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2011 Position Analysis: OC Chad Morris and the QB's

Note: We do these every year and prefer to wait until after Signing Day to finish them because we are taking recruiting into account. We will evaluate each coach, whether he is here or not, as if he were still here and we rate them based on their entire body of work - not just one single year.

Chad Morris just completed his first season as Clemson's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Morris replaced Billy Napier last winter, with Napier also responsible for the quarterbacks in addition to playcalling duties. In case you are wondering, here is how we graded Napier at the conclusion of last season.

Coach Morris arrived last January after one season as offensive coordinator at Tulsa. Tulsa's 2010 offense was extremely impressive, putting up Playstation like numbers all season. 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.

Looking back, Dr. B looks like a prophet, crafting these articles shortly after Morris was hired. I will say that I was a bit skeptical of Morris but was also enthused after seeing Tulsa film. Clemson got all of the positives that we saw out of Tulsa during the initial film study: discipline, simplicity, and a well-planned attack. We got the major negative too: turnovers (though we warned more of fumbles than INTs). Morris used this disciplined approach and featured impressive talent to resurrect this offense from the disorder that we saw last season.

Additionally, Morris was able to get a lot out of Tajh Boyd. Boyd improved dramatically over the calendar year and I truly think that The Chad was the critical driver behind this progression. We'll discuss the individual quarterbacks along with their coach as we get into this progression in addition to our takes on the offense as a whole.

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

Offensive Coordinator Responsibilities:

We'll start by pointing out the obvious: Chad Morris brings something to Clemson that we've not seen since Swinney took over the head job. Morris makes it clear that he is responsible for the offensive performance. He makes this point to not only the players, fans, and media but also to Swinney. Because of this assertion, his track record as a successful coach, and his pace of play, we saw much more offensive coordinator independence from meddling than we have seen in a couple years.

Now that that item is out of the way, I'll state the other obvious: Chad Morris is a damn good football coach and was a very critical part of the offensive overhaul we saw over the past year. This was an overhaul, not just an influx of talent. Don't get me wrong, adding Sammy Watkins to any offense is an immediate jumpstart, but this was more. We saw the offensive tempo wear folks down at times this year. We saw much more disciplined offensive unit. We saw a simpler attack strategy. The end result was more discipline and better offensive output.

This discipline was shown in all the receivers blocking well on the perimeter--a first here in quite a while for our Tigers. Clemson's offensive pass blocking was fair for most of the year. We saw improved conditioning out of this team early on and Clemson ran a lot of plays per game without having a player pass out on the field as they would have last fall. Discipline showed through improved decision making and game preparation from our young quarterback. This offense improved all around and, for a large portion of the season, made big plays and not big mistakes. We will be interested in seeing if Morris' leadership can fix the mess Brad Scott left here. We need a meaner, tougher, more physical offensive line. Morris said that this is a priority for him and some of the stuff we saw in '11 is not acceptable moving forward.

We love Morris' core philosophy: make the offense as simple as possible so that the players are playing and not thinking. Offensive complexity is an item that Clemson fans complained about since Ron Spence rolled into town. What Morris has done is installed a hurry up, direct snap version of the wing-t that allows our (skill) players to make minimal LOS adjustments. Presnap reads for the quarterback are much simpler as well. In the end, the onus for decision making is shifted from the player back onto the coaching staff and Chad Morris in particular.

All of this leads to game planning and in-game decisions. Overall, there was a much more defined plan of action week in and week out during the 2011 campaign than we've seen here in recent seasons. Morris does an excellent job getting the players ready to play and does a good job making adjustments based on what he and his players see during games.

We were somewhat critical of Morris' playcalling during the season at times, largely after the 8-0 start. These criticisms included Clemson's inability to stretch opposing defenses and prematurely getting away from running the football--particularly when we were running the football well. We saw Boyd almost forced to run at times due to Morris' focus on forcing that area of attack. We also saw awkward, forced passes which caused Morris to further limit his quarterback. Add into this mix a less-than-impressive offensive line performance and we saw an offense that sputtered in late October and throughout November. Yet Morris and crew were able to rally the troops and won when they absolutely had to, first to lock up the Atlantic then to secure a spot in the Orange Bowl.

It was slightly frustrating to watch this offense press themselves at times this year, particularly when down. The Orange Bowl was a good example. Morris inexplicably got away from the running game midway through the second quarter even though Ellington gashed the Mountaineers early in the contest. This placed more pressure on his quarterback which, in turn, caused a couple unfortunate turnovers. It is human nature to press at times and/or try to force participants to do certain things and these two items compounded the shortcomings we saw in the losses.

Personnel groupings worked out pretty well outside of short yardage situations. Everyone on offense had nice statistics as a whole and Clemson put up numbers when the Tigers didn't need a single yard or two. Morris clearly knows where he wants to mix in WR's, RB's, and TE's to move the football up and down the field. More folks were placed into positions that made them successful and more guys made plays for the Tigers this season. How he figures out how to convert 3rd and 1 situations more consistently will likely be at the top of the list this offseason. Overall he, his system, and his philosophy were successful in year number 1. We'll look for him to build on this success and avoid the mishaps that occurred from late-October through November and down in Miami.

Offensive Statistics:

Before the season we made a guess on our most reasonable expectation of the offense in 2011:

I think about the best realistic production we can hope for is a 50 catch, 500-600 yard season from Watkins, a couple hundred more than that from Hopkins, and 300-500 from Brown. That would top last year’s production and combined with Ellington and Bellamy with Howard spelling, should get us back up to the Top 40 in offense. If we finished in the Top 20 in total offense I would be ecstatic, but Tajh would have to be stellar in his first year without teething issues, which I just don’t think is realistic in year 1 of a scheme against this schedule.

The numbers clearly point a picture of an improved offense in Morris' first season in Tigertown that nearly made Top 20. Trend data is shown below.



Rush Yards

Rush Yards/ Game

Pass Yards

Pass Yards/ Game

Total Yards

Yards/ Game

Total Plays

Plays per Game

Yards/ Play

Time of Poss./ Game





























































Morris was able, though 14 football games, to improve all of Clemson's statistics. The only significant item shown above that was not the head and shoulder leader over the past four seasons was, thanks to C.J. Spiller, rushing yards in 2009 and a stout 161 rushing yards per game in 2007. The 2011 rushing attack was much better than the '08 and '10 campaigns, head and shoulders better than any of the previous four passing seasons, and killed it in the total yards category. Clemson's 2011 offensive attack easily led the yards per play category despite increasing their offensive plays to over 75 per game which was also a four year high. The lone category that suffered was the one that Morris cares little about--time of possession. This is indicative of a fast paced attack that benefitted from a lot of big plays (similar to the 2009 team that ran a significant TOP deficit as well).


These improvements in yards per game translated into better scoring. Like offensive statistics shown above, 2011 was a banner year for Clemson in terms of scoring-better than any of the previous four seasons and over 9.5 points per game better than last season's numbers. However, we do think there is room for improvement, especially if we can ever learn to dominate teams up front.


Clearly we see a saw-blade type chart above. Thus, the critical question for Chad Morris is how this offense responds in 2012, as even years saw a tremendous falloff compared to odd seasons. Clemson loses a large portion of its offensive line and an All-American tight end but brings back a slew of skill position talent and its starting quarterback. We'll look to see if Morris can instill some consistency into a historically inconsistent offense.

2009-2011 Offensive Statistics
Category 2009 2009 Ntl Rank 2010 2010 Rank 2011 2011 Rank
Rushing Offense 170.36 40th 139.0 79th 155.85 60th
Passing Offense 192.0 88th 195.62 78th 284.77 21th
Pass Efficiency 127.09 67th 115.3 100 142.32 36th
Total Offense 362.36 74th 334.62 88 440.62 27th
Scoring Offense 31.14 28th 24.0 86 33.62 24th
Sacks Allowed 1.36pg 31 1.38pg 26 2.31pg 86th
Overall turnover margin .43 28 -.23 69 .15 T-45th
Offensive FEI Rank 32 56th 22nd

To further analyze our data, we show the FEI annual rankings. These rankings help pull some of the garbage stats out to get a better assessment of just how good (nationally) an offense really is. As shown below, Morris' 2011 Clemson offense has the best ranking of the five year Clemson analysis, affirming the information presented above regarding Clemson offensive improvement.


Quarterbacks Coach Responsibilities:

Tajh Boyd's mechanics and his overall physique improved dramatically from last season's Tire Bowl to the season opener against Troy, though we were unimpressed by the additional weight Tajh put on during the season (again). Boyd still has some bad habits in the footwork arena and has some small work to do with his release, but overall Morris has done an excellent job teaching and Boyd put in the extra effort to become proficient with a new offense. The young quarterback spent a great deal of time studying film and working out following a very disappointing spring. In fact, last spring was so bad that there were murmurings of true freshman Cole Stoudt overtaking Boyd in Fall Camp. Morris' influence caused this attitude change, make no doubt about it. Had Tajh not improved after Spring practice The Chad would not have played him, period.

Throughout this process, particularly the film study and summer work, Tajh led by example and was a guy that his teammates respected and worked hard with. Comments from the coaching staff during pressers reflected this respect earned by Boyd. This is why the staff did not greatly pursue a transfer from Tulsa QB G.J. Kinne last summer. Furthermore, Boyd's improved play and ability to make better decisions faster gave Tajh and the rest of the offense more confidence. Overall, you must commend the work done by Morris and Boyd since The Chad arrived on campus.

Tajh still has a ways to go to become the quarterback Clemson needs to win big games week in and out. If Tajh gets a better handle on that footwork, the sailing passes 3 feet over the TE or into the bubble receiver's ankles will stop. We noticed also, later this year, that his elbow was dropping more often, which can also make it sail or come out slightly sidearmed. These are his prime mechanical issues to work on this year, and we'll be looking in Spring. Boyd needs to spend more time in the film room this offseason understanding situational defensive strengths/weaknesses and how to mitigate strengths and attack weaknesses through his offenses' strengths. Several times this season Boyd was unable to adjust protection schemes in the face of defensive pressure. A large number of the higher sacks we allowed this year were due to protection calls that are his call to make. Also, we saw defenses at times drop 8 and, in such cases, Boyd was rendered ineffective moving the football and looked confused at times. Currently Tajh has shown the ability to make an initial presnap read and a single defender read pretty effectively, though he has a tendency to lock in on his primary and/or force the ball to a particular receiver. He has to improve on getting through his progression and anticipating where the open spots in the defense will be when his primary is not open.

Tajh seemed to press when Clemson was down, which is understandable for a relatively inexperienced quarterback. We expect Boyd to mature as he gains experience, learning to stay calm and not try to do too much, especially when the Tigers get behind on the scoreboard. Clemson has enough playmakers surrounding Boyd that he does not have to be the focal point and/or sparkplug for this unit. With Nuk, Sammy, Ellington and Allen on the offense last season, the next big play is should be just around the corner IF no major mistakes are made.

As mentioned earlier, Boyd improved his leadership qualities over a year ago. After the poor spring, Tajh set out to lead by example and secured the confidence of the team heading into the season because he put in the time necessary to improve. This effort is contagious and likely contributed to elevated play out of some skilled position veterans who had not performed well in the past. We now expect Boyd to be the leader during voluntary workouts, weight training, and film study.

Boyd does need to improve leadership in the in-season eating category. The quarterback who showed up for fall camp had a drastically different physique than in the Orange Bowl. There is no excuse for a quarterback to pack on the lbs, especially during the football season. Lay off the nachos and mix in a salad. This is not the first bowl game everyone has noticed the Virginia-native's gut hanging over his britches. Morris can influence this and, apparently, needs to advise his QB that he is not a bear and doesn't need to pack on the gut to make it through winter's hibernation period.

TB also needs to work on his off the field decision making. It is never good to see your quarterback make unforced errors with the media and through social networks. There is no need to emulate Dabo in the press. Boyd also, admittedly, was caught up in the early success and may have been distracted with all the accolades that he and this offense gained following the fast start. It will be up to him to temper these items and stay even-keeled if Clemson is to win big games over the entire season without significant periods of letdown. Morris commented on these items from a team perspective and should emphasize them further to his signal-caller as their relationship strengthens and deepens into The Chad's second season in Pickens County.

I don't want to be misunderstood about Boyd's development. There was drastic improvement that was prodded by the OC and realized by the quarterback. Continued improvement, particularly at this pace, will make Boyd a highly recognized player during the second half of his Clemson career.

Quarterback Statistics

Here are the passing statistics for Clemson's quarterbacks in 2011:
















Tajh Boyd














Cole Stoudt























And the passing stats from 2010:


As shown above, the Tigers' quarterback numbers were impressive in '11, particularly when you consider Clemson installed a new offense and utilized a first year sophomore starter all season. Clemson threw for 1400 more yards and 16 more TDs on 111 more pass attempts in '11. The Tigers also threw two fewer interceptions with one additional football game and more attempts.

It would be ignorant not to acknowledge the pass catchers at this point. This season's receivers were much more disciplined, talented, and productive than past groups. This improvement gave the QB's more confidence throwing the football which, in turn, gave the staff more confidence calling passing plays. Guys like Dwayne Allen, Sammy Watkins, and Nuk Hopkins who give quality effort and performance week in and out contributed greatly to these numbers via their abilities to turn small gainers into really big plays.


Swinney prefers to keep his coordinators at home more for game planning purposes in-season, which is a strategy we've endorsed here at STS. Morris, however, has been active in pursuing specific prospects he wants and listed as the primary recruiter for QB Chad Kelly as well as RB Zac Brooks -- each an out of state 4-star grab (Kelly from New York and Brooks a steal from Arkansas). The Chad appeared to be on the road as soon as he signed the contract last January. Here is the general overview (info courtesy of



High School



40 Time

Star Rating

Rivals Ranking



Jonesboro, AR

Jonesboro Senior




4 stars


Chad Morris


Buffalo, NY

St. Joseph's




4 stars


Chad Morris

As you can see, Swinney/Scott used Morris predominantly outside of the "traditional" southeast recruiting zones of NC, SC, GA, and FL. You'll also notice that other targets that Morris was after were predominantly quarterbacks and most were from the Midwest and particularly Texas where The Chad built his reputation as one of the best high school coaches in the state. I'll also note that Morris was a key figure in luring other athletes to the university as the offensive coordinator eventually plays a major role in the recruitment of most offensive players because (and especially in CM's case) he largely drives the offensive philosophy for the football team.

Clemson brings in New York native Chad Kelly in this recruiting cycle. Kelly has been praised by many for his on the field ability but does appear to be very immature like many HS seniors. Ideally Kelly will take a redshirt in '12 to (A) get a better class spread of roster QBs (B) mature/adjust to college life via a less stressful 1st year (C) learn the Clemson offense completely before being thrown into the fire (D) get reps on scout team against Clemson's 1st and 2nd team defenses.

Brooks is also a tailor-made fit for this offense at RB, since the true scheme needs a RB that can be very active in the passing game, while being a force between the tackles. If Brooks bulks up without losing speed, watch out.


Morris' first season was impressive to say the least. The Chad came in and instilled some discipline that we've been missing offensively. Late in the season he effectively referred to CU's offensive line as soft and promised that this would not happen again. The Chad was able to quickly install his offense and successfully implement it with impressive results. While we understand that there were obvious talent improvements, we also realize that talent alone didn't change attitudes, work ethic, and effort as veterans who routinely made mistakes in past seasons and didn't always get after it each and every play were decidedly improved this season (well, except for one OG).

We give Morris his props and Dabo/TDP gave him a boatload of cash. We look to Morris to build upon the successes of 2011 to instill more discipline/fundamentals with stout skills players but young/inexperienced offensive line replacement. We also look to Morris to help Boyd fix the delivery issues in his throwing motion to make him a more accurate and consistent passer.

Our #1 worry about this offense going into 2012 is the OL though. If they can return to even the level of Tommy Wests stronger lines, this offense could get really scary. Unfortunately with the youngsters having to play, we can't get overly optimistic just yet, but we think Top 25 is definitely attainable.