2012 Position Analysis: OC Chad Morris and the QB's

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Chad Morris will begin his third season as Clemson's offensive coordinator this fall. He came to Clemson prior to the 2011 season from Tulsa, replacing Billy Napier as both OC and quarterbacks coach. Here is what we said about The Chad following last season. We do these following each offseason and try to evaluate both the previous season's performance and the body of work as a whole. If you watched Clemson football at all this season, most of this write up will be obvious and should be expected.

Morris' resume--while heavy with high school experience before his stint at Tulsa--was fairly impressive. I'll admit I was a little concerned about his lack of college experience but he has been nothing short of impressive since arriving in Tigertown. Prior to his time at Tulsa, Morris was a Texas High School Football legend, winning three (3) state titles, was coach of the year in 11 of his 16 years as a head coach, and won a boatload of games overall (169-38). During Morris' time in the high school ranks, he developed some impressive quarterback talent including Jevan Snead, Garrett Gilbert, Kody Spano, Scott Elliott, and Andrew Smith. Morris is a 1992 graduate of Texas A&M.

How we will grade the Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach:

  • Recruiting
  • Overall Unit Discipline
  • Game Planning/In-Game Adjustments
  • Coordination of Personnel Groupings
  • Decision Making/Understanding of the Game--both by Player and Coach
  • Throwing Ability (Accuracy, Velocity, Overall Mechanics)
  • Leadership Qualities from the QB

Recruiting

As we've discussed and endorsed, Swinney likes to keep his coordinators on campus to gameplan instead of having them on the road extensively during the football months. He has a local territory and takes calls from out of state choices, but is more tuned to assistant the other assistants and cherrypicking. Last NSD, Morris was credited with pulling two major out of state hauls...Chad Kelly and Zac Brooks. This year, Morris has official commits from Ben Boulware and Jordan Leggett. We intend to give him credit for Maverick Morris as well, based on Maverick's comments when he committed at Camp. Chad helped out Jeff Scott with Tyshon Dye. Boulware is a Rivals four star linebacker from T.L. Hanna so Chad was able to land a local player whose brother plays for Jack Leggett, and likely would've come anyway if offered. Some credit must be given to Jeff Scott as well. Jordan Leggett is a tight end from Navarre, FL. Maverick is an OT from Georgia, who we foresee as a future RT or Guard. Morris is a target recruiter who the staff will send all over the country to pick a specific player-often a quarterback. Morris has a commit for the '14 class from QB Deshaun Watson out of Gainsville, GA, for instance. However, it should be stressed here that Watson is a Morris-commitment. If Chad leaves, Watson goes with him or to Ohio State. His backyard is definitely the state of Texas though we've seen his presence from Florida to the state of Washington in cherrypicking.

While Morris has been limited with his travel--particularly during the season, he has landed some talent and definitely assisted many of the other coaches on the trail. His success on the field, reputation as a great coach, and offensive innovation provides him instant credibility with most any recruit. This success has been a bit of a double edged sword for Clemson as recruits are weary that The Chad will be a head coach somewhere else very soon. Also, it is well discussed that when he does leave, he will likely pull players with him. All of this points to one basic item: Chad Morris is very influential on the recruiting process.

Offensive Coordinator

We frequently discuss the overall change in offensive attitude with Morris' arrival. He has implemented an offense that is not overly complex but does demand them to understand how to repeatedly do things properly. The Chad doesn't take much crap and assures that his players focus on the little things to get better. Since Morris has arrived, we've seen marked improvement in overall work ethic and from players doing the less exciting things like perimeter blocking. While other coaches deserve their due, I am convinced that Clemson would not have such an improvement in these areas had Morris not arrived in Pickens County. Further, he controls playing time and the players know that they must get after it all the time else they'll be standing on the sidelines.

Overall, Chad Morris has completely turned this offense around. Clemson was without an identity before his arrival and has embraced his HUNH approach. While a lot of the improvement can be attributed to increased talent, there is no question that Clemson has won more than a couple games by wearing out the opponent and making plays when needed to pull out wins.

The Clemson offense is one that can really do damage when it gets rolling. The playcalling is a big part of this success and the offensive statistics are ridiculous. Chad understands who the playmakers are and finds ways to get the football in their hands...last season it was Sammy Watkins and this year Nuk Hopkins. The Chad also creatively uses his quarterback on the ground to generate another threat when the Tigers have the football. His success comes largely as a major facet of his offense (A-gap to A-gap rushing) has lacked due to issues on the interior of the line. You'll notice Morris has gotten very creative at times to offset some of these shortcomings. Another item of note for the 2012 football offense was the loss of a couple offensive linemen and Dwayne Allen. Morris found ways to offset the loss of the talented TE and still keep this offense rolling.

We have been critical of the playcalling at times. Admittedly, we believe that Morris looks to force some passes and shies away from the running game even when it is working and in spite of an excellent back in Andre Ellington. We also believe that a large part of Tajh Boyd's success revolves around confidence and momentum. Both of these are generated in part through playcalling and there were instances this season where Boyd's rhythm was disturbed and/or he couldn't get it going. In these instances, Morris could have gone to the screen/short pass game. These items along with a defined inability to stifle the ends were apparent against Scar.

All in all, though, I've seen a lot of Clemson football and believe that Morris is the absolute best playcaller the Tigers have had. The man is a damn good coach and an excellent coordinator. I would be surprised if this wasn't his last year calling plays at Clemson-he is clearly one of the top assistant picks to become a head coach...someone will be able to put together a complete package and get him to lead their team. We are fortunate to have him for another year and I fully believe that Morris was the difference in the drastic increase in wins we saw the past couple seasons.

The improvement under Morris is even more dramatic when you look at the raw numbers. Below is how Clemson ranked nationally in key offensive areas (note, the rankings are based on yards per game).

Year

Total Offense (YPG)

Passing (YPG)

Rushing (YPG)

2012

9

13

36

2011

26

21

59

2010

88

78

79

Clemson has shown marked improvement in each of the above categories when compared to the rest of the country. While I will agree that the HUNH's ability to generate more possessions has a place in improving these statistics, I believe the numbers below clearly show that this process is an overall product of offensive implementation-not just the generation of possessions.

The team passing statistics show year over year improvement that is fairly incredible.

YEAR

CMP

ATT

YDS

CMP%

YDS/A

TD

TD/A

INT

INT/A

RAT

2012

318

474

4181

67.1

8.82

40

0.08

14

0.03

163.1

2011

311

525

3952

59.2

7.53

33

0.06

12

0.023

138.6

2010

230

409

2543

56.2

6.22

17

0.04

14

0.034

115.3

Recall that Clemson played 14 games in 2011 and only 12 in '10 and '12. Clearly Clemson has thrown the ball more the past two years than under the prior offensive coordinator. I will point out that Clemson had 50 fewer attempts in the 2012 campaign than the previous season and had more completions, touchdowns, and (unfortunately) more interceptions. The statistics you like to see include year over year improvement in completion percentage, yards per attempt, and QB rating. The Tigers were able to improve their touchdown to attempt ratio by 33% this season. This is on top of a 50% improvement from '10 to '11. The interceptions to attempts ratio in '12 was between the '10 and '11 figures.

Overall, these numbers are flat out gaudy. The Tigers averaged over 320 yards per game through the air in the regular season. Including the bowl, Clemson had 40 touchdowns and over 4000 yards passing on the year.

On the ground, Clemson also had a successful season. As you'll see below, the Tigers had more rushing attempts this year-which to the casual observer may be surprising. I'll note that quarterback carries and scrambles are included in these numbers. I'll note that such rushing attempts increased dramatically year over year in '12.

YEAR

CAR

YDS

AVG

LONG

TD

2012

588

2484

4.2

68

26

2011

530

2219

4.2

75

21

2010

457

1807

4

71

19

Clemson was able to run the ball at a 4.2 YPC clip. Andre Ellington led the charge with 1000+ yards on the ground and an impressive 5.1 ypc. While we would have liked to see more of an effort on the ground at times, I cannot deny that Clemson ran the ball more with success and was able to increase the TD count overall.

I am a bit concerned with Clemson's short yardage scenarios. It became apparent that we had trouble converting the 3rd/4th and shorts using our running backs. This forced Morris to use the quarterback as a battering ram-something that potentially dings up your signal caller. Part of this is a function of the overall offensive strategy and core formations. Hopefully we can fix this issue with improvement up front and won't need Tajh to carry such a heavy load on this front in '13.

Quarterbacks Coach

As impressive as his offensive coordinator success has been, the development of Tajh Boyd has been equally impressive. Boyd came to Clemson with a ton of talent but still had a lot of work to put in. His mechanics were lacking and I will question the overall commitment early in his career. Morris immediately assured he would be pushed last season-giving Cole Stoudt a lot of opportunity in '11 Spring Drills. Tajh responded over the summer and into the fall with a breakout season. He's worked his ass off ever since and the results are very, very impressive. Tajh has the rushing ability to pick up crucial yards and arm strength/ability to complete a wide array of passes...as he's shown over the past two seasons. Combine this physical skill with the team leadership he provides and you've got a special player.

Boyd's improvement year over year has put him in legit conversations saved for the best in the game. Tajh has obviously worked extensively on his footwork and arm positioning to become a more accurate passer. Boyd has become more confident and understands the game's intricacies and has become much better under pressure. Nothing is more apparent of this praise than the final drive of the Peach Bowl. His discipline during the season definitely helped his ability to pick up yardage on the ground. Tajh was criticized in past seasons for adding unnecessary weight throughout the season. This season was completely different and we believe the attention to a sustained, steady playing weight really helped Boyd to remain mobile later in the year.

Tajh did, at times, have difficulties getting into a rhythm and became uncomfortable in the pocket. Tajh's game relies heavily on getting into a groove and building confidence. Morris has jumpstarted the Redshirt Junior at times by emphasizing shorter passes and screens. Without these gimmies, Boyd has been choppy. He is also quick to pull the ball and get a little antsy when the pocket starts to collapse. This was the case against Scar when Boyd stepped into a couple sacks and forced a few balls that resulted in at least one turnover. The other item I'd like to see is a recognition that a play is already over and "taking your medicine." There have been instances where Tajh has tried to do too much on a doomed play. Taking a sack is not always the worst thing in the world. It is much better than a fumble.

All of this points to a well-coached, talented player who has put in a ton of work and matured into arguably the best signal caller in school history. Statistically, this young man has broken quite a few records and his statistics are ridiculous.

Tajh's career passing statistics can be seen below.

YEAR

CMP

ATT

YDS

CMP%

YDS/A

TD

INT

RAT

2012

287

427

3896

67.2

9.12

36

13

165.6

2011

298

499

3828

59.7

7.67

33

12

141.2

2010

33

63

329

52.4

5.22

4

3

107.7

The numbers show the improvement. Since last season, his completion percentage jumped over 7% and his yards per attempt improved by over a yard and a half per attempt. The result was more overall yards on fewer attempts in '12 and a 24 point improvement in passer rating. He was able to add touchdown passes but, unfortunately did force a couple poor passes that resulted in the 13 interceptions.

Cole Stoudt has been the backup here now two years. He has done a fine job in this role the past couple seasons when called into action. Fortunately, he wasn't pressed into action last season due to injury or poor performance from the starter. While Stoudt's play was limited to mop up time this season sans four snaps in the season opener against Auburn, we saw him come in and lead this team last season against Boston College so we think he'd be plenty able if called upon.

Here is how his passing numbers shook out in '12:

YEAR

CMP

ATT

YDS

CMP%

YDS/A

TD

INT

RAT

2012

27

39

212

69.2

5.44

3

1

135.2

2011

12

21

115

57.1

5.48

0

0

103.1

While the data here is very limited, the numbers do show improvement. It was nice to see Cole get a couple TD passes to raise his confidence and the approx. 70% completion percentage. I'll also add that Cole ran the ball 10 times for 55 yards, including a 25 yard scamper.

Following Morgan Roberts' decision to transfer to Yale, the Tigers have six (6) quarterbacks on the roster including Stoudt and Boyd. The player with the most hype is redshirt freshman Chad Kelly. Kelly has all the tools to be successful. Kelly had a very productive redshirt year running the scout team and has impressed coaches at Clemson through this process. My biggest concern with Kelly has been and is his maturity level-as indicated by a barrage of tweets over the past year or so, and a run-in with Spencer Region. He will give Stoudt competition this Spring and a lot of folks think he can overtake the #2 roster spot.

Tony McNeal is coming off of an ACL injury and medical RS. He is also ineligible academically. Nick Schuessler-a Mississippi State transfer-and Donny McElveen round out the walk-ons. I don't believe any of these three players will see meaningful playing time while at Clemson, and would not be shocked to see McNeal transfer soon.

Overall Assessment

As we've stated earlier, I am not sure Clemson has ever had a better overall playcaller/offensive mastermind. The Chad has instilled discipline across this offense and has molded Tajh Boyd into an elite quarterback. Morris is on top of his game and, though he have some qualms getting away from the running game, this man has turned the Clemson football program around and is worth every penny CU pays him.

Next year the offense should expect numbers similar to this season. Clemson returns Boyd for his senior season. The Tigers also bring back an entire line sans center Dalton Freeman. We lose playmakers Andre Ellington and Nuk Hopkins-both of which are substantial losses-but Clemson is more than loaded at the wide receiver position and got production from Hot Rod late in the year. If Clemson can commit to establishing and utilizing the running game and get Tajh in a comfortable rhythm, this offense will be good enough to take the Tigers a very, very long way.

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