Morris says "It's On"

CLEMSON – Chad Morris is rarely one to mince words. And even Clemson's biggest regular-season game in memory didn't change that trend Monday.

The Tigers' third-year offensive coordinator is still upset about what happened to his wide receivers one year ago in Tallahassee.

He knows that changing the wideouts' overall mentality will play a huge role in whether No.3 Clemson can overcome the stiff challenge that No.5 Florida State's defense will provide Saturday night.

A year ago, the Seminoles overpowered the Tigers' wideouts in a 49-37 win. And Morris knows that can't happen again.

"They physically whipped us at the wide receiver position," he said. "They embarrassed us. It's been a point of emphasis, and will continue to be a point of emphasis. Our wide receivers spent more time on the ground than the ball did. And it has to start on the ground every play.

"You stress that to our guys. It's a big challenge for our guys. We got out-physicaled last year. They play extremely physical. They're talented, they're fast. Aggressive."

Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd completed 20 of 36 passes for 237 yards with three touchdowns and an interception, but it was far from his best game.

Morris emptied every trick in his book, with Sammy Watkins throwing a 52-yard touchdown pass to tailback Andre Ellington. But outside of Boyd's 60-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins less than 90 seconds in, Hopkins and Watkins were largely neutralized through the air.

Take away that play, and Hopkins had four catches for 28 yards and a touchdown. Watkins, battling a virus which would sideline him the following week at Boston College, had six receptions for 24 yards and was repeatedly knocked around by FSU defensive backs.

"He got knocked down," Morris said without being prompted. "I'll say it."

Watkins is enjoying a far superior season to his down 2012 – through six games, he has 36 receptions for 582 yards and four touchdowns. He's on pace for 72 catches, 1,164 yards and eight scores.

But when asked about Watkins' improved physicality, Morris took a show-me attitude. "You talk to your players, you want to be an All-ACC player, an All-American. You want to be all this and more, "he said. "Well, those guys show up every day and they show up in the big games. And so, it's a big game. So let's see." Saturday, Watkins will likely get plenty of face time with FSU corner Lamarcus Joyner, one of the ACC's top defensive backs.

"I think he's a phenomenal player," Morris said. "We've got great respect for him. He's extremely fast, aggressive, he's got a knack for the ball. All around the ball. You can stop it, turn the tape on and freeze it, and he's in the frame somewhere. Usually a blur because he's moving so fast. Good player, very well-respected, and we're excited to go against him."

Morris said FSU's press coverage is varied and deployed intermittently, which only makes it harder to beat. How do you do so? With the right attitude.

"It's a mindset, what it is," he said. "There's different things we do technique-wise to get off press coverage, things we can do a little different. It comes down to it, I'm talking about not necessarily getting off press coverage at the line of scrimmage. They're playing physical five, six, seven yards down the field. And that's what I'm talking about."

Morris covered plenty of other ground with reporters Monday as well.

On his team's sluggish offensive effort against Boston College: "They did a good job. It wasn't any pressure they brought that we hadn't already seen or prepared for. They did a really good job disguising their pressures, coming on snap. It was good for us to see. I said it last week, give them credit, they had a good plan, good scheme. It's about us. And we had an opportunity to go a 12-play drive on the opening drive of the game and not get any points out of it, which is very uncharacteristic of us. We laid the ball on the ground twice on a simple center/CQ exchange, with our quarterback and running back, which is unlikely. Not characteristic of us. Those things were a little out of the norm.

"We give up a hurry on Tajh (on the first drive), had Sammy open in the back of the end zone. He had to step up and was flushed, threw the ball away. So he underthrows Martavis Bryant on the second, they did a good job."

Did Boyd's wrapped left hand on the first drive cause issues with fumbles?: "He had a glove on, I think that affected him a little bit. He worked out with the glove all week long, it wasn't anything new. I don't know if the ball was getting caught on the glove as he was trying to make a pull read, but anyway, it's something we haven't done. Haven't turned the ball over. Those are things we don't do.

"It's uncharacteristic of us to do that this past week. We gave up and let them hang around. The more they hang around, the more momentum they get. We overthrow Adam Humphries wide open for seven and we miss a field goal out of that. Those are things you can't, it's tough to win when you play like that. We had five penalties, all five were on the offense. Just very inconsistent in our run game in some areas, inconsistent in our route running. It was one of those nights. It's not like us, but it definitely gets some guys' attention in a hurry."

On how FSU's defense is different this year: "Oh, goodness. They were fast last year, they're fast this year. They're aggressive last year, they're aggressive this year. They play extremely hard. I know they have a new coordinator, but they're still doing a lot of the same things scheme-wise that carry over from last year.

"Very aggressive, they're talented, they're very deep at their positions, they play a lot of guys and they play fast with them. Very aggressive up front. Mario Edwards is one of the defensive ends, part of that team last year but has now moved into a starting role, but they've got several other guys behind them. They've got some young guys up front. What, they had the most guys drafted in the NFL or were one of the teams with the most guys drafted. So yeah, they lost some really talented guys, but had a lot of talented guys behind them that are stepping up and playing roles."

On being pumped up for this week more than a normal week: "It's on. That's what it's about. What you coach for. Like we told our guys this morning, as a kid, this is what you grow up planning to be in a top-5 matchup like you have. There's not many opportunities in a coaching career that you get this moment. Same thing from a playing standpoint. Heck yeah it's a big deal. It's the biggest game of the year. Our guys are excited about the opportunity to be on a big stage again, the second time this year we've been on a stage of this magnitude. This is why you play the game.

"I'm jacked up right now. That's my personality. I was excited last week. This is another opportunity for us to get better, going against a great opponent. Those guys, they do a great job. Very well-respected across the country as we are. 8 o' clock, whenever it is, it's go time."

On the opportunity and leaving a legacy: "There's always a pep in my step. Excited about the opportunity. For those guys who've worked extremely hard to get to this point. One thing we talked to our guys last week about. Some guys come in here and think they're the only ones who ever wore a Tiger paw. Think we're the only ones who ever wore it. What we talk to our guys about is where you are today, is because the players who wore this Tiger paw before you. Don't ever forget that.

"A lot of people had to go through blood, sweat, tears and some down seasons to get to where we are today. They're just as much a part of where we're at as our current players. And we remind our guys, there's going to be a lot of guys who wear the paw after you leave. All you are, you're holding a place and a seat right now. You've got to take advantage of every opportunity you get. Every time you step on the field, on game day, you've got to take advantage of it. For most of the players, you're going to get 28 ops on a Saturday to play here. Seven home games, say you're here for four years, I majored in math, that's 28. So take advantage of it.

"What you have, you've got guys, sometimes they think, this is the way it is, I'm the only person who ever wore a Tiger paw. That's not the way it is. That's the biggest thing to stress to our guys after last Saturday's game. This is not our style. We're on the field, we're on the field to go score points. I don't care if you get 100 or 700 yards, we've got to get the ball in the end zone. Talking about guys who played before them and after them, it's a sense of pride about it. A lot of guys don't remember that 6-7 season. They walked in with a silver spoon in their mouth because of the success we've had. So they don't' understand what it was like a few years ago. The hunger. And I think some guys have lost a little hunger."

On the offensive line: "I think we've got some guys who are playing really well up front. I think Brandon Thomas is playing as well as we've seen him play since he's been here. Ryan Norton is another one that's playing extremely well. Kalon Davis has been playing well. Had some miscues the other night. Didn't have his best game. Tyler Shatley, we know what we're getting in Tyler. RT, Shaq's doing some good things, still missing some things as a young player normally would. So David Beasley and Giff Timothy, those guys are going to get in this week, get some playing time this week. We'll see. We'll start the five that we feel like practiced the best this week."


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