CLEMSON — Chad Morris is still on Clemson’s campus – for now.
Following the Tigers’ third Chick-fil-A Bowl practice Wednesday, Clemson’s in-demand offensive coordinator walked by a group of reporters waiting outside the football practice facility.
“How you guys?” Morris asked. “Everyone good?”
And he was gone.
One day after Morris interviewed with Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt at the Anderson Regional Airport regarding the Red Raiders’ head coaching vacancy, he was the hottest topic of discussion.
However, since Morris and defensive coordinator Brent Venables aren’t scheduled to meet with reporters until Saturday, head coach Dabo Swinney took all the questions, and made it clear that he supports Morris’ candidacy – and life will go on if he departs.
“Hopefully he’ll be here with us, but he’s got a great opportunity,” Swinney said. “If that works out it’s a dream opportunity. I’m tickled to death for him.”
Morris is believed to be one of two main candidates for the job – Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, a former star Texas Tech quarterback, interviewed for the position in Houston Tuesday.
The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported Wednesday that Tech’s board of trustees is expected to meet either Thursday or Friday to finalize the hiring of a new coach, and Swinney said he “can’t imagine it’ll drag on too long” and added “I think they’re pretty dialed on their guys.”
Swinney said he did not believe that Morris currently had an offer from Texas Tech.
“Hopefully this works out,” he said. “This is what he wants, that’s all there is to it. Hopefully all this stuff will resolve itself one way or the other.”
If Morris departs, Swinney said he has a plan in place.
“Plan A, B, C, D, how many letters are in the alphabet?” he said. “We won’t have any shortage of great candidates who will be interested.”
Regardless, Swinney plans to keep the up-tempo style. Morris’ hurry-up, no-huddle offense has been dynamic; the Tigers rank in the top 13 nationally in total offense, scoring offense and passing offense.
“It’s a Clemson offense, not a Chad Morris offense,” Swinney said. “When we hired Chad, this is what we wanted to do philosophically. Our first year in 2009, we had dynamic guys like C.J. Spiller and Michael Palmer, Jacoby Ford, it’s well-documented what those guys did. We knew what we wanted to go to, it was just a matter of having the right personnel. It was a matter of who I thought was the best fit for our personnel. We settled on Chad and he’s done a tremendous job.”
Swinney is also trying to replace defensive backs coach and co-defensive coordinator Charlie Harbison, who left Sunday for the same position on Auburn’s staff. Swinney cited Harbison’s relationship with new AU defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson and the fact that Harbison needed only a few years to be vested in the state of Alabama’s retirement system, calling it a “unique” situation. He praised Harbison’s work and said he was “like a brother to me.”
“I’m not in a big hurry,” Swinney said. “If I wanted to hire someone today, I could, or shortly after the bowl game or somewhere in between. We’ll definitely have that done by the time players come back and school starts back. When we get back into the contact period, have our big recruiting weekend, we’ll have all that resolved. There’s no shortage of great candidates. That’s the blessing of being at Clemson. The environment we’ve created here, a lot of good people want to come to our program.”
Swinney also said that the “academic” suspension of sophomore receiver and T.L. Hanna alum Martavis Bryant for the Chick-fil-A Bowl was related to skipping study halls and wasn’t a university academic policy issue.
“You have to follow the rules,” Swinney said. “At some point, enough’s enough. Martavis is a good young man but we have study hall rules we have to follow here, he was habitual in breaking those rules. At some point it’s out of your hands and that’s where it’s at. The decision was made, hopefully he’ll learn from it and decide he wants to be a student and wants to do what he needs to make himself successful down the road.”