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Summer Stock: Clemson Tigers

The numbers say that the Tigers have the potential to join nation's elite in 2011

Originally Published: May 30, 2011
By LaRue Cook | ESPN Insider

This article is part of our Summer Stock series, a three-week look at the programs generating the most buzz coming out of spring practice.

Clemson Tigers

When Dabo Swinney hired Chad Morris this offseason, his sole intention was to speed up a sputtering Clemson offense. Surprisingly, the first move the new coordinator made was to slow the Tigers down.

"After talking with the kids and coaches, I realized the problem last year was they had so many plays they couldn't practice them all," says Morris, who spent his entire career at the high school level in Texas before parlaying one season with the Tulsa Golden Hurricane into a BCS job. "The offense never became good at anything because they were trying to run everything. That's not what I'm about."

Spring practice started with just two running options. Five weeks later, leading up to the Orange and White game, two more were finally unveiled. That was it. Morris estimates he opened 60 percent of the new playbook for first-time starting quarterback Tajh Boyd.

"That was great for us," says Boyd, a redshirt sophomore who will replace two-year starter Kyle Parker following a disappointing 6-7 season in Death Valley. "From an execution standpoint, we had a very productive spring. I was able to work with Coach Morris a lot on my footwork and mechanics instead of worrying about so many plays to learn. We could take a screen pass and run it until we got it right."

Not much went right for Clemson last year. The Tigers took a step forward in 2009 with an ACC title game appearance and their first bowl win in three seasons. After a three-point, overtime loss to eventual champ Auburn, they took a step back. Swinney's squad lost six of its final 10 games, finishing .500 in the conference.

But according to some key numbers, Clemson actually played better than its record indicates last season -- and they are among a group of teams in position to contend for a national title.

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