An inside look at Chad Morris' offense

by - Senior Writer -

Tulsa offensive coordinator Chad Morris is rumored to be in the lead to become the next offensive coordinator at Clemson University, one of many rumors swirling about the Clemson program right now.

TCU offensive coordinator Justin Fuente is also said to be on head coach Dabo Swinney’s short list, and defensive ends coach Chris Rumph has been talked about as a replacement for the departed Bo Davis at Alabama.

However, in the case of Morris, there has been a lot of talk about whether a coach one year removed from the high school ranks would be a good fit for a Clemson program badly needing some new blood, and I can't answer that question.

Morris served as a head coach on the Texas prep level for 16 years, coaching at Eustace Independent School District (1994-97), Elysian Field ISD (1998-99), Bay City ISD (2000-02), Stephenville ISD (2004-07) and Lake Travis ISD (2008-09).

Morris has taken six of his teams to the Texas state championship game, while three of those teams captured a state title. He has compiled an overall 169-38 record for an .816 winning percentage as a prep head coach, while earning Coach of the Year honors 11 times in his career.

His offenses set several records along the way, and a year ago he was hired at Tulsa. Once again, his offenses set several records, and the Golden Hurricane finished fifth in the nation in total offense (505.62 yards per game), 8th in scoring offense (41.38 points per game), 15th in rushing offense (216.92 yards per game) and 13th in passing offense (288.69 yards per game).

So, we know the guy can coach offense. But sometimes great coaches at lower levels don’t always make great coaches at a higher level, so I called Andre Patterson, who is the defensive coordinator at UTEP.

Patterson coached against Morris this season, a 31-28 win by Tulsa on Nov. 20th. The Golden Hurricane had 28 first downs, racked up 543 yards of total offense, including 325 through the air and 218 on the ground.

Patterson also knows a thing or two about defense. His NFL coaching career included stops at New England (1997), Minnesota (1998-99), Dallas (2000-02), Cleveland (2003-04) and Denver (2005-06). He coached the defensive line at all five places, with Chris Doleman, Ebenezer Ekuban, La'Roi Glover, John Randle and Gerard Warren among the players he has coached.

He said that Morris’ offense is a difficult one to prepare for.

“It is difficult to defend in that it is a high-tempo, no huddle, check-down offense,” Patterson said. “It goes at a high pace, and it is a real quarterback-friendly run offense. The quarterback is running with the ball a lot, and the offense has a lot of option principles to it.

“At times, it looks like a basic offense – the Power O, the Counter O, outside zone, inside zone, but with all of that they have the threat of the quarterback keeping the ball and running with it. Add in the pitch trailer, and that is where it has a true option component to it.”

The offense averaged nearly 300 yards per game through the air, and Patterson said that came off of play-action rather than your typical five-step drop passing attack.

“They get a lot of their passing yards off of the play-action because they are not a big dropback passing team,” Patterson said. “Their quarterback had a great year, and most of his explosive plays down the field came off of play-action passes.

“They are a three-step drop, get the ball out quick offense. They do some wide receiver screens, and a lot of gadgets. They will run two or three trick plays per game, and they will keep the defense honest. They will not let you hone in on one thing. We held them to 31 points, which is close to the lowest they scored all year.”

I mentioned to Patterson that Clemson had some experience [Rob Spence] in a coach moving from the lower level to Clemson and having issues, and I asked if he thinks this offense could succeed with Clemson’s schedule.

“There is an SEC team playing in the National Championship next week that runs the exact same offense,” Patterson said of Auburn. “Gus Malzahn [Auburn’s offensive coordinator) runs the same offense. I am not sure if Clemson has another Cam Newton, but it is proven that it can be successful if you have the horses to run it.

“You have to have a quarterback that can run and make plays with his legs, yet be a dual threat with his arm. This style helps the offensive line and it makes it hard on the defensive line. You don’t have to have a bunch of humongous road graders to move the line off of the football. You can be successful, but you have to have the players.”

With quarterback being the most important component.

“The offense is not the same if you don’t have the trigger,” Patterson said. “He has to be a threat with the ball in his hands. The offense is just not the same if the defense can just hone in on the running back. But if you have a quarterback that can run the football, then you put that pressure on the defense.”

He said that he enjoyed the in-game chess match he had with Morris.

“The guy at Tulsa does a great job of calling plays,” Patterson said. “He kept us off balance. I went into the game saying I was going to take something away from him. I wanted to take the quarterback run away from them and make the quarterback get the ball out of his hands. And they hit some big plays down the field.

“He did well against us in making adjustments during the game. We added some new wrinkles that gave him problems in the first quarter, but he did some different things on us and scored in the second quarter. We made adjustments at halftime, and they adjusted too and continued to move the ball. We finally adjusted in the fourth and they didn’t score. But he was making moves and I was making moves. I was impressed with the guy.”

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