Mondays with Morris

CLEMSON - Just over 10 minutes into his weekly interview, Chad Morris wondered why no one was asking questions about his quarterback.

The Tigers' second-year offensive coordinator had already been asked about Sammy Watkins, Brian VanGorder, Gifford Timothy and even Gus Malzahn.

Twelve minutes in, and nothing regarding Tajh Boyd.

"Nobody's talked about Tajh, but I'm going to talk about him, because I'm excited for him. I'm extremely excited for him," Morris said. "I think Tajh has prepared himself for this. I think the ownership he has taken in this team -- not just offensively, but defensively -- as a leader of this football team, I'm excited to see him.

"He's a veteran player now. A year ago, he was a rookie and we were talking about what he's going to be like."

Morris has high expectations for Boyd, who passed for 3,828 yards in 2011.

"He's got 14 games underneath him, two springs and two fall camps. So you expect him to be that veteran guy that manages things cool, calm and collected on the field," Morris said. "That's what excites me, to be able to watch him in a whole other element, to see how he's going to respond."

IN PLACE OF WATKINS: Watkins will hang back in Clemson while his teammates head to Atlanta for the Rubber Match in the Georgia Dome. He'll be serving the first half of his two-game suspension for an offseason arrest.

Charone Peake will start in his place at the No. 2 wide receiver position.

"I just think his consistency in camp really just kind of pushed everybody over the edge with Charone," Morris said. "He was as consistent as anybody we have. He was definitely a huge play-maker."

High school classmate Adam Humphries, who is listed as the backup, will still be counted on as contributor after Peake.

"Adam's going to get to play a lot," Morris said. "Charone definitely gives us that versatility. You can put Charone anywhere you want."

SECOND-HIGHEST RUSHER: It's no secret which player projects as the leading rusher on this year's team. Assuming he stays health, Andre Ellington should have that locked up with relative ease.


McDowell had a solid preseason camp.
The real question is: Who will be No. 2?

D.J. Howard and Roderick McDowell are the top two candidates. Early on this season, both will get carries when Ellington needs a blow.

"I think you'll see D.J. and Hot Rod in there," Morris said. "Zac Brooks will play. How much? I don't know, but he'll definitely get to play. He's the bigger back of all of them."

McDowell turned some heads throughout preseason camp.

"Hot Rod has probably had -- of all the running backs in growth from spring to fall camp -- Hot Rod has been impressive. He's really earned a lot of trust in the coaching staff, earned the trust of his teammates," Morris said.

THE VANGORDER QUESTION: According to Morris, Auburn's first-year coordinator does a good job of mixing things up on the backend of his defense.

"He wants to bring pressure. He's a guy that wants to bring pressure. He's going to mix his coverages up. He does a really good job of disguising his coverages," Morris said. "They've got one of the best defensive fronts in the country, especially those two ends they've got."

Forcing opposing offenses into third-and-long situations is the name of the game for VanGorder's defense.

"That's where they want to get you, so they can get you into some pass rush situations. But he bases everything on trying to get off the field on third-down, which all defensive coordinators do," Morris said. "Studying him from his days in college and the NFL, he does a really good job of disguising his coverages."

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