BY AARON BRENNER
CLEMSON – Every time a college football job comes open, Chad Morris’ name is mentioned, at least on social media and sometimes in published reports.
Whether it’s the head coach at Louisville, offensive coordinator at Alabama, or the team caterer at UTEP (OK, not really), Morris remains one of the hottest names in coaching.
Clemson’s offensive coordinator for the past three years, Morris’ revised contract two years ago dictates he is free to leave without owing Clemson a dime if he takes a head coaching position elsewhere.
But Morris, the nation’s highest-paid assistant at $1.3 million and signed through the 2017 season, would be responsible for buying out Clemson for $5.2 million should he take an assistant job elsewhere. (In other words: Alabama can start passing the hat, or keep dreaming.)
The same day Louisville officially introduced Bobby Petrino, Vanderbilt coach James Franklin reportedly departed for Penn State, leaving yet another vacancy potentially linked to Morris.
So when Dabo Swinney was asked by WCCP’s Roy Philpott if he expected his entire staff in tact for the 2014 season, Swinney chuckled.
“Yeah, I do. But ask me again tomorrow,” Swinney said. “I expect everybody to be back. Chad loves it here. But we have a lot of very, very good coaches here.
“Every year, as the coaching carousel comes about, we’re always going to have coaches who are candidates for other positions, and that’s just part of it.”
Swinney acknowledged he does hear from other coaches who want permission to interview his field generals, but wouldn’t say specifically if he’s received any feedback in the past week on Morris.
“There’s no surprises or anything like that,” Swinney said.
They’re here: There is one notable guy Swinney knows will be on his sideline in 2014.
“Man, I’ve never been so happy to see a guy’s name on the roster in my life than DeShaun Watson,” Swinney told WCCP. “That’s been the longest two-and-a-half year recruiting process ever. That’s what you handle when you have a guy that commits as a sophomore and he’s a great player.”
Watson, the top-rated quarterback prospect in the country, has enrolled in courses at Clemson, meaning even though he cannot sign his national letter of intent until Feb. 5, he’d be bound by the same usual transfer rules and consequences (sitting a year out, potential blocks to certain schools) as he will after that time.
That’s neither here nor there to Clemson coaches, who are excited to see Watson and a few fellow recruits suit up for spring practice.
Swinney said he’ll have a Thursday afternoon meeting with six early enrollees – five scholarship players, plus a former minor-leaguer in the Braves’ organization named Kurt Fleming.
The five players who signed their financial aid agreements in November and will participate in spring drills are Watson, receivers Demarre Kitt, Artavis Scott and Kyrin Priester, and linebacker Chris Register.
Two QBs? With quarterback Tajh Boyd’s replacement yet to be determined, Swinney isn’t opposed to making that ‘successor’ plural, as in a 2-QB system.
“Oh, yeah, absolutely. Some people say, well, if you don’t have one quarterback, you don’t have a quarterback. That’s the craziest thing ever,” Swinney said. “That’s like saying if you got Joe Montana, Steve Young and Tom Brady all on the same team, you don’t have a quarterback.”
The comparison of rising senior Cole Stoudt, sophomore Chad Kelly and Watson to three men with each at least three Super Bowl rings might be a stretch.
But still, game on, starting now.
“When you’ve got three great players, everything counts,” Swinney said. “On the field, off the field, everything goes into that calculation of who you’re going to run out there as the starter, because it means something.
“But if we don’t have a clear-cut, then absolutely we would be open to playing a couple guys and playing to their strengths,” Swinney continued. “I think we’ve got three guys more than capable of being the starting quarterback from a talent standpoint. So we’ll let the cards fall where they are and challenge them in every regard. I don’t have any doubt somebody’s going to (emerge) as a very ready guy.”