Morris gives Tajh Boyd a lot of freedom in checking off plays
By Will Vandervort
Clemson running back Zac Brooks described Saturday’s scrimmage in Death Valley as just another day of hard work in the hot sun. Well, his hard work has made him one of the hottest topics in camp as the eighth-ranked Tigers’ continue to prepare for their season-opener against No. 5 Georgia on Aug. 31.
Brooks rushed for 79 yards on seven carries, including a 44-yard jaunt on his first attempt of the scrimmage. It turned out to be the longest run of the day.
“I could not sleep any last night because I was dreaming about today and how I was going to work,” the sophomore said. “It has been a self-conscious thing, I guess. It has been on my mind to work hard. I want to get what I think I deserve because of all the work I have put in.
“I could not sleep last night because I was thinking about getting better today and what my performance was going to be. I know I need to step up for the team.”
Brooks’ performance Saturday was not based on just that one run. He carried the ball six more times after his 44-yard run for 35 more yards – a 5.8 yards per carry average.
“It is starting to click,” Brooks said. “It the knowledge. With knowledge comes confidence and I have gained more knowledge in the offense. I know what I’m supposed to do because I study and I watch film.
“I’m watching myself on film. I’m seeing how late I make a cut or how early, so I’m taking notes. It’s the little things that make big plays. Small creases make big plays.”
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd has been impressed with what he has seen out of Brooks and the entire backfield thus far.
“I think Zac played really good today,” he said. “Zac has been doing a great job and Hot Rod (Roderick McDowell) has done a great job. The young guys have come along really well and I’m excited about the future that they have.
“C.J. Davidson is a walk-on guy that not too many people are talking about and he is probably having one of the better camps right now. He has been a solid player for us. The thing is if you are able to play, you are going to play for us. He has been doing really well. It’s up to the coaches to determine who is going to start, but it is a pretty good battle right now, overall.”
Brooks wasn’t the only running back to perform well. The guy he is chasing for the starting job, McDowell, continues to have a solid camp, too. He rushed for 30 yards Saturday on four carries, including one that went 10 yards for a touchdown.
“I think whoever is going to be the most consistent guy is going to be the guy that can take over,” Boyd said. “For me, Hot Rod has been doing a really good job. Right now, he is the number one guy. That’s just what I’m thinking. I don’t know what the coaches are thinking, that’s just kind of what I’m thinking.”
Good tempo. Clemson ran more than 100 plays in Saturday’s two and a half scrimmage for 576 yards. Boyd said offensive coordinator Chad Morris told them that was the best tempo in a scrimmage they have had since he has been at Clemson.
Red zone success. Though the offense made some big plays, it struggled again in short yardage and goal line plays in the scrimmage. Clemson has again made it an emphasis in camp to get better in those areas. The extra concentration worked last season as the Tigers led the nation in red zone scoring and led the ACC in third and fourth conversion success rate.
Getting on the same page. One of Boyd’s four touchdown passes Saturday was a four-yard pass to Martavis Bryant. The play was originally a run call, but Boyd checked into the fade pass to his 6-foot-5 wide receiver when he noticed the coverage the defense was giving.
“When you get down there, you just have to be smart with your decisions,” the quarterback said. “I liked my matchup. (Bryant) has been doing a great job this whole camp so I’m very confident in his abilities and him kind of recognizing and understanding what I’m trying to do.
“There were a few times when I checked off today, so it was really good.”
Boyd says Morris has given him a lot of freedom to check off plays like he did on Saturday. But there is one requirement for him to keep doing it.
“I’m pretty much free to do whatever as long as we make a good play,” Boyd smiled. “When things don’t go right or we make a turnover, that’s when things could get ugly. But, I’m free to do a lot of different things and Coach trusts me. It is my job, and it is up to me, to put the team in the best situation as possible.”