By Will Vandervort.
Morris says he is giving guys other guys a chance on the O-line
By Will Vandervort
Guys like Shaq Anthony, Eric Mac Lain, Reid Webster and Kalon Davis have been asking for an opportunity to show what they can do on the offensive line for third-ranked Clemson. As the Tigers prep to host Wake Forest this Saturday in Death Valley, they will get their opportunity to prove they can do it.
“It will be a great opportunity for these guys,” Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said Monday. “Some of them have been hollering for it so here you go. Don’t holler too loud.”
Morris says he is going to shake things up on the offensive line because the group has not been playing up to its standards the last couple of games. Clemson quarterbacks have been sacked seven times in the last two games, including five times to FCS foe South Carolina State.
The Tigers’ offensive coordinator believes that has led to some of the uneasiness quarterback Tajh Boyd is feeling in the pocket. Morris believes Boyd’s mechanics are a little off because he isn’t fully set, which is why he missed on a couple of long passes in Clemson’s win over NC State last Thursday that he normally hits.
Boyd missed both a wide open Martavis Bryant and wide receiver Sammy Watkins on two long throws that would have gone for touchdowns.
“We have tried some different combinations and some guys have not played to the capabilities they did last year and some guys are playing better than they did last year,” Morris said. “I think it presents a great challenge for us. It is wide open. We are going to try some other combinations and we are going to live with it. We are going to stick in there and we are going to live with it. We are going to give some other guys some opportunities and they are either going to succeed or they are not.”
One guy who has already succeeded and will play against the Demon Deacons is offensive tackle Brandon Thomas. With Gifford Timothy struggling to block NC State’s right side, Thomas eventually moved down to right tackle from left tackle like he did in the bowl game.
Thomas more than likely would have played right tackle this week had Isaiah Battle not punched an NC State player late in the fourth quarter when the game was already decided. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has suspended Battle for the entire game as well as addressed the issue at practice.
With battle out, that gives someone like Anthony or Mac Lain an opportunity to really make a case for themselves.
“Of any group you have, that group has to play together,” Morris said about the offensive line. “They have to. You have to find the right continuity there, whatever that right continuity is. Whatever the right five are, we have to find that five and they have to stay in there. We have to be consistent.”
No one has been more consistent than Thomas. So far in his four-year career at Clemson, Thomas has bounced all around the offensive line. He started his career at left guard before an injury to Phillip Price moved him to left tackle. Then in the Chick-fil-A Bowl he moved to right tackle after Timothy was injured and Joe Gore could not handle LSU’s fast defensive ends.
“This is a guy who is having to fill in all over and is doing a really good job for us,” Morris said. “He is a senior and you expect that out of your seniors, but he is a guy that is able to come in, move around and patch a hole here or there.
“I’m excited about Brandon, but he needs to get somewhere and get settled. Whether that is right, whether that is left, whether it is in the middle, whether it’s behind, whether it is a tailback, quarterback or wherever, he needs to get somewhere and get settled. But he is providing us with a lot of versatility and the opportunity to make some moves up front. He is playing well.”
For Thomas, he is just doing his job.
“They tell you to flip and go to the other side, and you are like ‘Okay!’ Well I talked to the guy who was just in there and asked how was this guy playing and figure out how he is playing before I actually get used to him,” the senior said. “I’m used to it now. I can play both sides. It doesn’t really matter.”