Morris, Clemson are ready to run in '14

After making strides his first season, Clemson took a step back in the running game last year. Morris' focus is back on the ground.

Clemson's Wayne Gallaman before Tuesday's practice Tuesday at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson's Wayne Gallaman before Tuesday's practice Tuesday at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.

CLEMSON — Take a look at the rewritten Clemson record books over the last three seasons.

Commitment to running the football doesn’t exactly come to mind.

Yet Chad Morris has maintained from his introductory press conference on, he expects to run a “smashmouth spread” offense — and they have gone to work this spring to bring that fruition.

“I don’t think we’re moving the football the way we want to,” Morris said after their second of three scrimmages this spring. “We want to run the football this year more than we have in the past. That is by design. We’ve done a lot of work — studied a lot. We want to put our guys in position to run the football. Obviously we’re going to take advantage of the talent that we have around us.

“We’re going to adapt to what we do best. Our goal this spring was to establish a consistent run game. (Monday) we didn’t have that. It’s been up and down.”

After making strides his first season to his second there, Clemson took a dip in 2013.

The Tigers finished 56th in rushing yards per game (175.62) after a top-40 rank the year before (191.46).

In FBS wins, they averaged 20 more yards on the ground in 2012 (202) on five more carries (48). In FBS losses, they averaged 15 less yards last season (125) on just a carry and a half less per game (35).

The yards per carry in the Morris’ hurry-up spread haven’t mattered as much as the amount of carries — 15 more rushes in FBS wins than losses over the last two seasons. In close victories over Georgia, LSU and Ohio State, Clemson had 44 carries per game (above the season average).

The increased commitment hasn’t equaled success so far this spring, but with a revolving door on the offensive line currently — and the competition on the other side, it’s not all that surprising.

Battle bringing experience into 2014

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“We have a lot of guys at many different positions right now,” Morris said. “That’s something we’ve really got to hone in on. I don’t know if that’s going to be done in the spring…There’s a continuity and consistency (to work on). You move them around and you’re putting a lot on them — we’re going against one of the top defensive fronts in the country. That’s good.

“It’s good to see as you continue to practice every day. Those guys know they are going against a group that’s deep and very talented.”

With 13 spring practices down and two to go, the offseason will be crucial, says junior left tackle Isaiah Battle.

“Off the field, training — watching more film, that’s how we’re going to get better,” said Battle. “We have to keep going with the process and increasing the intensity…We’re trying to find that stick — that glue — that leadership that’s what we’re looking for. We’ve got young guys stepping up. Everybody is coming together.”

Clemson has four largely unproven running backs in the mix this spring in senior D.J. Howard, juniors Zac Brooks and C.J. Davidson and redshirt freshman Wayne Gallman.

Three more enroll this summer in four-star prospect Adam Choice, two-time Independent Mail player of the year Jae’lon Oglesby (Daniel) and Easley’s C.J. Fuller. Working his way back from a torn Achilles tendon is Elbert product Tyshon Dye, another redshirt freshman, who Clemson coach Dabo Swinney expects back this fall.

Morris is confident the group can take the Tigers to another level on the ground.

“I’ve been saying all along this has been about as deep a group as we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Morris said. “It has yet to disappoint as far as the depth from that position. There have been guys stepping up — the guys you would expect right now. Wayne Gallman is making some plays — D.J. Howard and Zac Brooks are making some plays. C.J. Davidson is making some plays as well.

“Those are the four guys we are working (now) with who are getting pretty much equal reps. Pleased with that group.”

Follow Brandon Rink on Twitter @brink_aim and OrangeandWhite.com @orangeandwhite

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