Much like a kid with a vivid imagination, Chad Morris likes his “toys.”
Others might not see the potential Clemson’s offensive coordinator does – and it chafes – so Morris intends to leverage that to his advantage between now and the opener in Athens, Ga.
He envisions the potential of an offensive line that while still a tangle beyond center and left guard – 10 or more are in the mix along the front – could be deep and versatile.
He relishes the blend of experience and youth at receiver, with speed and raw skill, and tries to imagine the possibilities.
He appreciates the sudden wealth of running back talent knowing that while there’s so little experience, it’s the easiest place to plug in a fresh set of legs.
And he’s eager to send quarterback Cole Stoudt onto the field against Georgia with all those toys and more at his disposal, believing the critics may be silenced and the curious will begin to buy into Morris’ vision.
“Listening to everybody talk, I think the biggest concern is whether we can get a first down this year,” he said, dripping with facetiousness. “I don’t there’s a whole lot of people giving our offense much credit.
“I hope our guys are going to take it personal, to heart, with something to prove.”
Morris wants them ticked off, to come to practice with a chip on their shoulders. Evidently, he takes it personally.
For three seasons Clemson has been among the nation’s most productive offenses, setting school records for scoring and total yards with toys consisting of a pair of first-round NFL picks at receiver plus an NFL running back, tight end and quarterback.
Less than five years removed from a high school job, Morris is considered one of the best offensive minds in the college game and a lock to be a head coach in the near future. His offenses practice fast and play fast with a foot on the accelerator and an energy drink in hand.
“Obviously, you’ve got to develop depth in the offensive line. That’s always an every year deal,” he said. “Your wide receivers, finding who your playmakers are going to be. Making sure that your quarterbacks are who you think they are.”
Morris handed the keys to Stoudt with little reticence. The other option is freshman Deshaun Watson, who arrived in January. Stoudt has been with Morris as Tajh Boyd’s backup from the start.
“He’s a veteran guy right now,” Morris said. “I’m excited about this guy. I think he brings a little bit of something to the table, but I think we’ve got a guy behind him now that’s going to push. I think you got some competition, (and) that’s something that we have been needing.
“Cole’s the starter, but Cole didn’t sign (a) contract to be the starter,” he said. “He’s got to keep earning it.”
Stoudt embraced a more proactive role as a vocal leader and worked to refashion his body, adding more than 20 pounds of muscle to weigh 231 when practice began. “Cole is on a mission,” Morris said.
If junior Charone Peake can produce like a five-star recruit to go with junior Mike Williams and senior Adams Humphries, coupled with the four freshmen “this bunch has the potential to be really good.”
The tight ends as a group are as good as he’s had, “absolutely.”
Not having an established running back doesn’t trouble Morris. His imagination spins with the possibilities.
“I think that’s the strength of our offensive football team right now,” he said, raising eyebrows because the three most experienced backs have 243 total carries in their careers.
“Each one brings a distinct running style, and this is the first time since I’ve been here that all our running backs are over 200 pounds,” he said. “That’s really big. ”