Clemson turns the page to '14

Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris, right, and quarterback Tajh Boyd (10) watch a drill during the Tigers' first NCAA college football practice on Friday, Aug. 2, 2013 in Clemson, S.C. Clemson opens their season against Georgia at Death Valley in Clemson on Aug. 31. (AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail, Mark Crammer)

There's a reason Dabo Swinney tries not to read the newspaper, watch the studio shows on television or listen to sports talk radio.

He'd drive himself crazy with hearing "Chad Morris this, Chad Morris that" every time another college football coaching position came open.

It's a valid subject; Morris, Clemson's offensive coordinator the past three years, has long been ordained the next hot name to lead a program - if only the right one comes along to pry Morris from his perch as the nation's highest-paid assistant at $1.3 million per year.

Of course, as Morris' boss, Swinney believes nobody knows more about Morris' status than him.

"There are still a few things that y'all don't know, believe it or not," Swinney said Saturday afternoon at his season-wrap press conference at the WestZone in Memorial Stadium.

"Things get thrown out there for people to write about, to talk about, to create conversation and all of that kind of stuff. It's not worth having conversations about it. If there's anything to talk about, y'all will know about it."

In total, either a published report or hefty social media speculation has linked Morris to six schools in the past five weeks: Arkansas State, Wake Forest, Louisville, Texas (head coach or offensive coordinator), Alabama (offensive coordinator) and Vanderbilt. All those positions have been filled, except for Charlie Strong's offensive coordinator at Texas and the head job at Vanderbilt.

James Franklin just left Vanderbilt for Penn State Saturday morning, and once again, Morris' name was firmly riding the coaching carousel.

"That's the world we live in. There's nothing we can do about any of that stuff," Swinney said. "Most of the stuff that's out there is so far-fetched, it's crazy.

"He's still here today."

For the final question of his 40-minute media session, Swinney was asked if he spends much time mulling over Clemson's five-game losing streak to South Carolina and his counterpart Steve Spurrier's perceived jabs at the Tigers.

"I don't spend any time thinking about South Carolina," Swinney said, plainly. "It is what it is. They've had a great run. They've earned it on the field. That's why they call it bragging rights. They've earned the bragging rights.

"If I could change it I would, but we've got to get it done on the field. That's really all that matters. None of that stuff matters. What matters is our football team and how we perform, how we prepare. We've got to win that game. It's just that simple. But that's really all there is to it."

Nobody was pleased with losing to Florida State or South Carolina - not fans, not players, not coaches.

But when those were the only two teams to beat Clemson in 2012, the Seminoles and Gamecocks ended up a combined 23-4 and each in the top 10.

In 2013, FSU and USC were even better: 25-2, and each in the top four.

"At the end of the day, you have to give your opponents some credit. We lost to two really great football teams," Swinney said.

"We lost to the No. 1 team in the country that was undefeated, and we lost to the No. 4 team. It's unfortunate that the No. 4 team was our in-state rival, and it's unfortunate that the team we lost to that won the national championship is our big ACC rival."

In defeating Auburn Monday, Florida State ended the SEC's eight-year run of claiming the national championship.

"Somebody had to break the streak. I think we (in the ACC) can all take pride in that," Swinney said. "Just like the SEC has always taken pride in whoever wins the national championship, it's great that this conference stepped up and got it done."

Swinney said he texted congratulations to FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher.

"We know very well the kind of team they have," Swinney said. "It's good to have the national championship back in this conference, and we want our turn. So we'll keep trying to get to the top of that mountain."

The 2014 season, for the Tigers, began shortly after their team charter touched down from Miami following the Orange Bowl.

That's especially true for the two guys fixing to replace quarterback Tajh Boyd.

"I see these guys working. I've seen Chad Kelly out on the field doing drills by himself. I had to go do a little video over in the indoor practice facility, and there's Cole Stoudt working by himself, doing drills," Swinney said. "Those are things that you like to see because you know you've got guys that really want to be the guy and that they are going to go above and beyond to give themselves a chance to win the job."

Stoudt and Kelly will be pushed by highly touted freshman passer Deshaun Watson, handpicked by Swinney and Morris to be Clemson's future face of the program.

"You throw in Deshaun Watson, who is as talented of a guy as we've ever signed here. It's exciting," Swinney said. "At the end of the day, we are going to have a guy ready to go when it comes time to play, but we've got a long way to go before we figure all of that out."

Swinney said wide receiver Charone Peake and linebacker Kellen Moore, who each tore their ACLs during the 2013 season, will return for spring practices in limited, non-contact roles.

Sophomore defensive tackles Carlos Watkins and Kevin Dodd have each been granted medical redshirts, giving each a total of three remaining years of eligibility. Dodd had a toe injury, and Watkins was a passenger in a car accident Sept. 21, recovering from bruises on his legs.