. Tajh Boyd is having to learn it. You can’t stay the same. The players love it. They are having to learn a little bit, but that’s okay.”
Morris said the idea came about during brainstorming sessions with the other coaches.
“It was just brainstorming,” he said. “And I do think we can go faster.”
Boyd told us that he thinks Morris and Clemson’s coaching staff are always game-planning – even during what should be private moments.
“They think about that - at any given time - in their sleep, in the bathroom. I think that's a sign of greatness for a coach. I'm proud of the coaches that we've got here,” Boyd said.
He then said that the biggest challenge he has seen with the new system has been with the officials trying to keep up with the frenetic pace, saying, “The refs have to keep up. You say, 'Hey ref, you've got to spot the ball. We've got to go.'"
Dabo Swinney said the Tigers wouldn’t have been able to install this kind of tempo two years ago.
“We couldn’t have done this two years ago, and we are just at a different level now with knowledge and experience,” he said. “You are always trying to get better, and tempo is huge for us. How can we go even faster? We wanted to keep what we have, but add another level of tempo with our numbering system. It helps us get plays in, get them lined up faster, and then just let them go.”
David Hood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org