CLEMSON — Life is good for Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris. The Tigers’ offense is in the top 7 nationally in both scoring and total offense, and 12th in passing offense. Monday, questions posed to Morris discussed the Tigers’ recent turnover spike, but also discussed if junior quarterback Tajh Boyd is a bit underrated, and the benefits – and drawbacks – of recent dominance.
Morris discussed Boyd, an improved offensive line, N.C. State’s defense and much more with reporters Monday. The following is an edited version of the conversation.
Are you surprised Tajh Boyd has flown a bit under the national radar: “I really am, when you start looking at his pass efficiency, the yards he’s thrown for, the touchdowns he’s thrown for, it has surprised me. He’ll get mentioned and it’s almost like it goes away. But you know, all that comes with it, comes with the territory. We expect Tajh’s performance each week to be at the top of his game. That’s all we can control. We’re extremely proud of the way he’s playing. We wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in, the success we’ve had without his style of play. It’s much better than it was a year ago.”
Do the recent blowouts (Clemson has won its last three by an average of 33 points) hurt his visibility: “The last three weeks, he’s essentially played a little bit over a half, just over three quarters. Maybe that’s hurt him a little bit. Getting some of the exposure and recognition. We can’t control that. All we can control is how we play, how we approach each day, all that will take care of itself in due time.
On value of backups’ play in recent games: “We’ve shown a lot of improvement in our offensive line, an area we were really focused on, trying to create some depth as the year goes, as we get into spring ball and next year. I’m excited these guys have had live reps and game experience. That’s something you can’t coach.”
On LG David Beasley’s play: “That was a pleasant surprise. David was due. He’d had two just average performances the week before, we’d really tried to challenge David over the last two weeks. Not just last week but the last two weeks. We had pulled him out of practice at times, we were rotating guys in and out there. We had to get his level back up to where it was in fall camp when he was trying to earn the job. And so those were something I was glad to see. He was our lineman of the week. Well-deserved. Played the most physical game he has all year.”
On RT Gifford Timothy: “Giff is getting better. He actually showed a few signs of having some dominating performances out there. Showed a little bit of a hard edge at times. I had to rewind the film. That’s steps in the right direction there. Definitely things we’ll commend him on today in our meetings, proud of him. He’s getting better, starting to figure it out. We’ve got a long way to go but he’s played well the last few weeks. It’s good to see him regain some confidence.”
On Martavis Bryant and his 48-yard catch Saturday: “Martavis, that guy, we all know what kind of talent he is. What he brings, his speed, probably the fastest player on the team. With his size, he’s a specimen. He gets out there. When he’s in the game, he’s got a chance to make a play at any point and time on the field. It’s good to see him. He’s gaining confidence and getting more comfortable in his role. He continues to make big catch after big catch for us.”
On N.C. State’s defense: “Very sound. Very sound. Coming into last week, we knew what kind of defense Maryland had. They were very solid. This is a group this week we’re playing, N.C. State, that leads the league in sacks, No.7 in the country in sacks. They move their front about every play, play a lot of man coverage behind it. That’s been the coverage of the year against us. We’re expecting to see a lot of man, a lot of cover 2, they do a really good job of disguising it. Point blank they got after our tail last year, they got after us. This will not be something that’ll go unnoticed as we continue to talk about a very sound football team.
“They beat Florida State, and what they did last year with the same record. We were 9-1, ranked in the top 10 and they embarrassed us. That’s something our guys, don’t know if they were overlooking the game or not, but they got after our tail. They’ve got five returning starters from last year’s team, and they haven’t changed their system in what they do. If anything they move their front more and play more man.”
On an improved run game: “When you start looking at it it’s kind of like Tajh. You’re looking, these guys are playing a half. Maybe a half and a drive of the third quarter, so you look at it. Maryland was averaging 301 yards per game (overall) last week coming in, we had 310 at halftime. I thought we ran the ball effectively, had a few missed assignments, but then to be able to come in and get these other guys some roles and get Andre (Ellington) off the field, I’ve been pleased. We can always be better. Short yardage has continued to be impressive on the year. We’ve got a lot of room for improvement, don’t get me wrong. I’m not satisfied saying we’re the national champion in the running offense, because we’re not, we have a long way to go to get that, where we want to be running the football. But I’ve been pleased with it. We’ve got to press the fundamentals and press the toughness. That’s what it comes down to.”
On Adam Humphries’ first career TD catch: “I thought that was a huge play in the game, for him to make a diving catch, one-handed. Last week I told him in practice, Adam I think we’ve got you one, a touchdown this week. It wasn’t on the play I was anticipating – we had another play designed for him. On the one that he did a great job, made a double move and came across the middle.
“(Adam) actually was his second read, but he threw it through the second window. He did a great job stepping up and letting it unfold. If you draw it up on paper, you wouldn’t have drawn it up to be thrown in that area, you’d have drawn it up different. But they had a good defense against it. Their Mike linebacker did a really good job and forced it to the next window. Tajh stepped up and threw it about the only spot he could.”
On using freshmen who you’ve made a conscious decision to play: “When you start putting a guy in, you burn his redshirt. You’d love to be able to have him, obviously we had to have (tackle) Isaiah Battle for backup purposes and quality of practice. Sometimes when you redshirt guys, put them on the scout team squad, you don’t get a chance to get them over. We feel like Isaiah is a guy who needed that practice. He hasn’t played football that much. You’d love to redshirt him, but the whole development, big picture of things, it was better off for him to be with us the whole year.”
On turnovers: “Last week we turned it over twice, 2 fumbles by Tajh. One was a poor read, poor ball security, pull read. His alignment from the start was too tight, therefore it forced everything to happen so quick. Put the ball on the ground. Second turnover he had, made a great read, pulls it around and cuts the inside shoulder of the safety, was going in to score, spinning like he likes to do, one of the things we’ve talked about. Get what you can and get down. The guy was reaching the ball out to try and get it across the goal line, and the guy hit it. Those are two things, loved his effort, got to protect the football down in the red zone. The one down in the red zone, I can understand that. The misread, laying it on the ground, that’s unacceptable. He knew it. There wasn’t anybody more disappointed than himself. He was really disappointed about the one he didn’t score on.”
On Boyd’s improvement and improved completions percentage: “I think it’s his maturity. His fundamentals, his footwork has really attributed a lot to his overall confidence. And just his overall knowledge of the system, a second year in it. We feel like to play championship-caliber offensive football, you’ve got to be in the 68-72 percent of completion rates. That’s what we talk about all the time. We talk about it every day, we chart it in practice, during spring ball, and that’s a big thing Tajh always looks at, what was my completion percentage. We look at it as a team in spring ball. But it is up, and I think it’s a lot to say about him and his footwork.
“He’s probably the most accurate deep-ball passer I’ve ever been around and maybe that I’ve ever seen. I told him that this morning. I think he’s more accurate at 35 yards than five yards. And I think it’s true. You look at it, and again, he has a great feel for it. A great touch. He threw a great ball this past week coming into the west end zone to Nuk (Hopkins) When he let it go, Nuk wasn’t even out of his break. Nuk never had to break stride on it, catches it and scores. So he’s got a really good feel for the deep ball. We throw a lot of deep balls every day. But he’s got a great feel for it.”
On Boyd’s nine interceptions, and if they’re a product of throwing so much: “You don’t want any turnovers at all. No interceptions. Those are things you try and avoid. It’s going to happen. You throw the ball enough, you’re going to throw an interception. It’s when you make impulse decisions and turn the ball over, that drives you crazy. Guy tips a ball, gets picked off, guy makes a great play on it. The player at Duke made a great play on the ball, and what do you do? The guy made a great play, you’ve got to give him credit.
“It’s what Tajh has been able to do that’s really impressive this year is limit his impulse decisions, to where he’s rolling one way, goes across the body the other way – things we saw late last year. Just carrying the ball loosely, and the guy knocks the ball out. That could have been avoided. You’ve got the ball high and tight and the guy lays a hit on you, that’s going to happen sometimes. But obviously, his interceptions have been down, a lot has to do with the fact he’s not making those impulse decisions.”
On N.C. State’s cornerbacks taking chances: “I think they take chances. They’re extremely well-coached. Returning from last year, (David) Amerson had (13) interceptions. His interception total has been down this year. A lot of that has to do with the fact that people aren’t throwing to his side. He isn’t getting as many opportunities as he was last year. It doesn’t mean he’s not playing as well. He’s not getting as many opportunities. Anytime you have corners and safeties like these guys, they take chances. They’re very aggressive. That’s their style of play. They’re physical. When you do that and take chances, you are going to give up a shot or two over the top.”