CLEMSON — He has not yet printed up T-shirts, but Frank Beamer is part of the Chad Morris fan club. The veteran Virginia Tech coach becomes nostalgic when watching the Clemson offense, thinking about his roots as a high school coach. It is an offense he will meet at noon Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
“I like what Clemson does,” Beamer told reporters this week, “(The offense) is going back to high school playing against Narrows (Va.) and Giles County, the Wing-T offense.”
The Morris offense has heavy Wing-T elements. The philosophy borrows from a number of offenses, but it is operated at a speed rarely seen in the history of the game. Still, not every coach is enamored with the no-huddle, up-tempo philosophies employed by Clemson and other programs like Oregon, West Virginia and Oklahoma State.
It is particularly loathed by defensive coaches who must play or practice against the schemes. Some powerful voices in college football questioned whether such offenses are good for the game.
Earlier this month, Alabama coach Nick Saban wondered aloud if Morris-like offenses should be slowed.
“I think the way people are going no-huddle right now, that at some point in time, we should look at how fast we allow the game to go in terms of player safety,” Saban said. “The team gets in the same formation group. You can’t substitute defensive players. You go on a 14-, 16- or 18-play drive and they’re snapping the ball as fast as you can go.”
Saban, who has a defensive background and runs more traditional pro-style systems, is troubled by trajectory of offensive production.
The number of teams which have run at least 1,000 offensive plays in a season is on track to increase to a fourth straight year this fall.
“I think that’s something that can be looked at,” Saban said. “It’s obviously created a tremendous advantage for the offense when teams are scoring 70 points … More and more people are going to do it. … I just think there’s got to be some sense of fairness in terms of asking: Is this what we want football to be?”
Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster called Clemson a “booger” to prepare for this week.
As even talented defenses like Florida State this season, and Virginia Tech last season, struggled to slow the Clemson offense, perhaps it is rules changes that are the biggest threat to slowing up-tempo, no-huddle philosophies.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney defended his team’s style of play.
“I don’t agree with (Saban),” Swinney said. “We have a play clock, and if you look at us, we substitute all the time. We play fast, but we’re constantly changing personnel, constantly multiple formations and shifts and personnel groupings.”
Swinney said the offenses are good for the game.
“What I think is great about college football is you have so much variety,” Swinney said. “It’s not the same every week. There’s 120 something Division I teams. The NFL has 32 teams. They recycle the coaches and players. It’s basically the same thing and that’s fine. It’s a different type of game. But in college football, you see a little bit of everything.
“People have to be creative because sometimes you’re at a huge disadvantage from a talent standpoint. It’s fun to see the creativity that you have in college football, in my opinion. I think it’s great.”