Clemson's dual-threat quarterback Boyd comes with increased risk of injury
CLEMSON -- Tajh Boyd never saw the defender zeroing in.
Boyd sprinted into the Clemson defense during Wednesday's practice, executing one of the new quarterback run plays designed for him. Defensive end Andre Branch peeled off a block and delivered a forceful hit to the team's starting quarterback.
Boyd got up. He was OK.
Branch said he forgot about the no-contact rules in the moment.
Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said the hit "might have been a little more thud than I'd have liked to have seen."
But the play is what Clemson has signed up for this season. When Swinney was prioritizing what he wanted in a new offense prior to hiring offensive coordinator Chad Morris, the head coach said utilizing a dual-threat quarterback was among the top four things on his list.
Swinney knows the headaches run-and-pass threat QBs create for defensive coaches. Double-threat quarterbacks such as Heisman Trophy winners Tim Tebow (Florida) and Cam Newton (Auburn) led their teams to national titles.
But the rewards of dual-threat quarterbacks come with risks, namely placing your star in harm's way more often -- as much as 200 more times per season than an NFL-style offense.
It's true quarterbacks are in the crosshairs, regardless of offensive schemes. But the odds of getting injured are much higher for quarterbacks who run the ball.
And backing up Boyd on the Clemson depth chart are freshmen. There is no experience behind Boyd, but Morris said that will not alter how he calls plays.
"We are going to use him to win," Morris said. "We are going to be smart about it. … We'll pick and choose how we adjust to things in certain parts of the game.
"It's football. It's a rough game. He's going to take some shots. He's a tough kid. You can't coach scared. I can't call plays scared. I've got to call plays wide open."
In his only extended playing time last season against South Carolina and South Florida, Boyd took several vicious hits. Part of Boyd's offseason film study was learning how to avoid contact and to recognize when to run.
"Last year I was taking some major hits," Boyd said. "I watched Jon Gruden's QB Camp where he was talking about the way (former Washington QB) Jake Locker was taking hits. … So I kind of checked out some other quarterbacks and saw, OK, they slid at this point here. Certain situations you are going to have to go down."
To protect his quarterbacks, Morris said he has a variety of quick throws and maximum protection calls. He also teaches his quarterbacks how to absorb contact and how to avoid landing on their throwing shoulders.
"The last thing we need is him playing tentative," Swinney said. "But he has to have some common sense, too. … do not take an unnecessary hit."
Boyd is solidly built at 6-1, 222-pounds, another reason Swinney believes his quarterback can take hits. And Swinney believes the rewards of Boyd utilized as a rusher exceed the risks.
"When your quarterback is a weapon, it's like playing with 12 players," Swinney said.