CLEMSON — It was hard to miss how excited Chad Morris is about this week. Clemson’s caffeinated offensive coordinator said it repeatedly Monday during his weekly meeting with reporters, his first chance to extensively discuss the No.10 Tigers’ trip to No.4 Florida State for a faceoff with the Seminoles’ No.1 defense.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Morris said. “These type of environments and situations, they don’t come around every week. This is one that we’ve been looking at and preparing for and we’re excited about it. We know we’ve got a great challenge ahead of us, but that’s good. We need that.”
Morris discussed focus, Sammy Watkins, Tajh Boyd, the offensive line’s chemistry issue and more with reporters Monday.
On keeping his players focused on the task at hand: “I think you look at this week and you look at it as a great opportunity. The last two weeks have been focusing on ourselves, trying to get better, working toward that goal in practice, trying to keep these guys from looking ahead to Florida State. And I thought we did a really good job of that. Now that Florida State week is here, these guys have been looking at this moment, looking at this date, I don’t think you have any problem with getting them up for Florida State, or getting overly excited early in the week. These guys have been in big games before. They played Florida State here last year, and you do what you do, and put a good plan together, and I think you want them ready Saturday night at 8 o’ clock. That’s when they’ll be ready.”
On Tajh Boyd’s overall performance through three weeks: “Tajh has done a really good job this year. I thought there were a couple of instances last week that he lost his edge on a couple of plays, and tried to forced the ball. We haven’t seen that in him this year. I think we’ve got to continue to manage the game and make good decisions with the football, Pull the ball down and run, which he’s done a good of that. Tajh has played well but that’s got to continue. We’ve seen that, and he should. He’s shown, 20 of 29 last week, done a really good job managing the game.”
On Sammy Watkins’ progression: “I think you saw Sammy at this point last year, it was game four. You saw his comfort, he started having a great comfort feel for the offense and for his role, he was becoming more vocal as a leader. As a player. You saw that a year ago at this time. A year ago this time, he was breaking through and still hadn’t quite gotten his name out there and was sneaking up on everybody. We know he’s not going to sneak up on anybody now. Just his intelligence and ability to see the coverages and broad scheme of things and be able to communicate on the sidelines. That is rare.”
On Florida State responding to the loss of All-America defensive end Brandon Jenkins: “They’ve rotated a couple guys in, they’ve brought in a true freshman, No.1 player in the country, Mario Edwards. They’ev got some experience playing, very talented, very athletic. They’re very disruptive. That’s the thing you can see right there. There’s so much depth, they’ll rotate guys in after every series. Usually the second series, you’ll see guys coming in and out. Those guys are very well-coached, and that’s their job to try and be as disruptive as possible.”
On tempo: “You’ve got to play great tempo this week as we have all year long to this point. I think our tempo has been really good. You do what you do and you’re not going to change who you are, and I think tempo is very critical for us, as it is every week. We need to be snapping the ball with 32-33 seconds on the clock. That’s our goal.”
On FSU bringing pressure: “They’ll bring a little bit of pressure, they will. From the opponents we’ve seen up to this point they haven’t had to pressure a whole lot. They’re going to bring some pressure. They’ll get in their odd front and bring their walk-around guy and they’ll bring pressure off that.”
The challenge for Tajh Boyd if FSU is bringing pressure or dropping seven back: “I think it’s every week. Regardless of who you’re playing, the challenge for Tajh is to manage the game and move the chains. With your feet, with your eyes, with your arms, whatever it is. You’ve got to do a good job of not putting the ball in jeopardy. He’s done a good job to this point and time in the season, he really has. Tajh is at his best when he’s very active, being able to see the field in that regard. You ask me that next week I’m going to tell you the same thing next week.”
Do you show Boyd the film of his ill-advised flip to DE Bjorn Werner: “I’m sure those guys, our players have already been telling him a little about that. That was one that he wishes he had back. He was trying to throw the ball away, you’ve just got to make sure we throw it away.”
On how injuries have affected the offensive line’s chemistry: “It is a little bit (of a concern). We’ve got to get them back in there. They’ve obviously been practicing together, we made the decision to hold out ( David Beasley) last week and get them healthy again. We’ve got to really push those guys. We’ve got to do a great job as a coaching staff of punching those guys and being physical. That’s something we lost a little of last week. I don’t think they were quite as physical as I wanted them to be. Even though we did have some guys in there that hadn’t been used to playing, it was a good opportunity to show them how to be a little more physical. And they did at times but weren’t as consistent as what I wanted them to be, or what we wanted as an offensive staff. To get those guys back, get David Beasley back, get Giff Timothy back (healthy). That’s going to be the challenge this week with Giff, and his knee. He’s 100 percent now. Now from a mental mindset he’s got to get back to that tough edge he had during fall camp.
How would you evaluate the line as a whole?: “It’s two tales, kind of. When your first group is in there, I think they’ve done a good job. I think that one of the things we challenge them with is being physical. Challenging them in fall camp and really working toward that. They came out and showed that. But we had some injuries, and we’ve been able to get some guys in which has been a good thing, we’ve created some depth in our offensive line over the past two weeks. But I think overall, we’ve gotten better because we were able to create some depth. We were able to get some guys some key playing time. But you sure would like to see those guys play as much as they can together. While we’re doing some good things, we’ve got some young guys getting some quality reps which is good. I think they’re able to see the areas they’ve got to work on to become more physical, some of the guys that are getting in as backup guys. We’ve got to really challenge them with that.
Do you think playing on a big stage in the Georgia Dome can help, as opposed to Florida State, which has had three home blowouts: “It gets back to, I’m more worried about ourselves in that regard. I think that’s going to help us in some preparation, I do. But just for the fact of going into an environment we’re going to be in.. that’s helped us, but in the end it’s still going to boil down to blocking and tackling and taking care of the football. You can put 85 people in the stands or 85,000 people in the stands and it’s still going to boil down to blocking and tackling and taking care of the football.