Clemson’s happy warrior and Chad Morris’ hidden talent

NORTHWESTERN COMMAND – Listen to any political pundit – Al Hunt, Mark Halperin, whomever – and they say candidates should take on characteristics of a “happy warrior” on the campaign trail. Blend determination with a pleasant, optimistic spirit. That’s the key.

Why is the Clemson offense smashing records this fall like unruly teens smash pumpkins in your subdivision? Chad Morris says it is in part because the program has a happy warrior in Tajh Boyd.

“He’s having fun,” Morris said.

Wouldn’t you if you were totaling 388 yards in a half like Boyd did at Duke en route to ACC weekly honors?

But there were times Morris thought Boyd placed too much pressure on himself, especially late last season. Boyd wasn’t always enjoying the process like Morris wanted. And Morris knows he places extreme pressure on his most important pupil, pressure in the form of expectations, what he demands in attention to detail and time.

“We had a long talk early in the year when we were riding to practice together,” Morris said. “I said ‘Do you feel like you have to be perfect? Sometimes we all feel like we have to be perfect and we don’t have to be. I feel that way sometimes. I have to call the perfect game. But it’s not going to happen. At some point you have to go have fun.’ I think you see Tajh Boyd having fun.”

Maybe that conversation was the most important one we never heard about until Monday. Boyd had a 9-to-9, TD-to-INT ratio over his last six games in 2011. He has a 25-to-9 ratio this season.

Yeah, Tajh Boyd is having fun.

Clemson’s happy warriors


But having fun as a quarterback is tied to strong accurate throws and that begins with excellent footwork.

This is the area were Morris feels Boyd has improved the most under his coaching. Morris said accuracy starts with proper footwork that that is the “foundation” of fan effective throwing motion. Clemson quarterbacks spend several hours just working on footwork every week in practice. And, yes, it can get tedious and monotonous.

We think about misdirection and up-tempo offense when we think about Morris. But perhaps what should be thought of in equal measure is Morris’ attention to detail and quarterback mechanics. He is a self-described technique nerd, especially when it comes to quarterbacks. Boyd has improved in every facet of his game in two years under Morris.

Clemson not only has an elite offensive coordinator in the sense of one who designs an offense and calls plays, but the Tigers have an elite quarterbacks coach who probably doesn’t get enough credit for player development.

The product of the footwork work was seen at Duke when Boyd completed 8 of 11 passes on attempts of 21+ yards. Those completions went for 250 yards.

Boyd has done a better job of setting his rush points, of resetting his feet when necessary on throws especially when throwing on the move. Morris deserves much credit here.

“He’s extremely accurate on his deep ball,” Morris said. “We work on that a lot. He’s confident in what he’s doing.”

Morris thinks the confidence with footwork has carried over to the running game.

“I told him you actually look fast. He said ‘I am fast.’ I said ‘I don’t know about that.’ I think it is more confidence than anything.”

The technique leads to a quarterback having fun, a quarterback having more confidence a quarterback wanting to put more time in to have more success.

It leads to Boyd being something of a happy football warrior in this campaign of 2012.

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