CLEMSON — Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris was linked to several job openings the past month, including a head coaching vacancy in his home state at Texas Tech.
Morris, though, said he’s glad to be remaining with the 14th-ranked Tigers and preparing his players to face No. 5 LSU at the Chick-Fil-A Bowl later this month.
“People had me going all over the place,” Morris said. “Everybody had me leaving but me.”
Morris is finishing his second season at Clemson, his offense posting a second straight record-breaking year in points and yards gained. The success brought Morris attention from schools seeking head coaches.
He was connected to searches at North Carolina State and Auburn. The most serious inquiry came from Texas Tech last week when athletic director Kirby Hocutt traveled to South Carolina to meet with Morris.
There were plenty of people at Clemson, the players included, preparing farewells for Morris. Instead, former Texas Tech quarterback Kliff Kingsbury got the job and Morris was back prepping the Tigers’ high-flying offense.
Morris said the attention indicates just how much Clemson’s offense has improved the past two seasons. Still, he was exhausted by the continual speculation and questions from players, media and fans about his future.
“It’s been a week of ups and downs with making sure our players are focused,” Morris said. “That’s our No. 1 objective.”
Morris hopes to fire up an offense that fizzled out its final game, a 27-17 loss to rival South Carolina on Nov. 24. It was the Tigers’ fewest points of the year – they averaged nearly 45 points a game coming in – and were held to just a field goal over the game’s final three quarters. Clemson will face another powerhouse Southeastern Conference defense in LSU (10-2), which is eighth in overall defense and holding opponents to 296 yards a game.
“We have to play physical up front,” Morris said. “That’s where it will start and that’s where it will end.”
Morris, 44, emphasized he wasn’t lobbying for head coaching jobs. He earns $1.3 million a year – the highest-paid assistant in the game – and says he and his family are happy living in Clemson.
He would like to run his own program, but under the right conditions.
Morris said any school he would consider has to have a commitment to winning. He’d also weigh if the community were the right one for himself and his family. Morris said he had a good visit with Texas Tech, but did not feel the school was the right fit for him. Morris spent 16 seasons as a high school coach in Texas before jumping to the college game as Tulsa’s offensive coordinator in 2010. He knows how quickly things can sour for head coaches if teams don’t improve.
“The one thing I do know about this business, you get one shot at it,” Morris said. “And if I’m going to get one shot at it, I’m going to get a shot on my terms.”
Morris said his involvement with the searches at North Carolina State and Auburn were overblown. He was also rumored to be interviewing at South Florida and its vacancy on a day he was in his Clemson office.
“A phone call asking interest and talking over the telephone is not considered an interview, by some standards,” Morris said. “It leaks out that people call, just inquiring and talking. It turns into a full-fledged interview.”
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Morris kept him up-to-date on outside interest, something the Tigers’ coach knew was coming due to offensive success. “You want your coaches to have the chance to advance their careers and help themselves,” Swinney said.
LSU coach Les Miles said what he’s seen from Clemson on film is a team able to step up and make plays at critical moments. “I think you can see it in virtually every game,” he said.
Morris hopes the Tigers’ offense makes the plays it didn’t against South Carolina and regains the unstoppable edge it had most of the season. Morris won’t change his approach to impress potential employers who may come calling down the road.
“I think if you do a good job where you are, opportunities come into play,” he said. “You take care of your job at hand. You invest in the moment. I’ve always invested all I have in the moment.”