CLEMSON -- Tajh Boyd noticed a common ingredient among the country's elite college football teams this fall: dual-threat quarterbacks.
All three undefeated FBS teams have quarterbacks able to hurt opponents through the air and on the ground. The Clemson quarterback noted how Cam Newton's legs not only gain chunks of yardage for Auburn, but also open the passing game by compelling defenders to stay nearer the line of scrimmage. Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas presents a dual threat, and Clemson knows firsthand that Texas Christian's Andy Dalton can make plays with his feet and his arm. Newton, Thomas and Dalton combined for 2,306 rushing yards and 7,745 passing yards this season.
Boyd will become the Tigers' starting quarterback after the Dec. 31 Meineke Car Care Bowl and believes he can be a double threat next season, an element lacking this fall at Clemson.
"Big-time teams have that threat, because it's so hard to stop," Boyd said. "I think that's something I'm going to try to place an emphasis on in the offseason. As far as our offense goes, we didn't really depend on that this year, and hopefully that is something we can incorporate next year, trying to use my mobility."
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said several times this fall he wanted Kyle Parker to run more, but for whatever reason Parker was hesitant to use his legs to pick up positive yards.
Parker was held to nine or fewer rushing yards in 10 games this season. Not including sacks, Parker rushed 33 times for 117 yards (3.5 yards per rush).
In a limited sample, Boyd was more likely to run this fall thank Parker, rushing 16 times for 60 yards (3.8 avg.). Boyd ran once for every 2.5 pass attempts, while Parker ran once for every 9.8 pass attempts.
Boyd believes rushing lanes will widen for him when elite recruits like receivers Sammy Watkins, Charone Peake and running back Mike Bellamy arrive next season and spread the field along with returning receiver DeAndre Hopkins and running back Andre Ellington.
"The thing about us is we are going to have so many weapons," Boyd said. "If I'm able to bring that (dual-threat) dimension with Jamie (Harper), Andre and then the receivers we have, it's going to be pretty sick. We could potentially have within the next three years one of the best offenses ever."
The 6-1 Boyd looks to have the build to handle a rushing workload. He looks like a fullback with his weight up to 230 pounds.
Clemson offensive coordinator Billy Napier said ideally the staff would like to have a quarterback who presents a run and pass threat. Willy Korn, who eventually transferred to North Greenville, displayed some of those traits in 2009.
"In terms of how effective (Boyd) will be as a runner in a game setting, obviously we won't know that until we put him out there," Napier said. "I do think he is a passer first. He can create some plays with his feet and extend plays more than anything, and I think that is what you see Cam Newton do.
"In terms of designing plays for (Boyd) to run, there may be more … I do think he is effective enough as a runner where you can have some plans each week for that."
Boyd absorbed his first big shot on a run against South Carolina, being sandwiched between vicious hits delivered simultaneously by a pair of Gamecocks. Boyd called it a learning experience, but he said such hits won't dissuade him from rushing. He thinks running can help a quarterback's leadership cache within the player ranks.
"I try to look at the way Tim Tebow played," said Boyd of the former Florida quarterback. "He played fearless. He had that fight. He was a warrior -- that was the biggest thing."
Napier said he does not necessarily look for a pro-style or dual-threat quarterback, but rather certain attributes.
"I really think playing quarterback is about decision-making, and it's about accuracy," Napier said. "The bigger, taller, stronger they are, the better. But that position is about intangibles, about making everyone around you a better player, being a leader. But there are so many different types of guys. I think you (need) winners who are accurate enough, good enough decision-makers and athletic enough to extend plays."
Do the Tigers have that in Boyd? Perhaps a sneak preview will be offered in Charlotte this month.
Check out the Clemson blog at postandcourier.com/blogs/tiger_tracks and follow Travis Sawchik on Twitter (@travis_sawchik).
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