With a little help from his friend

CLEMSON - Chad Morris had a big pair of shoes to fill when he took over as head coach at Stephenville High School.

Art Briles, who's now the head coach at Baylor, led Stephenville to four state championships during his run from 1988-99. In Morris' first season (2003), the Yellowjackets failed to qualify for the playoffs, snapping a streak of 15-straight seasons in post-season play.

"You don't go to too many Christmas parties with the people in the community, if you're not in the playoffs," Morris said when Dabo Swinney introduced him as Clemson's offensive coordinator on Thursday.

Before taking over at Stephenville, Morris led Bay City High School to two state championships during his three-year stay (2000-02). Those Bay City teams compiled a record of 34-8 and won a state title in 2000.

Elysian High School qualified for the state championship game in each of Morris' two seasons as head coach (1998-99).

But none of that mattered in 2003, especially to the folks in Stephenville.

Humbled and looking for something that had to work, a friend of a friend pointed Morris in the direction of a coach that was "on the cutting edge."

When Morris first called Gus Malzahn, then head coach at Springdale High School, it was met with uncertainty.

"He thought I was a rival coach trying to steal information from him," Morris said.

To show just how serious he was, Morris flew in from Dallas to watch a Springdale playoff game. Still, after meeting face to face, Malzahn was uneasy.

"I said, ‘Well, coach, I'm going to come back next Friday, if you don't believe me.' When he saw me the following Friday coming to watch him, he knew this guy's for real," Morris said.

The rest is history.

"We set up a time and built a friendship where we would take our staff up the next three, four or five years," Morris said. "Everywhere he's been I've had my staff there. We talk weekly.

"Gus and I go way back. I'm honored that he leant a helping hand when I was kind of down."

Morris first implemented the Malzahn philosophy in 2004. From 2004 to 2009, his Stephenville and Lake Travis High School teams went 75-6.

In his only season at Tulsa, the Hurricanes' 505.6 total offense yards per game ranked fifth-best in the nation. Tulsa was the only school to rank in the top 15 in both rushing and passing offense.

"Coaches borrow. There's nothing unique. Everybody runs a power, counter and zone," Morris said. "My philosophy is a lot of what Gus has believed in."

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