Morris keeps pushing, wants to make offense better and be a better coach

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CLEMSON – Chad Morris arrived at Clemson a year ago full of expectations, and his offense delivered as the Tigers finished 26th nationally in total offense with 440.8 yards per game, and were 21st nationally in passing yards per game {282.3 yards].

As a result, Morris wound up with a new contract that pays $1.3 million per year and makes him the highest-paid assistant coach in college football. His mentor, former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, made $1.3 million last season but took a pay cut to become the head coach at Arkansas St.

One might think that Morris would be happy to sit back and earn his paycheck and ease up just a little.

Not Morris.

I saw him leaving the WestZone after practice last week with an arm full of books, and when I queried him on what they were, he told me they were different offensive schemes he was taking home and studying.

“You can’t do the same thing [as] last year and expect the same results,” Morris said after Wednesday’s practice. “That’s what we challenge our players with. That’s what we challenge our staff with.”

Morris has also recently taken trips to visit the coaching staffs at Nevada and Oklahoma St., just to study their systems and see what he can do better.

“We’re not changing what we do. We’re going to do what we do,” Morris said. “As a coach, you have to grow. You have to grow professionally, your knowledge. We visited Nevada and Oklahoma State and several places. We just kind of studied. We're finding a new wrinkle. There's always a better mouse trap. It helps keep players fresh, keep them on point. Any time you can bring back new ideas and new ways to do things, it keeps everyone up to speed. It keeps them fresh."

Morris said one of the reasons he wanted to visit Oklahoma St. was to see how they used wide receiver Justin Blackmon.

“They pass to win. We’re more of a balanced attack,” Morris said. “Could you go out there and get a few things? A few odd and end things - the way they moved Blackmon around - they did a great job of moving him around all over the field. That was kind of our approach. How did they move Blackmon around? What are the different concepts with him? Things like that. You go out and try to find a new wrinkle here and there. When you come back and add something, you throw something away. I’m a firm believer in that.”

Nevada, of course, is a running team and Morris has spent the past two months finding ways to fix Clemson’s rushing attack – they were 59th in rushing [158.5 yards] but struggled in short-yardage situations.

“Over the last six years, they’ve been in the top-five in the country in total offense,” Morris said of Nevada. “And running the football, which is extremely important, they’re very impressive. What are they doing out there that we could do? It may be one little, bitty thing - the way we take a step or approach terminology.”

Morris said that improving Clemson’s short-yardage success rate – especially on third down - has been a big emphasis for him this spring.

“There's no question about that. That's got to be a down you have to create accountability on. That's what we're doing. The players know it. They're very aware of it. And we're going to hold them accountable. That's what you use spring for. It's not about how many plays you can get in. I really don't care if we get the whole offense in. Can we get good at things? We've definitely stepped in the right direction. We've got to keep mentally straining them and putting them in mentally tough situations to where they feel like they can't go anymore. And that's when we have to be right there to put our foot up their tails to say, ‘we can go more and we will go more.’"

Morris has to replace three starters on the offensive line, and he said that group is coming along but still has plenty of work to do.

“Much better. Much better. A lot of ownership taking place there right now,” he said. “A lot of accountability up front. It obviously falls back on short yardage, but we're putting a lot of pressure on them up front and holding them accountable. We're stepping in the right direction. We're far from feeling like we've arrived, any one of us. But we're making progress and you can see it every day."

Morris then named the players who have caught his eye through the first five practices.

"Kalon [Davis] has. He has done some good things,” he said. “Tyler ShatleyTyler Shatley
RS So. Offensive Line
#43 6-3, 295
Icard, NC

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has jumped in there and has given us an instant boost. Obviously his athleticism, his toughness and demeanor has given us that. I've been pleased with him. Gifford TimothyGifford Timothy
RS Fr. Offensive Tackle
#70 6-6, 315
Middletown, DE

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has been a guy that's got flashes. He's like a sparkler on the fourth of July. You light him up and he looks good, then he burns out. He has to stay lit. The flashes we see, they're good flashes. We have to get into that mental grind and keep pushing."

Another goal that Morris has outlined this spring is improving the communication between quarterback Tajh BoydTajh Boyd
RS So. Quarterback
#10 6-1, 225
Hampton, VA

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and center Dalton FreemanDalton Freeman
RS Jr. Offensive Line
#55 6-5, 285
Pelion, SC

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. Why? To get faster, of course.

"We averaged a TD every 13.7 snaps last year. We have to increase our snap total and we have to pick our tempo up,” he said. “We have to have our QB and center on the same page and playing fast. That's their goal this spring. We're challenging them every day. I'm excited about that. We're charting loafs. If we feel like we're wasting a rep, we'll chart it and they'll do a few up-downs as a result.

“We have to keep playing faster. There's no question - and you would expect it - that we are so much further along now than last year. I would say that we are on pace to really kind of push this offense at the latter part of spring, maybe step into some areas they haven't experienced yet. If we get there, great. We're on pace to do it. But we have to get good at something and that's what we're trying to do.”

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