By Will Vandervort
One thing is certain in Chad Morris’ coaching career from one year to the next – each year he has had a different team.
Clemson’s offensive coordinator said that’s one reason why it’s taken the third-ranked Tigers to get things going on offense this season. And maybe now they got things going after Saturday’s win over Wake Forest. The Tigers travel to Syracuse for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff (ABC/ESPN 2) on Saturday.
“I have been coaching twenty-seven years and I have yet to have the same offense that is identical,” Morris said Monday. “They have different personalities.”
Clemson’s personality may lay with its quarterback. In the Tigers’ win over NC State on Sept. 19, it took the Clemson offense 59 plays before it finally got rolling. Over the next 23 plays, they put up more than 170 yards and scored two touchdowns. It should be no coincidence that all of that came when Boyd got it together midway through the third quarter.
The Tigers’ signal-caller threw a 20-yard pass, a 30-yard touchdown pass and a 15-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Martavis Bryant in the last 20 minutes. He picked up where he left off against Wake Forest with a 64-yard touchdown pass to Sammy Watkins before finishing with 311 yards and four touchdowns (one rush) overall.
“I knew when he made that third-down pass to Sammy that he was going to have a good day,” Morris said.
Morris says the first four games have been a learning experience for his quarterback. Boyd has had the luxury of having running back Andre Ellington, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and wide receiver Jaron Brown the previous two seasons. Let’s not forget he has had two playmaking tight ends as well in Dwayne Allen and Brandon Ford.
Now he is trying to get acquainted with new guys like Mike Williams, Jordan Leggett and Stanton Seckinger. And the running game is more of by committee right now instead of having a feature back like Ellington.
“As a playcaller you try to game plan and call plays like you did last year or the year before that,” Morris said. “What you find out is that it is not the same team. Every year is going to be different. I’m going to sit here next year and say we are going to try and call plays like we did last year. Well, we have a different team.
“It takes you a while as a coach to learn the personality of your team and learn what turns them on and what clicks right and wrong. What are we really good at? We might not be good at that this year as we were last year. What we were really bad at last year we might be really good at this year. All of that goes hand and hand. That’s why they call it a season. The more you play, the more you learn about yourself and your group.
“Tajh was the same way. He was trying to play just like he did last year. He was relying on guys that maybe were not here last year, this year. He is learning in the heat of battle.”
Through four games it is obvious Boyd is going where he is most comfortable. Of Boyd’s 73 completions, 45 have been to Watkins, Humphries and Bryant. That’s 62 percent of his completions if you are doing the math at home.
“We all know what Tajh Boyd can do,” Morris said. “He is one of the best in the country, if not the best.
“We are calling the same plays, but it is the way you go about things and the way you approach things. Last year, on certain situations you might have gone with this call. Well, this year we might not be quite like we were last year, but we are better in this regard so let’s put it in this guy’s hands.”
Morris says Boyd will get more comfortable with his new playmakers as the course of the season goes along and as he starts to figure them out and trust them more. He says Boyd is starting to get comfortable and is gaining more trust with Bryant and Williams at boundary receiver.
“It all takes shape in the course of a season and when you are in the heat of battle you learn a lot about people. That is kind of what we are learning,” Morris said. “Tajh is learning in the way he does things and approach things.
“You have to be a little different in the way you do things and approach some things.”