7 at 7: Mike Williams pushing Martavis Bryant for playing time, Danny Ford reflects on Bill McLellan, and what Syracuse defense does well

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@postandcourier.com
@Aaron_Brenner | Tiger Tracks on Facebook

CLEMSON – Typical Chad Morris: he’s at the point of expecting to be asked what went wrong after a 49-point victory, because elite is never enough.

Quite simply, Morris said in his weekly Monday sitdown with reporters, “There’s plenty to get better. We’re not going to spend the day patting them on the back.”

Among the complaints Clemson’s offensive coordinator had for his No. 16-rated scoring offense: “We’ve got to get cleared up in our run game. We had some snap issues. We gave up two sacks just by being soft, entirely too soft and not playing with technique. Our technique has got to get better on the offensive line. We’re going to keep pressing those guys. We had three drops.”

Seven more snippets from Monday interviews with Morris and a few others players. Left guard Kalon Davis is an interesting guy off the field, by the way: I’ll save a special 7-at-7 for him later in the week.

1) Well, let’s start with an update related to Davis: he’s listed as the co-starter at left guard along with incumbent David Beasley, hassled by an ankle injury. Right tackle also remains muddled between Gifford Timothy and Shaq Anthony.

“I wish I could tell you, maybe somebody will want to take the job and run with it,” Morris said. “We think we’ve got an idea. We think we’ve got a pinpoint on it.”

Martavis Bryant2) Those aren’t the only position battles on offense. Probably the most interesting two-man tussle is going on at the ‘9’ receiver, pitting long threats Martavis Bryant and Mike Williams against each other.

Bryant’s the presumed guy, with Williams getting some reserve time here and there. But Morris made some pretty intriguing comments on those two guys Monday.

“That position for us really needs to come on, really needs to earn the trust of our quarterback,” Morris said. “I don’t think our quarterback has had the trust in that position the first couple of weeks.”

Couldn’t let Morris go on that. I asked him how come.

“Just being inconsistent blocking, inconsistent route-running,” Morris said. “That’s a position you have to be consistent and have the confidence of your quarterback. I think we took a big step in that direction this week.”

Morris acknowledged that neither Bryant nor Williams was expected to step right in and make everybody forget about DeAndre Hopkins. But this is a real practice conflict to monitor.

“I think Martavis needs it, and I think Mike needs it,” Morris said. “They’re pushing each other pretty hard.”

3) Some pretty good insight on Syracuse’s defense from Morris. The Orange allow 337.8 yards per game, about nine less than Clemson’s defensive average, and both defenses have forced nine turnovers on the year.

“They play extremely hard. They love to bring one more than you got. If they could blitz 12, they’d blitz 12,” Morris said. “They’re very confident in their system. Their main objective is to try to disrupt the quarterback by bringing pressure from every angle possible.

“This is probably the biggest pressure team that we’ve faced maybe since I’ve been here.”

Added center Ryan Norton, after reviewing Syracuse film: “We saw a lot of house blitzes. Good thing we have ‘hot’ passes; we can get the ball out if we need to. I feel like we can handle it.”

Happy and healthy once again, D.J. Howard jumps back into RB rotation

4) Hope you noticed that D.J. Howard’s 75-yard catch-and-run wasn’t all Howard, though he did put a pretty spiffy move on the Wake Forest safety.

His spring was sprung by Sammy Watkins and Adam Humphries, who were noted Saturday for their 11 catches and 180 yards, easily throwing blocks on their men.

“I’ve been pretty critical on our wide receivers. I think I’ve got to compliment those guys, because we played as physical of a game at our wide receiver position as we’ve played this year,” Morris said. “It can’t be a one-hit wonder. We’ve got to put a string of games together that these guys are going to continue to get better blocking out on the edge.”

5) We shift gears for the moment, providing another quote from Danny Ford on the day of the passing of former Clemson athletic director Bill McLellan, who hired Ford and oversaw growth in the Tigers’ facilities and women’s programs:

“He was very supportive. He gave you what you needed to be successful. He had an incredible ability to get things done,” Ford said. “When he came to me about building the North side upper deck at Death Valley, I told him not to do it. It was too risky because of the high interest rates at the time.

“But he found a way to get it accomplished. He was way ahead of his time when it came to facilities.”

Scrumptious anecdote from Ford. That North upper deck was renamed in May in McLellan’s honor.



6) Morris petitioned head coach Dabo Swinney to let Tajh Boyd play deeper into the ballgame against Wake Forest, despite a comfortable lead.

“I was trying my best to get him all the way up to the fourth quarter,” Morris said, citing Boyd’s previous grumblings about losing his rhythm after the Georgia opener.

After Boyd finished a strong third-quarter drive for a 42-7 lead, Swinney chose to give Cole Stoudt the reps while playing behind the first-string offensive line. Morris said yessir, and Stoudt led two more touchdown drives while completing 10-of-11 passes.

“Cole was just smooth, he was complete,” Morris said. “He operated with that first offensive line, which was good to see.”

7) And finally, the explanation given by linebacker Stephone Anthony, a man of few words (but those words are usually colorful), on why Clemson’s been so tenacious stopping opponents on third down (25.8 percent conversions, 10th best in the country):

“Everybody’s trying to get off the field,” Anthony said. “Nobody wants a long, extended drive. We’re just trying to get off.”

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