By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- The Clemson Tigers are going into their toughest game of the season so far this Saturday, as they face the defending National Champion Auburn, and one question that many of us have going into this game after watching the Tigers struggle against Wofford is “Will Clemson play more physical against a tougher opponent?”
These are some of the questions members of the media asked offensive coordinator Chad Morris on Monday and although he believes Clemson’s offensive line is thinking too much on the field which is keeping them from playing physical at all times.
“We didn’t play nearly as aggressive or physical as I would have liked us to play against Wofford,” Morris said. “We had some big issues in our pass protection, and they weren’t bringing more than we had, they weren’t playing 6 against our 5.”
Morris believes that the team doesn’t have the right mentality at this point in the season and that’s what is causing the problems with toughness and physicality.
“Toughness, aggressiveness, being physical it’s a mentality,” Morris said. “And until we change that mentality we’ll be talking about this from week to week. We have to coach with a harder mentality because the mentality we’re coaching with right now isn’t getting their attention. We want teams to leave Death Valley banged up and bruised, we want them to hate playing Clemson and right now that’s not the case.”
Morris knows that Clemson’s problems on offense are their mindsets, not a switch that he can turn on and off.
“I’ve said it since I’ve been coaching, you either like to hit or don’t like to hit,” Morris said. “If they don’t bite as a puppy, they’re not going to bite as a big dog which is something you look at. We need to get that mentality changed, that mental toughness, that nastiness of when we step on the field, not nasty play but a nasty, rugged, rough approach and that’s a mindset.”
Working on the teams mentality has somewhat stalled the installation of Morris’s offense, which is hard for Morris who feels like his offense should be bringing more than 50% of their offense to the field.
“We can’t expand on our offense because we’ve got to work on our mentality and our mindset,” Morris said. “It’s hard to continue to add stuff when all you’re doing is adding stuff to mess up more stuff. We’re trying to operate at a fast tempo but until you’ve got that toughness approach right, we can’t keep expanding, and we’re not going to keep expanding. We’ve got to get better at what we do.”
Morris believes that he can coach toughness by demanding it, but knows that by doing this he will be spending all of his time trying to coach toughness instead of worrying about getting things right on the offense and expanding.
“Our players want to be tough, they really do,” Morris said. “They’re struggling with it right now; they’re struggling on when to turn the switch on and off, playing consistent with it, they’re trying though.”
One of the main areas of concern from the first two games of the season has been the aggressiveness of the offensive line, however although Morris is concerned with their soft play, he knows that they will continue to improve.
“The offensive line is very down and discouraged right now, wondering what they’re doing wrong, why they’re giving up sacks, there’s a genuine concern that I appreciate from our players. I would be really concerned if on Sunday none of them came over here to watch film. They understand that we’ve got to get tougher.”
Have they gotten any tougher since the start of the season?
“I’d say yes, but there wasn’t as big of a gap between week one and week two that I was expecting,” Morris said. “But again, we’re not going to let up, we’re going to bear down on them, the time to critique yourself is in a win.”
Although Morris is frustrated that his four veteran offensive linemen haven’t played as aggressive or tough as he would have liked during the past two games, he know it’s not because of a lack of effort.
“I think they’re doing a lot of thinking when they’re out on the field,” Morris said. “And when you think on the field it takes aggressiveness out. Which tells me that we can’t keep expanding, which is something I thought when I came off the field Saturday, things that we thought we were ready to go with, are causing our players to think too much right now, we can’t think and play, and it’s extremely frustrating for the five offensive linemen. But we need to step back and look at things instead of everyone trying to crucify the offensive linemen. It’s a joint effort, there are some positive things happening out there, we just need to become more aggressive at all positions, not just offensive line.”
Morris knows that his job is to build on all of the positive things that came out of the last two weeks and correct the negatives.
“I’m not getting paid for these guys to like me,” Morris said. “I don’t care if they like me, but we’re going to win and we’re going to play tough. At what point during this season will things click I don’t know but I’ll tell you this, we’ll play tougher this weekend than we did last week.”