How much faster can Clemson offense get?

August, 14, 2012
8/14/12
1:00
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Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris has repeated all summer that he wants his offense to play even faster.

But wait a minute. The Tigers ranked No. 2 in the nation last year in total plays behind Houston, with 1,055. Not fast enough?

Nope.

[+] EnlargeTajh Boyd
Bob Donnan/US PresswireThe key to Clemson's new up-tempo offense this season will be quarterback Tajh Boyd.
Morris wants there to be no wasted time on the field this season. That means getting to the line faster, snapping the ball faster, making decisions faster. That means knowing the offense much better in Year 2 of his hurry-up spread system. If he can squeeze out four-to-five more snaps a game to get up to an average of 86 plays from 81 last year, Morris will be a very happy man.

"I feel like there are so many plays we left out there," Morris said in a recent phone interview. "It might have been the way we were moving from one play to another, maybe somebody was walking and not carrying the tempo. So we could definitely improve from that standpoint. The second thing is to make sure we keep pressing. With another year underneath their belt, knowing what to expect of me and this offense, there is no question we can be faster from a knowledge standpoint."

Much, if not all, of this plan starts with quarterback Tajh Boyd, who had his share of highs and his share of lows last season. Boyd surged onto the national scene after Clemson started the season 8-0 and even got some Heisman love. But the second half of his season was not nearly as good as his first, as he threw nine interceptions in his final six games.

This summer, Boyd immersed himself in the film room, studying himself and the offense in order to get a better grasp of what he needs to do to make the unit even better. He also got down to his playing weight of 220, after gaining 12 pounds during the season.

"Last season, I was trying to memorize the offense instead of knowing the offense," Boyd said in a phone interview. "As you get older, you get wiser and you start to know it like the back of your hand. Now, being in the second year in the offense and going into it in the fall, things are just moving a lot quicker for me. In my mind, I know the offense can only get better."

Boyd is not the only one who returns to the offense. Seven total starters are back, including top playmakers Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Ellington. Coach Dabo Swinney has said Ellington looks better than he ever has before, because he is completely healthy.

Watkins and Hopkins combined for over 2,000 yards receiving last season, and more will be expected this year. Though Watkins is suspended for the first two games of the season, one receiver that has really stood out in the early going has been Charone Peake, one of the fastest players on the team. Morris says, "He's playing with a lot of great confidence right now."

The offensive line remains a work in progress. There has been one significant injury so far, to tackle Gifford Timothy, though Swinney is hopeful he will be back for the season opener. The Tigers will have three new starters up front, so squaring away those positions during camp is of paramount importance.

Because the Tigers have plenty of talent and depth at the skill positions, which should only help them ratchet up the speed.

"We have some of the best playmakers in the country at Clemson," Boyd said. "If we execute the system, the only thing that truly stops us is ourselves."

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