By Will Vandervort
CLEMSON — Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris says he isn’t worried about his unit getting complacent after scoring at least 38 points the last five weeks. To prove that, all he has to do is turn on the film and show his players Maryland’s defense.
“This is the second best defense we have seen to this point and time,” Morris said Monday.
The Terrapins, who journey into Death Valley this Saturday for a 3:32 p.m. kickoff, statistically are the best defense the eighth-ranked Tigers have seen since the Florida State game on Sept. 22. Maryland ranks No. 11 nationally in total defense, yielding just 301.7 yards a game, while also ranking in the top 20 in run and pass defense.
“This is one of the top defenses in the country,” Morris said. “They are ranked No. 11 in the country. Their scheme is very sound. We have our hands full.”
Clemson’s hands will not be as full. Maryland reported Monday that starting linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield tore his ACL while chasing down a Georgia Tech ball carrier late in the second quarter last Saturday. Hartsfield was the team’s leading tackler. He becomes the fourth player this season at Maryland to see his season end with an ACL injury.
Hartsfield led the Terps (4-5, 2-3 ACC) with 78 tackles, including 7.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. He also had one interception and two fumble recoveries.
“I knew he got hurt last week, but I didn’t hear what it was,” Morris said. “That’s incredible. He is a great football player, and it is very sad for him and obviously for their program. They have been hit with blow after blow. You really have to respect the fact that those guys have fought hard and are resilient each and every week.
“My hat goes off to those guys up there. Coach (Randy Edsall) has gone through a lot of adversity this year with them.”
Resilient is a good way to describe this Maryland football team. Despite losing 25 players to transfers the last two years, and then losing three quarterbacks—C.J. Brown, Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe—to season-ending ACL tears, they still have a shot at becoming bowl eligible and salvage something from the 2012 season.
“I have heard of a team maybe losing one or two to (ACL injuries), but as many as they have had, especially at the quarterback position and now this one, one of the best defensive players in the conference, I hate that for (Edsall),” Morris said.
Edsall, obviously, hates it more because it will be his defense without its best player trying to slow down the likes of quarterback Tajh Boyd, running back Andre Ellington and wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins.
Clemson (8-1, 5-1) is the only offense in the country, other than Oregon’s, to score at least 37 points the last eight games. While Maryland is one of the best defensive teams in the country, the Tigers boast one of the best offenses.
Clemson ranks No. 7 nationally in scoring offense (42.7), No. 9 in total offense (522.4) and No. 10 in passing offense (325.0). During their five-game win streak, the Tigers are averaging 544.8 yards and 45.6 points per game.
“I think a lot of the experience of what our guys have learned from last year is taking care of any complacency,” Morris said. “We have a long way to go, and we have so much stuff we can continue to work on.
“It may not look that way from your angle, but from inside the doors in (the WestZone) there are a whole lot of things that need to be worked on.”
And it doesn’t hurt that the Tigers next opponent has a nationally ranked defense.