CLEMSON – They’re saying it with a straight face. Last year was fast. This year will be faster.
Clemson’s offense, the same offense on par with the supersonic units in the country and has plenty of excuses to back-pat after its landmark 2012 season, isn’t explosive enough.
“We had a good season, but we left a lot on the table,” left tackle Brandon Thomas said.
How to fix those wrongs?
“Moving faster,” Thomas answered, without hesitating. “Faster. That’s what we’re trying to do. It’s mainly about pushing the ball, pushing the ball.”
In a year where it broke 101 school records, the Clemson offense ranked, nationally, sixth in scoring, ninth in total yards, seventh in snaps, fourth in gains of 20-plus yards and 12th in first downs – thus illustrating the breakneck pace offensive coordinator Chad Morris craves.
The only other schools in the top 12 in all five of those categories were Oregon, Baylor, and WAC member Louisiana Tech.
Yet somehow, room to improve remains, and Morris is already salivating over what he’s seeing through two fall camp sessions.
“I thought today (Saturday) was probably as fast as we’ve been, period, since I’ve been here,” said Morris, who in his first two Tigers’ seasons helped Tajh Boyd record the highest single-season snap counts a Clemson quarterback’s ever had – 997 in 2011, 959 last year.
“The goal is 80 a game, and we were (82) this past year,” Morris said. “We feel like we can get it as high as 92. We could very easily improve 10, 12 snaps a game.”
It’s not just coachspeak. It’s the way the players are talking, too.
“We have the potential, if we keep working every day,” wide receiver Martavis Bryant said. “Just get the ball to the refs, and line up quicker, we’ll get to the plays quicker.”
Morris did admit the Tigers looked like a team two days into fall camp. Much clean-up work is left ahead.
“Now, obviously, we don’t want to hurry up to screw up,” Morris maintained. “If we’re not playing well, then we’re going to slow down and we’re going to get it right.”
The offseason earmarked lots of time for Morris to review game tape, showing him where an offensive tempo many would consider flawless, well, held flaws.
“I think there’s some dead time in there, where we could have snapped the ball here a little quicker, or we had an opportunity to speed the game up here and we didn’t do it, or from play to play we’re kind of loafing in this regard,” Morris said. “When we step on the field, it’s got to be all out or get out.”
So, Morris went about tweaking his playbook and integrating new wrinkles to an offensive group with plenty of returning talent.
“No doubt, we’re going to be faster. We can’t help not to be faster,” Morris said. “I mean, we changed a few things that will automatically make us faster. We’ve just got to keep promoting, how much faster can we get?”
- Wide receiver Adam Humphries (hamstring) and cornerback Mackensie Alexander (groin) didn’t practice Saturday, and receiver Mike Williams pulled his groin during the session, ending his night.
- Some players will take final exams for summer courses on Monday, before returning for the team’s third fall camp practice. Clemson has Sunday off, and Tuesday brings the first practice with players in shoulder pads.