This week, Chad Morris likened Tajh Boyd’s mobility last year against South Carolina to that of a “concrete deer.”
Perhaps that’s a typical Texan way, comparing a quarterback’s sitting-target status to the mobility of a concrete lawn ornament.
Boyd paid for his lack of scrambling ability last year when his 6-1 frame had ballooned to 240 pounds late in the season. South Carolina, knowing Boyd wasn’t a running threat, zeroed in with its strong pass rush and sacked the Clemson quarterback five times. Boyd completed just 11 of 29 passes for 83 yards. It was the worst performance in his 25 career starts.
The Clemson offensive coordinator wasn’t trying to entertain reporters by contrasting this year’s Boyd with last year’s concrete-deer version, he was illustrating a broader point: Morris said this is a different Clemson offense than the one that lost a third straight game to USC last year, mostly because it has a different kind of quarterback.
“I think you had a quarterback that wasn’t running the ball very effectively. He was just a sitting target,” Morris said “In the later part of the year, when he wasn’t playing his best ball he had lost his fundamentals, his technique.
“It’s very unfair to compare this year’s (offense) to last year’s.”
Last season, Boyd was a one-dimensional quarterback, now he offers a dual threat.
Boyd shed 25 pounds in the offseason. He has kept to a strict diet throughout the season and as a result has kept his mobility up and his weight down, culminating with a career-best 103-yard rushing effort last week against N.C. State.
The Gamecocks have had little reason to fear the Clemson rushing attack as the Tigers have combined for just 179 rushing yards total during the three-game losing streak, a telling statistic.
The biggest threat to the Clemson offense is again the South Carolina defensive front, but unlike a year ago the Gamecocks will not face a pass-only threat at quarterback, which could create some hesitancy in the pass rush and help Clemson convert short-yardage situations.
“I think my mobility has helped out,” Boyd said. “I think last year a lot of those sacks (vs. South Carolina) were credited to me. … There are going to be opportunities for me to run the ball and I have to take advantage.”
Boyd rushed 142 times last season for 218 yards. He’s rushed 140 times this season for 466 yards.
Boyd is a different quarterback. He is the kind of dual-threat quarterback that plagued Clemson’s defense last year, including its loss against South Carolina.
“(Connor Shaw) was probably the difference in the game,” Swinney said. “He is a good scrambler, he has a good feel for the pocket and can make the throws.”
Clemson hasn’t faced many run-pass threat quarterbacks this season. The one quality double-threat quarterback Clemson did face, E.J. Manuel, totaled 482 yards against Brent Venables’ defense in Clemson’s only loss earlier this year.
“Whatever plan we used against Manuel, we don’t want to use that one this week,” Venables said. “You look around college football and the NFL, guys that aren’t one-dimensional — they aren’t just runners, that aren’t just throwers — when guys can do both it makes it much more difficult, much more stressful.
“They can extend plays and create big plays if you don’t maintain discipline, whether discipline with rush lanes or discipline in the back end.”
Both quarterbacks will place defenses in double jeopardy Saturday.