By Will Vandervort
Chad Morris is ready to go. When the Clemson offensive coordinator saw his players reporting for training camp Thursday, he said the hair on the back of his neck and on his arm started to stand up.
“We are ready to go,” he told Sirius XM’s College Sports Nation. “These guys have been here all summer, but we have not been able to work with them so to be able to get our hands on them today. There is a lot of excitement.”
That excitement will officially begin Friday when the Tigers open up training camp as they prepare for the season opener against Georgia on Aug. 31. Morris, who will start his third season at the Tigers’ offensive coordinator, is especially excited about the potential his offense has with quarterback Tajh Boyd returning for his senior season and wide receiver Sammy Watkins more serious than ever about his play.
Thursday’s news should help get everyone on the Clemson team jacked even more when the team learned that the USA Today Coaches Poll has the Tigers ranked No. 8 in its preseason poll. They also have Clemson’s first opponent in the 2013 season—the Georgia Bulldogs—ranked No. 5.
It marks the first time in Clemson history the Tigers will open up the season against a team ranked in the top 5 and will be only the second time in the history of Clemson Memorial Stadium that two top 10 teams will play in Death Valley.
The other game came in 1988 when No. 10 Florida State edged No. 3 Clemson, 24-21, in the famous “Puntrooskie” game.
“We are really excited,” Clemson offensive tackle Brandon Thomas said. “We have been working hard all summer getting ready for it.”
The Tigers will open the first of 21 practices between now and Aug. 20 in training camp at 5:45 p.m. on Friday. All of Clemson’s practices are closed to the public.
With Clemson picked to win the Atlantic Coast Conference this year and considered a preseason top 10 team, this is one of the more anticipated seasons in years in Tigertown. With a top 10 preseason ranking, the Tigers are already considered a serious national championship contender.
“We have great potential. There is no question about it,” head coach Dabo Swinney said. “But that is all it is, it is potential. That’s why people rank us high and that’s why they talk about your quarterback and put him on the front of a magazine or whatever. It is all based on past performance.
“The thing that these guys have to understand, whether you got blown out in a bowl game or whether you won a bowl game or whether you won six games or won 11 games last year, it’s a new season. It’s a new team, new chemistry and new leadership. You have to pay the price all over again and you have to earn things through your effort, your accountability and doing what’s right. It’s just a new journey.”
It’s a journey that began way back in January when quarterback Tajh Boyd decided he was going to return for his senior season instead of entering the NFL Draft.
“As soon as I got back (in January), I realized what I was here for, it was to help lead these guys,” he said. “I talked to a lot of the older guys in the (NFL) and the biggest advice they gave me was to go out there and have fun.
“They said to just go out there, lead your troops and go have fun. Everything else will take care of itself. For me, heading into camp, I’m just trying to embrace it and enjoy it all.”
And that’s what everyone seems to be doing as the Tigers get back on the field for the first in the 2013 football season.
“You have a long time off after you play in that bowl game,” linebacker Spencer Shuey said. “You hit each other in spring ball and you work out with each other all summer and during camp so you definitely look forward to playing that first game of the season no matter who you are playing.
“We are just ready to lineup against someone else and get out there and play.”