Finding their comfort zone

CLEMSON - After closing the book on a long, soggy Wednesday, Tajh Boyd and Dalton Freeman discuss the transition to Chad Morris' new offense in detail.

Wednesday's start was delayed an hour because of a steady rainfall, which fell throughout the day, but stopped shortly after 5 p.m.

"It was a little bit sluggish day, because of the rain," Freeman said. "We had to delay practice an hour, so we were in meetings a little bit longer. Everything was just kind of slow starting out. Then, we come out here and you start banging off the bat. You've got to wake up a little bit, I guess. After we got going and people loosened up, it was pretty good."

Boyd said running the high speed, up-tempo offense in full pads is much different than in shorts.

"Honestly, it feels like we've been out here for three or four weeks," he said. "It's going good. We've got a lot of things we need to work on as a group. We've got a lot of time left.

"Hopefully, we can get everything we can before we hit break, and just try to do what we can as a whole."

As the quarterback, the pressure of keeping the pace falls directly on his shoulders.

"Other guys have to do their part as well, but you've got to control the tempo," Boyd said. "If we're moving slow, coach is going to put it on me. You're definitely going to take that and make that something you have pride for, for the team."

Freeman said the tempo is ramped up and down throughout practice. But it's mostly up.

The fast pace doesn't necessarily slow down the installation schedule.

"The first two days of practice were big install days. We kind of slowed it down a little bit. I'm sure we'll pick it back up," he said. "We'll install as much as possible, but be as good at as we possibly can. We're doing a little bit at a time and being the best.

"If we're only going to put in three running plays, we're going to be the best in the country at those three running plays, instead of putting in 20 of them and not being good at any of them."

Freeman said the offense is further along now than it was at this time last year.

"Last year, we were already very familiar with it. I think that's a positive thing, and everybody's confidence is very high," he said.

There are many similarities to last year's system, despite the change in coordinators.

"It's still a zone concept. Some of our zones are hitting in different spots than they were last year, but that's all timing things, hat placement and hands, where you're going to kind of end up putting your guy," he said. "A lot of it is carryover, and pass protection is the same way. To be honest with you, it's probably a little bit simpler for us. There's not near as many reads and progressions."

Running neck and neck
Three days into the Chad Morris era and Boyd has yet to enjoy a practice with Andre Ellington lined up beside him. That won't happen until August.

"I was talking to Andre [Ellington] on the sideline. He was like, ‘Man, this offense is going to be great, once this thing gets rolling.' I feel like once everything comes together, it's going to be explosive. It's going to be great. I can't wait to be a part of it."

In the meantime, Roderick McDowell, Demont Buice and D.J. Howard have the spring to lobby for snaps, which could be tough to come by when the rest of the running backs are ready to roll.

"It's a great opportunity for them, with Ellington being out this spring. They're very hungry. You can kind of see it in their eyes, that this is my chance," he said. "With Ellington being out, somebody's got to step up. They know that and that's their mentality. They've come to work every day."

Freeman took notice of Buice during the Oklahoma drill.

"He ran through a few people. I was very impressed with him," Freeman said.

Boyd marveled at Howard.

"Today, D.J. Howard took pretty much all the reps. I know Rod and Demont had to leave, but D.J. was explosive," Boyd said. "He hit hole one time and was zooming out there. He's going to be a great guy. This is going to be his first opportunity as well, his first spring really to come out here and showcase his ability. I think he's taking advantage of that."

Ball control
Boyd said Morris keeps track of each time he could potentially compromise a possession.

"He's got a little chart in the offensive room—the ball's in jeopardy. That might be the way you hold it, potential stuff that happens like that. Picks, fumbles—everything, in that sense. He honestly gives you a realistic view of things to come. You just try to cut down on things in that matter."

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