Clemson’s offense is rolling. Tajh Boyd has thrown five touchdowns in each of the past two weeks. The Tigers put up 56 points on Duke last week, blasting the Blue Devils early and often. Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris graciously took the time to answer five questions heading into Saturday’s matchup against Maryland in Death Valley.
Looking at film of this Maryland defense, what stands out to you, and what’s the big focus for your offense heading into this week?
The biggest thing that stands out to me is the fact that their scheme is very sound. It’s obvious that they believe in what they’re doing, they’re playing exceptionally hard. Their defensive front is fast and strong. That’s the biggest thing. This year, they’re the 11th-ranked defense in the country, and it’s how hard those guys play. There’s no question about that. There’s no doubt that there’s a huge difference between this year and last year.
The biggest thing we talk about is remaining the Clemson Tigers. Obviously they’re a great defense, but we need to play our game and keep doing what we do. It’s huge. They’re going to do what they do. They’re not going to change their defensive scheme because they’re playing us, and we’re not going to change our offensive scheme because we’re playing them. This late in the season, it’s about execution.
Maryland figures to devote plenty of time this week to scheming against the pass and stopping quarterback Tajh Boyd. What have you seen from the Terps secondary on film?
They do a good of mixing their coverages. They bring a lot of pressure on second down. You see them playing with a lot of confidence on the edge, and they’ll play some coverage behind it. They’re making plays when they’re asked to. They’re not giving up the big play
Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney joked on the ACC teleconference that Maryland defensive lineman Joe Vellano had been around for 10 years. Does it feel like that to you too?
(Laughter) He’s a very good ballplayer. Very strong, got a lot of respect for him. Those guys have 25 sacks on the year, and they really are disruptive.
How big of a blow is it for the Terps to lose linebacker Demetrius Harstfield [pictured at left], and what do you remember about what L.A. Goree did against Clemson last season?
He had a really good game against us. It’s a shame because Hartsfield’s a really good football player, and it’s a shame being a senior and having that happen too. Obviously that’s a tough blow on anybody. Leading the team in tackles, but as they’ve done all year, they’ve been struck by the injuries throughout the season, they’re resilient. They bounce back. Somebody’s going to step in there and do a great job.
Just how impressed have you been with Boyd’s play this season?
Tajh has played really well. He’s playing with a lot of confidence, and he’s that veteran player. That’s the thing that really impresses you about him. He’s done a great job the second year in the system. Tajh Boyd is the leader of this football team, and not just the offense. He’s the leader of this football team, and he’s earned that through his play, through his work ethic. Guys have great respect for him.
I think a lot’s coming together, and I think his confidence level is at an all-time high. It’s just his work ethic and comfort. The more you’re in something, the more you do it, the more confidence you have in the game.
Protecting Tajh should be a heavy focus, especially given Maryland’s blitz schemes. How confident have you been in your offensive line, and how do you think they’ll hold up Saturday?
Our guys, they’ve played well this year. They’re not quite as consistent as we’ve wanted them to be, but a lot of that happened to do with the fact that we don’t have as much competition as we should. We have a lot of good, young guys behind them, but they’re just not ready yet. We don’t have quite the competition that maybe we do at other positions. Maryland will provide a great challenge for us and for our guys. Our big thing this week has been consistency.