CLEMSON — From all the angst and anxiety that came out of Chad Morris’ flirtation with Texas Tech’s head coaching position, one positive emerged.
Following Morris’ interview Tuesday with Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt at the Anderson Regional Airport, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was forced to publicly confront the fact that Morris isn’t going to be on his staff forever.
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We all knew this – heck, Swinney probably figured it out when Urban Meyer and Ohio State made a run at Morris last December – but this got the conversation out into the open, and got Swinney talking about what he’d do if Morris departed.
The answer? More of the same.
If and when Morris departs, Swinney plans to keep a no-huddle, up-tempo offense in place, no matter who calls the plays.
“It’s a Clemson offense, not a Chad Morris offense,” Swinney told reporters. “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.”
Indeed he has. With Spiller, Ford and Palmer gone, Clemson’s offense was a muddled mess in 2010 under coordinator Billy Napier. It lacked identity, style and panache, as well as production.
Clemson was 88th nationally in total offense (334.6 ypg), 86th in scoring offense (24 ppg), 79th in rushing offense (139 ypg) and 78th in passing offense (195.6 ypg).
In addition, the red-zone offense was putrid. Clemson was 111th nationally in red zone scoring, converting 73.9 percent of its opportunities, and turning 54.3 percent into touchdowns (95th nationally).
Look how things have changed two years later.
Clemson averaged 42.3 points per game (sixth in FBS), 518.3 total yards per game (ninth) and 318.3 yards per game (13th). It showed up in the red zone too. Clemson was second nationally in red zone scoring (converting 94.4 percent of its chances, second only to Louisville) and converted 74.7 percent of those chances into touchdowns, 10th nationally.
It is a dynamic, exciting offense that thrills players as much as it does fans. With college and pro football’s trends towards pass-happy offenses, Morris and Clemson are at the cusp of the trend.
The New England Patriots have garnered attention with their fast-paced offense, which averages 25.2 seconds per play.
Clemson? The Tigers average 21.1 seconds per play, among the best ratios in college football. Louisiana Tech averages a lightning-fast 19.1 seconds per play, with Baylor at 19.4. Oregon averages 20.5 seconds per play, while Oklahoma State averages 20.9.
Texas A&M is just behind at 21.3 per play, while North Carolina and West Virginia both average 21.5.
What does it mean? Morris is doing what Swinney wants him to do with the offense – run a fast-paced, physical attack.
Can there be improvements made regarding physicality? Sure. Morris is only two years into his system, and it can take time to recruit and develop the kind of mashers that he wants to power and protect his running attack.
What interests me is how the offense will evolve once Morris inevitably takes a head coaching position within the next two seasons.
Swinney wants to keep a fast-paced system, but will he keep the exact system Morris brought in? Hurry-up, no-huddle is a growing subset, but Morris and mentor Gus Malzahn are the two prime practitioners.
Will Swinney elevate wide receivers coach/recruiting coordinator Jeff Scott? Will he find the next Morris? Or will he tweak the system slightly?
All are intriguing questions – which Clemson fans will likely be able to put off for at least another year.