CLEMSON -- Kyle Parker's best decision against North Texas had nothing to do with the result of a throw.
Prior to Clemson's second offensive play, Parker noticed only one Mean Green linebacker near the line of scrimmage while making his presnap read. The defense anticipated pass on second-and-10.
Parker had a package of three plays to choose from at the line: a run, a screen or a pass. He called the run -- he chose wisely. Parker handed off to Andre Ellington, who sliced through the defense for a 60-yard touchdown.
Beginning late last season, Clemson's coaching staff gave Parker more responsibility, more frequently signaling in packages containing three or four options for Parker to choose from, rather than mandating a single play. In an age when coaches are viewed as control freaks, wanting to micromanage every detail, Clemson offensive coordinator Billy Napier has given Parker -- he of 15 collegiate starts -- freedom.
"Given how multiple defenses are these days, I think it's really effective to give your quarterback some options at the line of scrimmage," Napier said.
"It helps him in the other phases of the game when he has to study the defense."
Napier said Clemson will typically produce four or five packages for each game, including Saturday's contest against Presbyterian, each package perhaps signaled in multiple times.
Some programs allow such freedom, others do not. Take two high-profile quarterbacks from last season. Notre Dame allowed Jimmy Clausen leeway at the line of scrimmage, but the NFL's first overall pick, Sam Bradford, was not allowed such liberties at Oklahoma where he was required to look to the sideline for nearly all direction.
"I think the biggest thing is whenever we are sitting in the meeting room, (Napier) is not telling me 'this guy is here, check this,' he's telling me 'this is why he's here and this is why we want to check it,' " Parker said. "That kind of gets me to understand the defense."
While Napier and Dabo Swinney give up some of control of the offense, the former Furman quarterback believes it is necessary for growth.
"Some teams look to the sideline -- you see that quite often," Napier said. "I prefer to let the quarterback make those decisions. I think it makes him a better player … I think he learns more, and over time becomes a better player as a product of that."
The responsibility is an indication of the growth Parker has made.
Last season, Napier talked about the struggles of getting Parker to early-morning meetings. Now, Parker is making real-time decisions on the field.
"If you are going to be a good quarterback, you have to be a student of defense," Napier said. "KP has become that over time."
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