By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- After a big win over the defending National Champions Auburn, you would think that Clemson Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris would breathe a sigh of relief; instead Morris immediately started to prepare for what he calls an even bigger match up next week in the Tiger’s first conference game of the 2011 season against the Florida State Seminoles.
“This win gives our team a lot of confidence,” Morris said. “It gives them a sense of belief but we’re far from where we need to be right now. We had two three and outs early and left a lot of hidden yardage out there. But I told our guys this morning, you thought last week was tough; it’s going to be even tougher on you this week as far as the way I’m going to treat you and hold you accountable. This is our first conference game and after seeing how physical Florida State played against Oklahoma, I know this is going to be the biggest challenge for our team without a doubt.”
After struggling to win against the Wofford Terriers in Week 2 of play, Morris knew that he had to step on the brakes a little bit and slow down the installation process; however throughout the Auburn game on Saturday he saw his offense come alive and make the big plays that he hoped they could to win.
“I think you always as offensive coordinator try to grow your offense at the speed that they can absorb it,” Morris said. “A week ago I wasn’t real comfortable with that but I knew also that we had some things that we’d been working on that we wanted to try and make sure we had ready for a certain time during the season, whether or not we could execute it or not on Saturday I didn’t know but we did.”
The physicality of the offensive line has been an issue for the Tigers throughout the first two weeks of the season; however against Auburn the offensive line came out and played their hearts out, giving quarterback Tajh Boyd plenty of time to make good decisions. What did Morris think of their improvement?
“Well the O-line had a much better week,” Morris said. “After looking at them, they still had some missed assignments up front, sometimes that we needed to be a little more physical than we were, but as the game wore on we got a little stronger. That was a plus to be able to run the ball effectively at the end of the game and run 9:37 seconds off the clock. They’re working hard and taking great pride in their play and holding each other accountable.”
One player that Morris was most pleased with on the offensive line was redshirt freshman Brandon Thomas who had to step in midway through the second quarter at left guard when Mason Cloy left the game injured.
“I’m proud of Brandon Thomas, he stepped up and played because he had to,” Morris said. “My exact words for him when he stepped onto the field were that it was time for him to grow up now. We’re trying to force you to grow up during practice; it’s time to grow up now because you’ve got people counting on you. He did a good job and proven himself in a live situation what he’s capable of doing.”
Thomas has proved himself so much that according to Morris, even though starter David Smith and backup Mason Cloy will be good to practice this week, he will be starting Brandon Thomas at left guard at Monday’s practice because he deserves it and he will watch and see how he progresses throughout the week to see if he will start at that position against the Seminoles.
Clemson’s quarterback Tajh Boyd has continued to prove to the coaching staff that hard work does pay off, as he has improved significantly each week in his running, pass efficiency and decision making.
“I think you look at Tajh and he’s maturing,” Morris said. “We talk about it all of the time, it’s an honor to play football and be the quarterback for the Clemson Tigers. I tell Tajh never to forget that. He has to continue to grow up and play within his athletic ability. I thought he was definitely feeling it on Saturday and making some good decisions with the football. And I’m proud to see that for someone that really works hard and takes pride in their job.”
Morris is also proud of Boyd for the way he’s managing the game and moving the chains. Instead of trying to win the game for the Tigers by himself, Boyd continues to find Clemson’s several playmakers on offense.
Last week before the Auburn game, Morris and the rest of the offensive coaching staff challenged not only the offensive linemen but the offensive unit as a whole to play more physical and be aggressive, and although they weren’t perfect on Saturday against the reigning national champs, Morris saw a vast improvement in the team’s physicality.
“We challenged the offense all of last week to play more physical,” Morris said. “I think they improved a lot against Auburn but we still left a lot of plays on the field. We’ve got to continue to get better and continue to play more physical each game. You saw some improvement in our wide receivers and their blocking this week, I think they’re starting to buy into the system and they realize that if they aren’t out there blocking on the field, they’ll be standing there right next to me on the sidelines.”
Andre Ellington, the starting running back for Clemson tweaked his hamstring late into the Auburn game on Saturday, however Morris is confident that Ellington will be back on the field against Florida State this week.
“Andre will be ready to go Saturday,” Morris said. “We’re going to hold him out of practice today but he’ll be ready to work out on Tuesday. He’ll be ready to roll, he felt really good today but I think it was just precautionary holding him out of practice today. I was proud though in the way that DJ Howard and Mike Bellamy stepped up and filled in for Andre when he was out.”
This week, Morris promises will be a tougher week of practice than the last. Instead of backing off of the players after the game they played against Auburn, he will work them even harder, demanding excellence out of his offense.
“Our tempo was good this weekend, and we would’ve had 100 snaps or more if it weren’t for those two three and outs to start the game.” Morris said. “We’re not where we need to be yet, still making several mistakes and leaving yards out on the field. So I’m going to continue to work them, the players like Sammy Watkins, Tajh Boyd, and Dwayne Allen that are getting a lot of media attention for the big plays they’re making, I’m going to work them even harder.”