Sunday Morning Quarterback

From Terry Don Phillips to Lateek Townsend, CUTigers examines an eventful week in Clemson.

More big news came out of Clemson this past week with the announcement that Terry Don Phillips would retire as the school's athletics director. It was more a formality than a surprise, but any time there is change in leadership in a department, it's a big deal.

Phillips has taken a lot of heat during his tenure at Clemson, but the athletics department is in better shape now – on and off the playing fields – than before he took over, and that's all you can really ask of someone in this kind of position.

Phillips had some good and some bad during his time running the department, but that's to be expected. No leader of a department like this is going to be perfect, and Phillips is no different.

He might have had some shortcomings as far as being the public face of the department, but he must have been doing something right in fund-raising and cost-cutting. Look at the improvements in facilities that have taken place under his leadership. That likely will be his legacy years down the road.

Clemson's facilities really had fallen behind before Phillips took over, and that affected recruiting. Now the department is seeing just how much updated facilities can help with recruiting as better athletes are making the teams better.

Phillips' other positives were hiring Dabo Swinney as the football head coach and Brad Brownell as the basketball head coach. Those two moves already have paid off and will lead the department into a new era with a new leader, who would be wise to keep them around for a long time.

WHO'S NEXT? Clemson president James Barker has a key decision to make with the next athletics director to say the least.

There have been a couple of names already thrown around, but here's one who should be considered: Dwight Clark.

Clark, of course, was a terrific player when he was at Clemson in the 1970s. He went on to have a stellar NFL career with San Francisco, and he made the transition into his post-NFL career seamlessly as he moved into the 49ers' front office and later worked as an executive with the Cleveland Browns. Clark helped lead the Browns franchise's return to the NFL after the original Browns had moved to Baltimore a few years before and became the Ravens.

Clark might not even be interested in the position, but it's at least worth a phone call, e-mail, text, etc., to see if he is. He has the experience necessary and the ties to the university to do the job.

If it's not Clark, Clemson needs a strong leader, someone with a vision to the future as the department moves forward. Either way, Clemson fans have to trust Barker, who catches a lot of heat, as well, will make a good decision with this hire.

MORE MORRIS: Moving on to football. Who isn't impressed more and more every day with Chad Morris?

The more I hear from and read about him, the more I like what I hear and read. Swinney was second-guessed before last season by some for hiring someone with little college experience to run his offense.

But the hire worked out last year with a huge offensive season, and there's no reason to believe that won't continue this year. Even with Sammy Watkins' two-game suspension to start the season, the Tigers have weapons all over the field in Tajh Boyd, Andre Ellington, DeAndre Hopkins, Martavis Bryant, Charone Peake, Brandon Ford, Jaron Brown, and the list keeps going.

Chad Morris has even more weapons at his disposal this season.
And Morris knows how to use all those pieces. His offense has a lot of moving parts and imagination, probably more imagination than Clemson fans ever have seen from their program. But it's also based in power football and being strong up front. It's refreshing to hear Morris focus on being physical and running the ball while also having so much firepower.

That's music to Clemson fans' ears.

Morris is going to be a terrific head coach for another program before too long, and there's nothing wrong with acknowledging that. As a leader, it's always better to have employees who have the talent, knowledge and desire to eventually move on to bigger and better jobs. Those people are driven to do their best and showcase their talents, and that certainly describes Morris.

Clemson fans should just continue to enjoy the ride while he's with the Tigers' staff and trust that Swinney will make another dynamic hire when Morris does leave.

ELLINGTON THE KEY: For all the focus that is put on Boyd and the receivers, the key to the Clemson offense is Ellington.

When Ellington is healthy, that gives the Tigers a powerful running game to go with the high-flying passing game. And when Ellington is running the ball well, that means the offensive line is doing its job up front.

And that's huge for this offense. Boyd and the passing game can churn out big chunks of yardage, but there needs to be some balance, and there has to be an ability to get short yardage when it's needed, especially in clutch situations.

Ellington certainly is important with that. He has an ability to dart through the line even when there aren't gapping holes up front. And when there are large holes, he can make a defense pay with big gains of his own.

One thing Ellington needs to improve on is catching the ball out of the backfield. There were a few plays he could have made last year with receptions but didn't, and that's really his only weakness.

He blocks well and picks up blitzes very well in addition to all his other talents, and that makes him a well-rounded back … and a real key to the offense.

IMPRESSED BY HALL: From all indications, Rashard Hall is healthy again and headed to a strong season in the Clemson secondary. You have to feel good for Hall because of how much he laid on the line last year. Hall played hurt last season and still had a strong year. He could have shut it down when he was injured, but he played through the pain. Hall missed only one game with a micro-fracture in his knee yet led the team in tackles. That's what leaders are made of, and that kind of dedication is appreciated by his coaches and teammates, and it should be noticed by the Clemson fans. Now that he's healthy he can really let loose in Brent Venables' new defense and form a strong safety duo with Jonathan Meeks.

LINEBACKERS: You have to love this quote from Swinney about Lateek Townsend: "Violent, violent football player. If you get him pointed in the right direction, someone is getting blown up."

That's exactly the kind of player a team wants lining up at linebacker, and while it sounds like Townsend has some learning and growing to do, he certainly plays the game the right way. Fast, hard-hitting linebackers have long been a staple of the Clemson defense, and it looks like the Tigers are getting back to that with young players like Stephone Anthony, Tony Steward and Townsend.

Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph and co-host of The Morning Show on FoxSports 1670 AM Top Stories