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Orange Bowl: Clemson coordinator keen on Holgorsen

January 1, 2012
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

HARBOR BEACH, Fla. -- A day after West Virginia confirmed starting running back Dustin Garrison will miss the Orange Bowl with a knee injury, Coach Dana Holgorsen commented through the game's organizers Saturday that the Mountaineers will move on without the freshman.

"It's an unfortunate situation for Dustin, but it is one that we will have to deal with as a team," Holgorsen said in a press release. "It is not something that we are unfamiliar with as we have had to deal with adversity all season long.

"This marks our third key player out for the bowl game with a knee injury, but I expect our team to maintain its focus as we prepare for Clemson."

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The Mountaineers will also play the Tigers without starting safety Terence Garvin and backup nose guard Josh Taylor.

Garrison, from Pearland, Texas, sprained the anterior cruciate ligament and the medial collateral ligament in his left knee during Friday's practice. He led the team in rushing with 742 yards and added six touchdowns on 136 carries during the regular season.

Only defensive players were available for interviews at the Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa Saturday, but those Mountaineers were under the impression Garrison suffered a non-contact injury.

"Garrison is a good guy, a true freshman who had a great season, and we just feel bad for him," said senior defensive end Bruce Irvin. "We didn't get to see the incident - we were with the defense on the other side of the field - but we heard about it. It's an unfortunate situation."

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Clemson first-year offensive coordinator Chad Morris has only been coaching college football for two seasons now. A year ago, he was at Tulsa, but spent the previous 16 years coaching at the high school level in Texas.

Morris won 82 percent of his games and three state titles - two with Lake Travis and one with Bay City. Morris went 169-38 and won a coach of the year award 11 times. Lake Travis was 16-0 in 2008 and 2009 and ranked No. 2 by USA Today in 2008 and No. 9 the year after.

It was in Texas where he first met WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen, who spent the first 10 years of his 12-year coaching career at the Division I level in Texas at Texas Tech (2000-07) and Houston (2008-09). They coached against one another in 2010 and Oklahoma State beat Tulsa.

"I had met Dana at a couple clinics down in College Station at the Lone Star Clinic," Morris said. "I met him there and listened to him speak. Obviously his time at the University of Houston they'd recruit in our areas. And then when he moved on to Oklahoma State, we played against him when I was at Tulsa.

"I know he's a very sharp-minded football coach on the cutting edge, and that's always great to see, how he grows his offense. They definitely have those guys going. As a high school coach in state of Texas, that is one of the guys that you always looked at, and again, always on the cutting edge of things."

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Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins made the Associated Press first-team All-America squad as a freshman this season, but missed one game and was limited in another late in the schedule with a right shoulder injury.

He missed the team's loss to North Carolina State and wasn't himself a week later in the regular-season finale against South Carolina, but caught five passes for 80 yards and a touchdown in the ACC Championship Game against Virginia Tech.

"Sammy's shoulder is good," Morris said. "I know he took a pretty good hit in practice the other day on a pass and hopped right up and away he went. If his shoulder was bothering him, he would have definitely been limited from that point. But I think you've got him back healthy, and that's always good to have."

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Watkins set a variety of school and conference receiving and all-purpose records in his first season of college football and finished with 77 receptions for 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Tigers knew he'd be special even before he came to campus.

"The first plane that I was on was to Fort Myers to make sure that we were able to keep Sammy and at least let Sammy understand what we were going to be about, what kind of offense we were going to run," Morris said.

"I remember sitting in his living room and talking to him and sharing with him, 'Hey, look, we're going to throw the football deep and we're going to get the ball in your hands. How fast you grasp this offense will be determined by you and how well you come in prepared.'"

Quarterback Tajh Boyd remembered the first time he got together with his receivers in a summer workout

"I said run a post route and I threw and thought, 'Ah, hell, I overthrew it,'" Boyd said. "But his turnover was so ridiculous that he ran under it and caught it."

When Boyd and Morris were finally allowed to talk before the start of preseason practice, Boyd couldn't stop gushing about Watkins

"It took about five minutes in the first day of practice to realize I needed to figure out how to keep it simple and get him the football," Morris said.