FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- When West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen and Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris were hired this offseason they shared a keyword in their introductory press conferences -- simplicity.
With offensive coaches often wielding laminated play call sheets that look like extensive restaurant menus, complexity is often thought to be a necessary component of dynamic offenses.
But it is simplicity, which Da Vinci called "the ultimate sophistication," that has been a desirable trait at West Virginia and Clemson this season.
Holgorsen, who studied under innovators like former Kentucky coach Hal Mumme and Washington State coach Mike Leach, and Morris want their players to execute on the field, not to be encumbered by thought.
Simplicity has led to success for West Virginia (9-3), which owns the nation's No. 17-ranked offense, averaging 459.6 yards per game, and Clemson (10-3) is ranked 27th averaging 440.6 yards per game. The two offenses are expected to score often at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Orange Bowl.
Keeping it simple
Holgorsen said the basics of his offense were installed during a three-day period in spring practice.
"I think we have simplified it to the point of having a lot of different ways of doing the same thing," said Holgorsen to reporters earlier this year after leaving his offensive coordinator post at Oklahoma State. "If (players) feel like the offense is simple, then we can start worrying about the things we feel make them good players ... It's more about the technique and effort and getting comfortable, timing and all the rest. We don't want them thinking. We want them playing good."
An example of simplicity is Holgorsen prefers his wreceivers playing the same position on the same side of the field so they improve muscle memory, becoming familiar which catching the ball over the same shoulder, etc.
The simplicity also results in more freedom for players like quarterback Geno Smith.
"We make a lot of decisions on the field," Smith said Monday. "He is not one of those coaches that is strict on principle. A lot of it is based on what we see out there out on the field and what we are comfortable with."
Simplicity is a philosophy shared by Holgorsen's mentor, Mike Leach, who led Texas Tech to some of the nation's top passing offenses in the 2000s.
"You can be the smartest guy in the world and make it so intricate that a player is slow to pull the trigger and that's when you hurt yourself," Leach told reporters last month. "Sometimes the smartest minds in football create hesitation and you hurt yourself. People who hesitate are slow."
Morris has spoken of the importance of simplicity, too.
Morris made the play-call language simpler this season and has an easy-to-learn signaling system.
He said this week he has installed just 65 percent of his playbook. Morris said he does not expand his playbook until players master more fundamental aspects.
"We're going to get really good at something," Morris said earlier this year. "You don't trick people -- you line up and you play your style of football, and you get good at what you do."
Breaking it down
Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said West Virginia has three staple components: The zone running game, the screen game and the down-field posts and corners routes. But combating West Virginia's execution, and the speed of their offense, another trait shared at Clemson, is another thing.
Just ask LSU, which allowed 533 total yards to West Virginia in September.
"When you watch tape, as much as 30 days of watching it, it's got to where now some of the plays ... you see them line up and you kind of know, OK, it's the Pittsburgh game, it's on the 43-yard line, it's 3rd and 7, here's the play, you just know," Steele said.