Mondays with Morris

CLEMSON – With two weeks left in the 2013 regular season, Clemson's high-powered offense has found the heights it reached during its impressive 2012 campaign.

Clemson enters Saturday's home finale against The Citadel averaging 511.9 yards of total offense (ninth nationally), 337.7 yards of passing offense (ninth nationally) and 41.3 points per game (11th nationally).

A year ago, the Tigers averaged 512.7 yards of total offense, 321.6 yards of passing offense and 41 points per game.

And offensive coordinator Chad Morris loves what he's seeing.

"This is an offensive football team over the last three, three and a half games that's kind of getting better every week," Morris said Monday. "And we're playing our best offensive football right now at the right time."

Since being blown out 51-14 by Florida State, Clemson averaged 51.3 points per game in blowouts of Maryland, Virginia and Georgia Tech. Morris says his players have a certain swagger again.

"We've got some things we've got to clean up, got to get better but that's every week," he said. "I think you're seeing guys play with a lot of confidence. I think Tajh (Boyd) is really playing with some great confidence, and his receivers, Martavis Bryant's another one playing really well right now. I feel like he and Tajh have great chemistry, something that was missing earlier in the year.

"We're executing up front. Brandon Thomas is playing well, Ryan Norton continues to play well, Shatley is playing well, I was very pleased with Isaiah Battle, with Isaiah being in there (at right tackle). He kind of got his shoulder banged up a little bit but came back in and played. I was glad to see him in there, definitely gave us a lot of athleticism, very physical up front with him, and so it was good to see. It's what we've been waiting on. We've got to be consistent with it."

Battle made his first career start at right tackle against Georgia Tech and held up well. Morris said it was something the coaches had hoped to try out all year but needed to feel they could trust him.

"Isaiah is a guy who's really starting to figure it out," Morris said. "Especially over the last two weeks, when we said, look this is the move we're going to make. At some point we've got to push and say, ‘Here it is.' We have to see where we stand at the end of this open week and if we feel confident you can do it, we're going to let you have it. If not, we haven't lost anything." Thursday, the Tigers' offensive line gained with Battle at right tackle.

"The thing with Isaiah is, the confidence we have in him, to just get out there and go execute the plan, I think that only helps him out," Morris said. "He did well, very well, so it'll be interesting to see how he continues to grow. He's got to play. He's got to get reps, this week is very important to him in practice and the game."

Bryant won his first ACC Receiver of the Week award after catching five passes for 176 yards and a touchdown against the Yellow Jackets and has emerged into a legit deep threat and No.2 option behind star junior Sammy Watkins.

"He made some really good catches, some really good plays," Morris said. "I think he's playing with some great confidence in himself. I think more than anything where it's turned for him, he sees and recognizes that Tajh has confidence in him. I think that's really helped him out. His catch at Virginia, I think in that opening drive of the game, where he had to kind of make a basket catch, I think that did nothing but great things for his confidence, he made some great catches in the Maryland game. He too, much like a lot of the younger players who haven't played, you go through that.

"Going through the course of the season, you hope at some point in time… the lightbulb will click on. It's going to. It will for every player. Some sooner than others. You hope when it does click on, it's at that point and time in the season when you need it. Obviously Martavis has and that's good to see."

Bryant's name has come up in connection with the NFL draft, but Morris and Dabo Swinney feel he'd be best served to return for his senior season.

"I think he's playing his best ball right now. It goes back to, the light bulb's going to click on, it's just a matter of when," Morris said. "He's starting to figure it out, starting to realize how dominant of a receiver he can be. And to have another year underneath him playing at this level can only help him out."

For both Battle and Bryant, that lightbulb is clearly glowing.

"We're going to do what we do," Morris said. "It's not like you're going to come with all kinds of new plays and new things. Each week, you do what you do. You don't get to the point of winning nine games that we've done by coming in and trying to recreate something each week. It's a slow process. You bring your players along.

"At some point in the season you hope the lightbulb clicks on. It's not that we're going to go out each week and practice a different play or a different scheme ,a different step. It's the same play, the same steps we've been working on since August 2nd. And it'll be the same plays, same steps we keep working on through however long we play. At some point, you hope that lightbulb clicks on and it becomes a want-to." Morris also discussed Clemson's seniors, Tajh Boyd and more Monday.

On the Tigers' seniors:
"Well, I think you look at it, they have one home game left. That's the only thing they're focused on right now is this senior week and senior day, on Saturday, just the realization that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. For some of those freshmen and guys we talked about earlier, they don't understand that light is in the distant future. As a senior, you start seeing there's a big bright light in front of you.

"For some it'll be the end of football. It'll be the start of a new career for them, a new journey in their life. For others it'll be the opportunity to move up to the next level and go play. I think it's a surreal type of emotion they'll be going through that they have 3 games left, and this being the last one at home. It'll be a special time, this senior class has done a lot of things for this university, this program. One of the things they want is to finish strong."

On Boyd and his shoulder injury Thursday:
"He was wanting to go back in and could've gone back in and there was no need, we all know what he's done. He's going to play till he can't play no more. I'm excited for him and the records he's broken, he wants to finish. That's where he wants to leave his legacy, finishing strong." On Boyd's resilence as the starting quarterback: "Anytime you can play in any offense and play that many snaps at the tempo we play at, asking our quarterback to be part of the run game. Tajh is a battler, he's a warrior, that's what you appreciate and respect about him."

On Rod McDowell being the every-down back:
"There's no doubt. He is our every-down back right now. It is what it is, we obviously have got some really talented guys that we've redshirted, and Zac (Brooks) has been banged up, which has had to force Hot Rod into more of an every-down row, and D.J. (Howard) with his ankle, being limited in what he can do, I've been pleased with Hot Rod, his ability to welcome his role. He gets better with the more carries he gets. We know what Hot Rod is capable of doing. Sometimes he's in a position, being asked to do some things, he's not comfortable with doing. But because of the injuries, the way things have shaken themselves out, that's what he's comfortable with."

On if the offense changes much with Cole Stoudt at quarterback:
Cole runs the ball well. Cole makes really good decisions knowing when to pull the ball down. He's not as elusive as Tajh, he's elusive enough and runs well. His strengths and Tajh's strengths may be a little different. If we get into a certain part, I don't know that we change the whole game plan for Cole, but Cole's very capable of executing. There's not too many teams in the country that have a three-year quarterback as backup that can come in and make things happen. With the capability of what Chad's doing, Chad's more of a runner, and did a really good job on the zone read the other night. I'm excited for those two guys and I know they're excited for Tajh, being the mentor that Tajh has been for them, and pushing Tajh to finish his career out strong."

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