CLEMSON, S.C. – Offensive coordinator Chad Morris repeatedly goaded the media to put a smile on their faces Monday afternoon, looking for some spirit in celebration of the college football season finally arriving.
Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris
Here is an edited transcript of Morris’ interview with reporters last Monday:
Q: What’s the latest on right tackle Gifford Timothy?
I feel he’ll be ready to go. We’ll know this week. He worked out last week, and the more the week progressed, the more reps he got. He looked good.
He was a little out of shape, but that comes with having two weeks off. We have to get him back in game shape.
I expect Giff to be the guy there. Giff Timothy obviously gives us the best chance up front.
I feel good with those guys. But until you start getting some live bullets flying at them, all we can go on is simulating what you can in practice. We want that veteran leadership from Dalton Freeman and Brandon Thomas to step up and help those guys out. So we’ll see.
Q: How do you feel you’ve progressed in goal-line and short-yardage situations?
You always feel you can get better. There’s some things we’re doing trying to help them out. We’ve gotten better. At what extent, I don’t know. Talk to me after Saturday.
But that was one of our focuses: How can we get better on third and 1-2. It’s an ownership thing, a pride.
Q: Are there areas you think this year’s offensive line can trump last year’s?
Talent-wise, we’re much more athletic and move better, which is good in the scheme we have. It’s just fitting together, the cohesiveness – you earn that through playing time and repetition. That’s why it was so important for us last week to find those guys and stick with them and let them compete against each other. But from an athletic standpoint, we’re better in that regard.
Q: How deep are you comfortable going down the offensive line depth chart?
I think Kalon (Davis) is one you’ll have to use. Shaq Anthony started out with a really good fall camp, but like most young kids, hit a wall. He’s a guy we feel confident in. That’s where we are with it.
Ryan Norton’s another one. He’s had some center and guard work. He’s a guy we feel like could eventually wind up being in our top five before it’s over with. But right now, he’s not there.
Q: How do you anticipate life being without Sammy Watkins the first game?
I think we’ve done a good job during fall camp with how we’ve went through the workouts and kept Sammy out and let him go and do other things, whether it be scout team or what not. We’ve had to manage, and there are more guys out there than just Sammy. We all know what he’s like when he’s in there and the impact he has, but it’s not about Sammy.
It goes back to, you have to have Tajh Boyd and you’d better have Andre Ellington and an offensive line that’s ready to go. I feel good about that. Now it’s time to put it all together.
Q: What did Charone Peake do to earn the starting spot over Adam Humphries?
His consistency in camp really just pushed him over the edge. He was as consistent as anybody we had and was a huge playmaker. He is one of the fastest players on the team – he, Martavis (Bryant) and Sammy are probably the three fastest players we have.
During spring ball, I really saw Charone come on in the middle to end of the spring, and that’s something he didn’t have last year. He won the job. That doesn’t mean Adam won’t get to play. Adam’s going to play a lot. But Charone gives us that versatility anywhere you want him.
Q: When you scouted new defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder, did you look at Falcons’ tape, or what?
Man, I looked at everything. Golly, we went back as far as we needed to go back. It comes to a point where you’ve watched so much, you can get film crazy over it.
But it’s like all first games. You’d better worry about the Clemson Tigers. We have an idea, new coordinator, but in the same sense, you can’t beat yourself. You’d better get good at something and what you do. So that’s been our focus. You’d better be able to protect the football and have an identity.
Q: What can you say about a VanGorder defense?
He’s going to do a good job of mixing his coverages up. … Heck, it’s like us, you can get overcomplicated, and it’s about what can your players do? But he wants to bring pressure. Does a really good job of disguising their coverages.
Moves his front, and they have one of the best defensive fronts in the country. Especially those two ends they’ve got. So I’m sure they want to get you in third-and-long so they can get you in some pass-rush situations.
From studying him and his days in college and NFL, he does a really good job of disguising his coverages.
Q: Since you’re not playing against him this year, have you talked to Gus Malzahn about what you’re incorporating this year?
Not a whole lot. We talked a little bit, but it was more sharing some ideas like we do every year. But as far as talking about this game, no, we haven’t talked about this.
Just with some of the places he went and visited, we crossed ideas and see if they fit. We try to always each year try to get together and share ideas.
Nobody’s talked about Tajh (Boyd) yet, but I’m going to talk about him. I’m excited for him. Tajh has prepared himself for this. The ownership he has taken in this team – not just offensively – the leadership he has shown, I’m excited to see him. He’s a veteran player now. You expect him to be that veteran guy who manages things cool and collected. Tajh is at his best when he’s having fun on the field.
Q: How have you gone about teaching him damage control, to keep things from spiraling when momentum goes the other way?
We’ve talked a lot about it. A lot has to do with the fact you are now a veteran player. We’ve put a lot of pressure on him to see how he’s going to respond, to make sure it’s all about the next play.
It’s that windshield theory: It’s more important to see where you’re going than where you came from. We talk about it daily.
Q: What would you say about his interception numbers during the scrimmages?
A lot of it was in some situational, whether it’s the last play of the game or something. We talk a lot about that in the meeting rooms – where to go with the football, and learning from it. It is what it is. That’s why we get out there and practice and put him in those situations and put the pressure on him – to see how he’s going to respond.
If you remember back to last year, Tajh was at his best when he was just playing and not trying to do too much. Now, being a veteran player, he has to understand not every play is going to score, and not every play is designed to score. It’s his job to manage the job and move the chains, whether his feet, his mind or his arm.
Q: He more of a running threat than he was at the end of last season?
Most definitely. He’s obviously gotten his weight way down and has done a good job of running the football. If you can keep those chains moving with your feet, eyes or arm – whatever it is – that’s something he’s done a good job of this fall camp, being more elusive.