SCHUYLER DIXON, AP Sports Writer
DALLAS (AP) — Chad Morris knew he wanted the SMU job the minute it opened.
Maybe it was because Clemson’s offensive coordinator from the past four seasons is a Dallas native. Or maybe because he used to ride school buses to old Texas Stadium and watch the Mustangs play when he was growing up.
“This is the opportunity I thought, ‘This is it,'” Morris said Monday at an introductory news conference on campus, surrounded in a rotunda by administrators, players and SMU’s Hall of Fame basketball coach, Larry Brown. “This could be the one.”
The 45-year-old Morris spent 16 years as a high school in Texas, going 32-0 and winning consecutive state championship at Lake Travis in the Austin area before going to Tulsa as offensive coordinator.
He spent the last four seasons at Clemson, helping the Tigers to a 41-11 record, the 2011 ACC championship and four bowl berths with an up-tempo spread offense that previously produced some of the top high school quarterbacks in Texas.
“I’ve learned over my career every place is different and here the connection to Texas high school is more important than anywhere else I’ve ever been,” SMU athletic director Rick Hart said. “It was certainly something we were looking for.”
Morris has a major rebuilding job in front of him, with the Mustangs (0-11) a loss at Connecticut away from their second winless season since 2003. While June Jones quickly turned SMU into a bowl team, he quit two weeks into this season with the program in disarray again.
“You’re going to see an exciting brand of football,” said Morris, whose high school record as a head coach was 169-38 at five schools. “We’re going to be one of the biggest turnarounds in college football before this is over with. But it’s going to take a lot of work.”
Morris coached former SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert at Lake Travis, and 2012 ACC Player of the Year Tajh Boyd at Clemson. The Tigers have had the top three scoring seasons in school history since Morris arrived.
Finding a quarterback will be Morris’ first priority. The Mustangs have had four different starters this season in Garrett Krstich, Matt Davis, Neal Burcham and Kolney Cassel.
“That’s top on our list in recruiting,” Morris said. “That’s top on our list in development in the spring. And that’ll be the same thing next year as we talk.”
Morris graduated from Texas A&M in 1992, the same he started his high school coaching career at tiny Eustace, about 60 miles southeast of Dallas.