Clemson Targets Improvement with Auburn Coming to Town

By: Kim Allen Email
By: Kim Allen Email

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) -- Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris
thinks the Tigers must get nastier, a whole lot nastier, if they hope to succeed this season.

Morris says he can't go forward in installing his fast-paced attack until his players pick up their intensity and start pushing people around a lot harder than they had so far in wins over Troy and Wofford.

"We need a nasty, rugged, rough approach," the first-year coordinator said Monday.

Morris, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and the rest of the assistants will try and get that that done before Saturday when the defending national champions, No. 21 Auburn, come to Death Valley. But unless Clemson plays with a knock-down, physical nature, Morris said he can't add to the offense he was brought in last January to run.

Right now, Morris sees a group where the offensive techniques he's teaching are not yet second nature, meaning there's too much thinking and not enough pounding.

"When you think on the field, it takes aggressiveness out," Morris said. "We can't think and play."

At least not with the kind of power and passion Morris wants. He says the problems are across the board: Offensive linemen aren't pancaking enough defenders, running backs are cutting down
linebackers and receivers don't put enough defensive backs on the

Those problems were evident last weekend in a 35-27 victory over
the Terriers of the Football Championship Subdivision. The Tigers
improved to 25-0 all-time against FCS opponents, but hadn't allowed
one of the former Division I-AA programs to get within 10 points of
them until this past Saturday.

Sophomore quarterback Tajh Boyd threw three touchdowns and ran
for the go-ahead score. Wofford, though, broke on top first, stayed
in front until the third quarter and was driving for the tying touchdown when it was stopped on fourth-and-short with 3:30 remaining.

The offense was stopped on fourth-and-1 by Wofford on the first
series and gave up four sacks to the much-smaller Terriers. The problems weren't just on offense.

Clemson's defense gave up passes of 66 and 61 yards -- the only two throws Wofford completed all day -- and 299 yards rushing, more than in any game last season. The Tigers special teams gave up 28 yards on a fake punt that kept a Wofford drive going and failed on their own fake field goal attempt.

"We have a lot of work to do," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "All you can do is measure where you are. We are a little bit of a work in progress, and that's probably how it's going to be for a little bit. But we are very capable."

Defensive lineman Rennie Moore said the problems are little mistakes that are easily correctible this week in practice.

"Missed tackles. We know how to tackle. Missed assignments. We
know our assignments," he said. "Once we take care of that, we're
going to bring it like we're supposed to against Auburn. That's where our focus is now."

Auburn hasn't lost since the 2009 season, opening this year with
nail-biting victories over Utah State and Mississippi State. Tigers
defensive end Dee Ford said the wins have filled the team with
confidence and belief in themselves and their coaches.

"Don't listen to (any) outside distractions, because, you know, of course the whole world said we couldn't do it," Ford said.

Morris hopes Clemson find the same tenacity to succeed as Auburn. He acknowledged it's not the easiest thing to instill nastiness in players that don't relish hitting and physical play.

Morris thinks, with the Tigers, it's more frustration because things
haven't come together more quickly. Clemson also struggled offensively in its opener with Troy, trailing 16-13 at the half and hearing some boos from fans as the players left the field at intermission.

The Tigers found their stride the final two quarters, pulling away for a 43-19 win over the five-time defending Sun Belt Conference champions. Clemson again rallied after halftime in beating Wofford,
although the team struggled to finish off the Southern Conference
co-champion Terriers.

For Morris, that likely means more hitting at practice to toughen up the team for a critical three-game stretch. After Auburn comes No. 5 Florida State at home before a visit to No. 13 Virginia Tech.

Morris understands the urgency of improving after Clemson went
6-7 in 2010, its first losing season in 12 years. The solution won't happen overnight, he said.

"There's no magic potion. There's nothing I can sit here and tell everybody that's going to sprinkle an automatic fix on it," Morris said. "It's hard work. It's pull yourself up, gird your belt up and lets go to work."

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