Shortly before 3:30 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, the latest threat to Clemson’s current offensive success arrived at Anderson Regional Airport.
A charter jet carrying Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt landed, and shortly afterward, Hocutt was joined by Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris.
Hocutt was set to interview Morris for the Red Raiders’ head coaching position, which opened up unexpectedly Saturday when coach Tommy Tuberville bolted for Cincinnati.
Hocutt told the Independent Mail that he was interviewing Morris, who is finishing his second season as the Tigers’ offensive coordinator.
The Lubbock (Tex.) Avalanche-Journal reported Tuesday that Morris was “right at the top” of Hocutt’s wish list, along with Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury.
The Texas Tech charter arrived from Houston, where Hocutt is believed to have interviewed Kingsbury.
“We’d like to get a decision done as soon as possible,” Hocutt said. “But at the same time it’s an important decision and we’re going to take time to make the right choice.”
Wearing a suit and tie and carrying a leather shoulder bag, Morris arrived about 10 minutes after Hocutt’s plane.
He declined specific comment to reporters from the Independent Mail and TigerIllustrated.com.
“I’ve done everything with you guys,” he said.
Texas Tech could be an attractive destination for Morris, a Texas native who spent 16 seasons as a head coach in the Texas high school ranks. He is in his third season as a collegiate coach, spending a year at Tulsa before being hired by Swinney in January 2010.
Morris makes $1.3 million annually as the nation’s highest-paid assistant coach; last year, he signed a six-year, $7.8 million contract which has no buyout if he leaves for a head coaching position.
In two seasons, Morris has revitalized Clemson’s offense with his hurry-up, no-huddle attack. The Tigers finished the regular season in the top 13 nationally in scoring offense, total offense and passing offense.
Clemson averaged 42.3 points per game (sixth in FBS), 518.3 total yards per game (ninth) and 318.3 yards per game (13th).
Morris interviewed with N.C. State for its head coaching vacancy, which was filled by Northern Illinois’ Dave Doeren, and reportedly interviewed with Auburn for its vacancy, which was filled by Arkansas State’s Gus Malzahn, a Morris coaching mentor. South Florida – which hired Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart – also reportedly had interest in Morris. Last week, Morris denied national reports that he was interviewing with USF before the Bulls hired Taggart.
Last week, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said the rumors of staff departures – defensive backs coach and co-defensive coordinator Charlie Harbison left Sunday for Auburn – weren’t a distraction to his team.
Before Tuesday, Morris had not commented on any potential job opportunities. He and defensive coordinator Brent Venables had not been made available to reporters since Nov. 24’s 27-17 loss to South Carolina, ostensibly to study film and make informed comments on LSU, the Tigers’ Chick-fil-A Bowl opponent.
“I love having a staff that wants to be the best. Guys having opportunities to further themselves, I have no problem with that at all,” Swinney said. “You want to have a quality staff that is going to have opportunities to advance their career from time to time. When that happens, you go hire another quality coach and move forward.”