July 18, 2011
The least you should now about the 2011 Tigers. Part of ACC Week.
• Ready for the big time. Chad Morris could be the offensive savior for Clemson and head coach Dabo Swinney if he can work the same magic he made during one season with Tulsa in his new offensive coordinator role at Clemson.
Clemson was terrible on offense a year ago. There's no nicer way to put it. The Tigers ranked 88th nationally in total offense with 334.62 yards per game and 86th in scoring offense with just 24 points per game. Both of those statistics ranked them 10th in the ACC in front of Wake Forest and Boston College.
Tulsa, on the other hand, was an offensive juggernaut even by Conference USA standards. It had the fifth-best offense in the nation with 505.6 yards per game and the Golden Hurricane averaged 41.4 points per game last year. Tulsa ranked in the top 15 nationally in both rushing and passing offense, the only school to do so.
The challenge now is whether Morris can take Tulsa's numbers and put them on Clemson's stat line. While Morris had a great first season as Tulsa's OC, that's his only collegiate experience. Prior to coming to Tulsa, he was a successful high school coach at Lake Travis High in Texas. Now he's being charged with turning an ACC program around in a short amount of time. Luckily for him, the Tigers return eight starters, including four of five starters on the offensive line.
• Morris and Boyd, come on down. While Morris will be under intense scrutiny as he begins his first season as Clemson's offensive coordinator, so will new quarterback Tajh Boyd. Boyd takes over after Kyle Parker, who had a miserable redshirt junior season, decided to play professional baseball instead of football. That should be good news for Clemson fans if Boyd can step in and be the up-tempo, quick-thinking quarterback Morris needs him to be successful in the Tigers new fast-paced offense. Clemson ran 866 plays last year while Tulsa ran 1,008 in the same amount of games. Boyd has the advantage of being a big body with the ability to move around the pocket and he'll have a lot of help with the Tigers run game and Andre Ellington and Mike Bellamy jostling for playing time.
• Fill holes up front. One of the concerns with running an up-tempo offense is making sure the defense is prepared to be on the field more often as the offense scores (or punts) with speedy regularity. Clemson already has the daunting task of replacing Da'Quan Bowers and Jarvis Jenkins on the defensive line, which might make returning end Andre Branch a little more susceptible to double teams if players such as Malliciah Goodman and Brandon Thompson don't become consistent threats to get into the opposing backfield.
• Swinney's last stand. Clemson underachieved a season ago. No nicer way to put it. But with a heap of talent returning and coming in from a stellar recruiting class, Clemson has the opportunity to be a sleeper in the ACC.
And it better be if Swinney wants to keep his job.
Even though Swinney took the Tigers to the Meineke Car Care Bowl last year, they lost to South Florida and finished with the program's first losing record since 1998. Another losing campaign won't be acceptable, especially with 14 returning starters, a new hotshot offensive coordinator and a running back duo that should rival any tandem in the country. The Tigers first two games against Troy and Wofford should be a good opportunity to get the kinks out before taking on Auburn in Week 3. While Auburn might not be the powerhouse it was a year ago, this will be a good chance for Clemson to gain some early confidence before facing Florida State and Virginia Tech.