CLEMSON — At Duke last week, Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd took a shotgun snap and calmly shuffled up in the pocket and around pressure in textbook fashion. He set his feet and launched a 35-yard touchdown pass to Sammy Watkins in the second quarter. Onlookers were likely most impressed with the velocity and accuracy of the pass. Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris was most impressed with Boyd’s feet.
Boyd threw 11 passes that traveled 21 yards or more in the air against Duke. He completed eight of them for 285 yards and four touchdowns. It was the most productive downfield passing game of Boyd’s career. And while analysts and fans praise Boyd’s “arm” Morris said the accuracy and velocity of his throws begins with Boyd’s base.
Accuracy as the product of proper footwork will again be key today as Maryland (4-5, 2-3 ACC) will bring pressure and mix coverages with 11th ranked defense at No. 10 Clemson (8-1, 5-1) at 3:30 p.m. today.
“It’s like building a house, (footwork) is the foundation,” Morris said. “The thing I was most impressed with (at Duke) was his footwork in the pocket. He did a good job of setting his rush point and being able to step up in the pocket, allowing routes to open up and then put a lot of velocity on the ball. “The 35-yard pass to (Watkins), it was about head high, and it had some smoke coming off of it.”
When you think about Morris you probably associate the Clemson coordinator with his up-tempo and misdirection philosophy. But Morris considers himself more than just a disciple of the Gus Malzhan tree of offensive thought.
Morris considers him a “technique freak.”
And no quarterbacking technique gets more attention every week in practice than footwork.
Morris said Clemson quarterbacks will do 25 minutes of nothing but footwork on a Monday practice. They will begin with at least another 10 minutes of footwork on Tuesday and again on Wednesday.
And in no area has Boyd improved more than in regard to his footwork, said Morris.
Boyd’s completion percentage is up from 59.7 percent last season to 67.8 this season in large part due to improved footwork.
“Footwork leads to accuracy,” Boyd said. “There are throws you make without feet sometimes across the body but those are really low-percentage throws. We stress footwork so much in practice it’s not even funny. Sometimes it’s all footwork and we don’t even throw a football.
“All these things, when you get in a game, it becomes second nature.”
To Morris it about repetition after repetition in practice leading to muscle memory and 35-yard laser-beam TD passes on gameday.
“Those guys that make those throws are confident with it,” Morris said. “I think you see it with (Boyd). Like I told him today, over these final 19 days, this team will go as we go as a quarterback group.”
Note: Clemson will honor Darryl Hill before today’s game. The former Maryland receiver was the first black player in the ACC, and became the first black player to play in Memorial Stadium in 1963.