CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) – Chad Morris says he’s exactly where he wants to be in his fourth season as Clemson’s offensive coordinator.
Morris figured to be the next offensive star leaving campus after receiver Sammy Watkins and quarterback Tajh Boyd when the coordinator’s name was linked to several high-profile head-coaching vacancies for a second-straight year.
Instead, Morris said he passed on those opportunities because of his satisfaction since joining the Tigers after the 2010 season.
Morris, a successful high school coach in Texas, spoke with Texas Tech in 2012 before the Red Raiders hired Kliff Kingsbury. Morris’ name was also involved in openings at North Carolina State that year and Louisville and Vanderbilt this most recent offseason.
“There’s been a few along the way, but they haven’t been it,” Morris said this week. “The thing that we have is the family atmosphere and my family loves it here.”
Morris’ players have certainly excelled on the field, surpassing 40 points and 500 yards a game for the second consecutive season. Much of that was fueled by Watkins and Boyd. Watkins caught 27 touchdowns the past three seasons, all of them thrown by Boyd.
The high-flying offense helped the Tigers go 32-8 since 2011, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference title three years back and defeating Ohio State in the Orange Bowl in January for the school’s first Bowl Championship Series victory.
Morris was chosen the American Football Coaches Association’s national assistant of the year last season. And with Watkins – a junior taken No. 4 overall by Buffalo in May’s NFL draft – and Boyd off to the NFL and Clemson’s offense breaking in new playmakers, it seemed like the perfect time for Morris to cash in on his strong three seasons with the Tigers and move on.
Not to Morris’ way of thinking, who says he’s seeking the right fit before leaving.
“People look at me like I’ve got three eyes when I tell them I don’t want my first one to be my last one,” Morris said. “If I do leave, I want everybody to sit here and say, ‘Wow. Thanks. We wish you the best. Can’t blame you.'”
Few would blame Morris for staying. He’s in the third season of a six-year contract that pays him $1.3 million a year, a salary that in 2013 would’ve ranked him ahead of coaches at power conferences like Indiana and Minnesota of the Big Ten and Rutgers, which left the American Athletic Conference for the Big Ten after last season.
Morris had been the game’s highest-paid assistant, but was passed this year by Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, who’ll make $1.35 million this fall.
“He’s not eager to leave Clemson,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said. “He loves it here and he’s had a really good gig.”
For Morris, this year’s about continuing Clemson’s success with a new group of players who’ve waited for their turn behind Watkins, Boyd and other stars during this three-year run.
Senior Cole Stoudt won the starting job at quarterback out of spring practice, but mid-year enrollee Deshaun Watson will play when the Tigers open at Georgia on August 30th, Morris says.
Junior Charone Peake, considered Watkins’ equal at receiver when both came in as freshmen in 2011, is returning from injury and is expected to get the chance to be Clemson’s big-play wideout. Mike Williams, a freshman last fall, will also be counted on to make up for the loss of Watkins and Martavis Bryant at that position, Morris said.
While grateful that Clemson’s defense should be better than it has behind returning senior defensive ends Vic Beasley and Corey Crawford, Morris won’t let his guys slack off from what they’ve done the past few years.
“I’m going to be very disappointed in our guys if we’re not one of the top offenses in the country,” Morris said. “That’s our expectation. That’s what we do.”