BY AARON BRENNER | email@example.com
CLEMSON — For the past week to 10 days, Chad Morris has gone out for a lunchtime jog, and taken note of the students setting up camp surrounding Memorial Stadium.
On Monday, the lines of tents were replaced by lines of fans waiting eagerly to finally pick up their tickets (perhaps skipping class to do so) continued to impress Clemson’s offensive coordinator.
“It says a lot about our university. Just the excitement that our student body brings, they’re passionate and we love it,” Morris said. “We’re gonna need them rockin’ it Saturday night, and they will be. A lot of excitement – you can feel it in the air.”
No. 5 Georgia visits No. 8 Clemson on Saturday night, in case a reminder was needed. Fall camp has given way to game week, after months of anticipation.
“We’ve been studying off last year’s film, and the players that they have returning from last year, they’ve got some really good young talent,” Morris said. “There’s some players that got significant playing time from last year, just maybe weren’t a starter, we’ve got to be aware of. They’re going to come in, and they’re going to be as prepared as they’ve ever been.”
Morris has been asked many times about Georgia’s unknowns on defense, after losing eight players to the NFL draft.
“They play with such a great passion. They’re very well-coached,” Morris said. “They’re going to disguise their coverages. They’re going to bring pressure, just like everybody else does. They’ve got some young guys that are trying to earn their stripes.”
Gallman, Dye likely to redshirt: Morris was the first interview of the week out of the Clemson locker room, and he seemed more sure than ever that he’d prefer to redshirt both the Tigers’ highly-touted freshman rushers.
“That’s the plan going in, but that can change in a hurry,” Morris said. “We’re extremely excited about what Wayne (Gallman) has done during fall camp. He’s available.”
Gallman and Tyshon Dye started August practices strong, but were inconsistent in scrimmages as the season neared closer. Dye’s been battling a back injury, but even Gallman may have failed in his quest to crack the running rotation.
The only way Morris would see the redshirt being removed – once a first-year player is on the field and the ball is snapped, he loses his redshirt – would be significant injury to one of the top three backs: Roderick McDowell, Zac Brooks or walk-on C.J. Davidson. A series or even a whole game, to Morris, wouldn’t constitute a significant injury.
If Morris does change his mind?
“You and I will know about the same time,” Morris said. “I might may know a little bit earlier than you do, just about a step earlier, that’s about it. There he goes, when I’m the first one sending him in.
“He will be ready to play, I’ll tell you that. But we would like to hold him if we possibly could.”
Rookie wide receivers Mike Williams and T.J. Green are likely to play this season.
Patchwork plans: Since Sam Cooper tore his ACL in the spring game and Jordan Leggett is extremely doubtful for the Georgia game with a knee injury, converted fullback Darrell Smith is the de facto starter at tight end opening the season.
A fifth-year senior whose contributions have largely been through leadership than on-field production, Smith has the trust of his offensive coordinator.
“We feel like Darrell Smith is as good a football player as we’ve got,” Morris said. “He’s physical, he’s got good speed, and really good hands.”
As for Leggett’s status, Morris said “it’s hard to say right now. I don’t think anybody’s ruled that out as of today.” Leggett injured his MCL on Aug. 14, and the initial prognosis was three to four weeks recovery, but he’s been running and cutting in practice.
Morris insisted he’s “not really” concerned with the depth at tight end; Stanton Seckinger and Jay Jay McCullough add healthy options.
“Those guys, hey, they’ve got a scholarship,” Morris said. “They’re going to have to go earn it. We’re asking Darrell Smith, he’s a senior, and this is his time.”
Comeback kids: It’s a little bit unthinkable that Cooper and quarterback Chad Kelly, four and a half months removed from ACL reconstructive surgery, could play in 2013.
Kelly’s return would be a welcome development for Morris, at least to add quarterback depth. He participated in the Tigers’ latest scrimmage Friday.
“For him to be available is remarkable,” Morris said. “Those guys have been working extremely hard, though. They’ve been able to get out there and go through drill work. It says a lot about our training staff, and about Chad and Sam and the dedication they put in this summer.”
Battle backup: Isaiah Battle will be the next man in at offensive tackle, no matter what.
Morris said Battle, who’s listed as left tackle Brandon Thomas’ backup, would still play left tackle is Gifford Timothy went down – in which case Thomas would slide over to right tackle.
Injury report: On Clemson’s official press release, five players are listed as ‘out’ for the Georgia game: Dye (back), Cooper (knee), cornerback Mackensie Alexander (groin), offensive lineman Joe Gore (knee) and defensive tackle Scott Pagano (ankle).
Leggett (knee) and defensive back Jayron Kearse (shoulder) are listed as questionable. Kelly (knee) is probable to dress, though it’s unclear whether he’d get the call if top quarterbacks Tajh Boyd and Cole Stoudt were both unavailable.