2013 Position Analysis: OC Chad Morris and the QB's

Tyler Smith

2013 was Chad Morris' third season as Clemson's offensive coordinator. He came to Clemson from Tulsa after the 2010 season, 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' pre-Clemson resume--while heavy with high school experience before his stint at Tulsa--was fairly impressive. There were initial concerns back in ‘11 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 (169-38 overall record). During Morris' time in the high school ranks, he developed some remarkable quarterback talent including Jevan Snead, Garrett Gilbert, Kody Spano, Scott Elliott, and Andrew Smith. Here at Clemson he helped mold Tajh Boyd into a record-setting player. 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 previously discussed, Swinney decided to keep the coordinators off the recruiting trail/closer to campus-particularly during the football season. This is a strategy we endorse here at STS because we like to have the OC on campus to worry about in-game strategy...especially during the season. As such you'd expect Morris to be involved in recruiting near Clemson which he clearly is. Some others on the staff may take an involved role with players below, but Morris also hand-picks critical / higher profile recruits to follow (Watson is an excellent example from this cycle and Brooks from the '12 class). When you consider the workload, recruiting restrictions, and results, the job The Chad does on the recruiting trail is impressive. I've tallied his pulls while at Clemson below. As you'll notice, Rivals thinks highly of most of Morris' signees.

NAME

Position

Hometown

Ht/Wt/40

Rivals Rating

Assigned Recruiter(s)

Class

C.J. Fuller

RB

Easley, SC

5'11"/198/4.6

3 stars

Chad Morris, Tony Elliott

2014

Kendall Joseph

LB

Belton, SC

5'11"/228/4.7

3 stars

Chad Morris, Brent Venables

2014

Jae'lon Oglesby

RB

Central, SC

5'11"/175/4.4

4 stars

Chad Morris, Staff

2014

Milan Richard

TE

Savannah, GA

6'2"/233

4 stars

Jeff Scott, Danny Pearman, Chad Morris

2014

Deshaun Watson

QB

Gainesville, GA

6'3"/188

5 stars

Chad Morris

2014

Ben Boulware

LB

Anderson, SC

6'0"/225/4.7

4 stars

Chad Morris, Jeff Scott

2013

Tyshon Dye

RB

Elberton, GA

6'0"/200

4 stars

Chad Morris, Jeff Scott, Tony Elliott

2013

Jordan Leggett

TE

Navarre, FL

6'6"/220/4.7

3 stars

Chad Morris

2013

Maverick Morris

OL

Douglas, GA

6'5"/290

3 stars

Danny Pearman, Chad Morris

2013

Zac Brooks

ATH

Jonesboro, AR

6'2"/180/4.4

4 stars

Chad Morris

2012

Chad Kelly

QB

Buffalo, NY

6'3"/208/4.6

4 stars

Chad Morris

2012

Based purely on the chart above and considering this work was done while vastly improving the Clemson offense on the field, there is little to frown upon. I believe the table speaks for itself.

Offensive Coordinator

We've often said that The Chad is the best offensive coordinator in Clemson Football history and will stick by that comment. Chad Morris was a critical part of the massive turnaround this program saw after the 2010 season. His offense was / is innovative. Hiring Chad Morris has been undoubtedly the best decision that Dabo Swinney made as head coach at Clemson and shifted the program's momentum. Morris brought to Clemson the HUNH offense and an attitude that demands a disciplined approach to playing the game.

The 2013 season was no exception to Morris' great work. Chad was able to take a group of very good skills players to produce ridiculous numbers and blow out inferior defenses. Morris understands his players' strengths and has done an overall good job playing to those strengths while mitigating offensive weaknesses. An excellent example of this is Clemson's short-yardage strategy. Morris essentially utilizes a single-wing approach when Clemson needs a yard or two by bulldozing Tajh Boyd because we have been extremely unsuccessful in those situations with more standard calls.

I'll remind folks that the Clemson offense lost a pretty good tight end in Brandon Ford and a dynamic RB in Andre Ellington heading into last year's gridiron campaign. Ellington was one of the quickest backs through the hole and, though injuries were a factor, did a lot for Clemson over his career. Clemson in 2013 could not find the stud TE that we'd seen here year after year. That did end up affecting the offense in several areas-most notably through missed / blown blocking assignments and the big fumble to start the FSU game. Roderick McDowell, however, ran hard all year and deserved more carries on the year and strategically should have been run at various times during the season.

Morris made sure to use his highest profile athletes early and often. Tajh Boyd was called upon to throw the football more than last year and was featured in the running game. Sammy Watkins got his to the tune of 101 catches, 1464 yards, and 12 TDs on the year. Martavis Bryant was able to pull together a year featuring several big catches and statistics that persuaded him to enter the draft following his Junior season. Had Charone Peake not injured his knee early on, he would have played a significant role in this offense as well...instead Mike Williams and Adam Humphries were called upon in more situations.

The offense under Chad Morris has been organized and prepared. Morris demands his guys be able to operate at a very fast pace. In order to attain this objective they absolutely must be knowledgeable and disciplined. While we had our share of in-game brain craps this season as we would in any other, this unit is dramatically more focused and concise than it was pre-Chad. While there are issues with the offensive line and we commented on some issues here and there, the complaints now are more pointed and granular than they were four years ago. No it is not perfect but coaching / teaching style and discipline from Morris is not the issue.

While Morris deserves all the praise that comes his way, we do think there are shortcomings in his coaching style. First and foremost, Tajh Boyd is a quarterback who will either be confident and dominant or will be insecure and Clemson's worst enemy. Playcalling has a huge impact on this area. Chad forces calls that he thinks will get the QB into a rhythm, when the situation may dictate a much better or conservative call. The Chad has to realize this and do his best to get Boyd into the football game via layup passes and/or through running the football.

Speaking of running the football, this is probably the area we most loathe about Morris' playcalling. When he came here, we expected by now to be an A-gap to A-gap based team that uses basic Power, counters, orbit action, and various sweeps off of that action. Due to shortcomings up front, Clemson has not been able to successfully get push and run the ball inside. Clemson has, though, had success with other running plays and cutbacks away from designed run locations. Clemson has run the ball easily and well only to revert back to a pass-happy approach. Conversely, we have struggled to run the ball at times then completely abandoned the run. The Morris version of the HUNH offense needs that ground threat. More specific to this offense, Tajh and the offensive line need that threat to take a bit of pressure off of the passing attack. Plain and simple-when Morris looks as though he's pressing, his quarterback also looks starts to press and then the bad stuff happens.

All of the items mentioned above can be seen with this offense's national performance ratings.

Year

Total Offense (YPG)

Passing (YPG)

Rushing (YPG)

2013

10

9

56

2012

9

13

36

2011

26

21

59

2010

88

78

79

As seen above, Clemson ranked nationally #10 in overall yards per game. Clemson improved to 9th in the land in passing yards per game but fell 20 spots year over year in rushing yards per game. In order to be successful, Clemson needs to improve on the rushing statistics next year.

While Clemson did digress a bit compared to the rest of the FBS teams, the improvement pre-Morris to 2013 is still impressive. Even more impressive about these statistics is the level of consistency the offense has gained overall. While the HUNH gives them more chances and the level of defensive competition doesn't exactly rival the '85 Bears, back to back Top-10 total offensive seasons and a Top-10 passing attack are impressive accomplishments and the body of work now creates an expectation of offensive aptitude. I'll point out that Clemson ended the season 8th nationally in points per game at 40.2

The annual progression in the passing game is shown below.

YEAR

CMP

ATT

YDS

CMP%

YDS/A

TD

TD/A

INT

INT/A

RAT

2013

341

493

4330

69.2

8.78

39

0.08

12

0.024

164.2

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

As you can see, Clemson attempted 19 more passes than last season but completed 23 more while also increasing the completion percentage number by over 2%. All of this passing resulted in 150 more overall passing yards but a slight reduction in yards per attempt. Just looking at these numbers, you'd expect more short passes and, in this case, I'd argue more screens and such. Clemson threw for 39 TDs this season against 12 interceptions. These numbers were again gaudy with some games more like Playstation than reality.

As you would expect from the drop to 56th, the rushing output saw a drop from last season.

YEAR

CAR

YDS

AVG

LONG

TD

2013

544

2270

4.17

48

26

2012

588

2484

4.22

68

26

2011

530

2219

4.18

75

21

2010

457

1807

3.95

71

19

One cause for the drop in national ranking was the reduction in attempts year over year. Clemson has maintained a consistent YPC average over Morris' tenure in Tigertown. 2013, however, saw a reduction by 44 carries. This, in turn, reduced the overall yardage numbers. Had Clemson maintained its average for an additional 44 carries, the end result would be 2454 total rushing yards-good enough to be 45th in rushing yards per game.

Quarterback Play

Tajh Boyd had a prolific career as Clemson's starting quarterback. The Virginia-native leaves Clemson with a boatload of school records along with 32 wins as the starter. He entered Clemson with fanfare, had some bumps along the way, and leaves as one of the best in school history. I'll say that Boyd's play here at Clemson could easily be described as bi-polar. Either he was on and absolutely nothing could stop the offense or something was amiss. The previous produced fast-break quick scoring drives, the latter three and outs that are debilitating for the defense. Overall it is very tough to say that Boyd's name doesn't belong near the top of any discussion that involves great quarterbacks in school history.

Boyd owes a lot of his success to Morris' leadership. When The Chad arrived at Clemson, Boyd was a bit of a mess. Tajh was young and didn't appear to be committed to winning. Morris helped change all that as he immediately initiated a quarterback conversation praising Cole Stoudt and guaranteeing nothing. Following the 2011 Spring Drills Boyd rose to the challenge and took the starting role for the '11 season. Tajh evolved into the leader and the guy who set the example for the younger folks via an outstanding work ethic.

Through the early process, Boyd had technique issues. After several years with Morris and work with other experts, Boyd has corrected his footwork and arm positioning/slot issues. Boyd had issues with in-season weight gain but those were alleviated the past two years. I'll say that Boyd evolved into a player who was well prepared to play the game.

While Boyd was well prepared he did not escape without some poor outings. As stated, Tajh was either lighting up defenses or making critical / predictable mistakes. Once in the game and comfortable, Boyd was an excellent player who made things happen with his arm and legs. If he got rattled or Clemson got down you would see him press. This included simply trying to make too much happen and thinking instead of playing. You'd see Boyd stare down his primary target and force throws. Boyd also got happy feet in the pocket...I can't blame him for being concerned at times given some of the struggles up front but we saw him walk into sacks on occasion. That too was a comfort issue that could have been mitigated in several ways from the sidelines, e.g. against SC in 2012 when we refused to put a TE or extra blocker on Clowney.

Morris played a big part in this comfort and, when Tajh started to struggle, could help get him in the groove by calling some gimmies and running the ball more. It became glaring to all of us when Tajh wasn't comfortable. In most of these games (sans FSU which got out of control early and LSU when Tajh played like a beast late) Clemson pressed a bit and got away from what would have calmed the senior down a bit. If there is a criticism of Morris and / or Tajh, it is the combination of this comfort level / mitigation method and the habit of pressing in the face of this discomfort.

SEASON

CMP

ATT

YDS

CMP%

YPA

LNG

TD

INT

SACK

RAT

2013

283

413

3851

68.5%

9.3

96

34

11

32

169

2012

287

427

3896

67.2%

9.1

69

36

13

31

166

2011

298

499

3828

59.7%

7.7

65

33

12

31

141

2010

33

63

329

52.4%

5.2

43

4

3

5

108

Total

901

1402

11904

64.3%

8.5

96

107

39

99

--

Tajh made a big jump from '11 to '12. His performance from last to this season throwing the football was consistent. The three consecutive 3800+yard and 33+ TD seasons ('11 did have 14 games instead of 13 in both '12 and '13) is very, very impressive no matter who is on your team or who you play.

We will say that Tajh has gotten shaken at times. We attribute some of this to playcalling, some of it is Boyd pressing when things don't go the Tigers' way, and some of it is him getting nervous thus leaving the pocket way too quickly. We thought that Morris should have pulled Boyd for a series or two a couple times this season. This would allow him to shake off issues from earlier in the game, see the game from a different perspective, and simply calm him down-not bench him, calm him down.

Boyd stayed healthy and played well enough to take all of the quality snaps on the season. Consequently, the backups were largely used in mop up situations where Clemson had a very comfortable lead and was coasting to end the football game. Their stats are shown below-though take into account how/when these numbers came about.

NAME

CMP

ATT

YDS

CMP%

YDS/A

TD

INT

RAT

Cole Stoudt

47

59

415

79.7

7.03

5

0

166.7

Chad Kelly

10

17

58

58.8

3.41

0

0

87.5

Nick Schuessler

1

2

6

50

3

0

0

75.2

Totals

58

78

479

74.4%

6.141

5

0

--

We saw a bit of Stoudt several years ago when Boyd was hurt at a critical juncture against Boston College and have discussed that game here several times. Stoudt played exceptionally well considering how few important game reps he had to that point in his career. Likewise, it is extremely difficult to find fault with Stoudt's playing time last season.

Cole led this team on several impressive scoring drives that included some terrific passes and decisions. His season highlight has to be setting a single game school record against South Carolina State. The Junior was 19/20 overall. This included 146 yards and 3 touchdowns on the day.

Chad Kelly has impressed quite a few folks with his dual threat capabilities. To be quite honest, I thought the staff was crazy for even thinking that Kelly would be back in the fall after suffering a knee injury during Spring drills. Kelly showed few signs of injury in the snaps he took this season-often tucking the football and running. I'll point out that on the season, Kelly had 16 rushing attempts for 117 yards and a touchdown. Not bad even during mop-up time, and even with a small limp remaining. Chad will need to raise his accuracy as a passer to give Stoudt trouble this year though.

Overall

The Chad does an excellent job and is worthy of being the highest paid assistant in America. He has been a critical piece of the improvement puzzle since his arrival and helps keep this offense on an even keel. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief last month when we realized he would be back for another season.

We would like to see adjustments in some areas of his playcalling. We do understand that it was tough to resist any opportunity to get the ball in Sammy Watkins' hands. Clemson often moved away from a successful rushing attack when the Tigers were running all over the opponent or gave up on the run before really giving it a chance. Also, in the case of Tajh Boyd, rhythm and comfort were needed to create confidence. Otherwise, the Senior signal caller pressed, stared down receivers, and frequently made unforced errors. Get him into a groove and the offense was difficult to stop. We recommended some gimmie passes and designed QB runs early in games to go ahead and get Tajh the confidence he needs to get the offense going.

We'd also like to see this offense develop into a more efficient Red Zone and short yardage team. Tajh was able to barrel forward for key yards in tight situations but you never like having to use your quarterback in that role. We won't have that bulldozing luxury out of the quarterback position next season so will have to find a way to get needed yard(s) in tight spots without the use of the QB Power.

With all our gripes and "suggestions," it is difficult to complain too much about the results that Morris brought to this offense. The Tigers are vastly improved since his arrival and he is a very good football coach. I'll be interested in seeing how this group performs next year following the loss of Boyd, Bryant, Watkins, and a couple guys up front. We all realize that there will be a step backwards next season but will be interested to see how long it takes to get the new starters to gel and if this team can overcome significant year over year talent loss. As stated earlier, The Chad is worthy of being the most valuable coordinator in the land so I am confident he'll adjust to manage the turnover well.

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