CLEMSON — Chad Morris has worked with many quarterbacks since taking his first coaching job as the Eustace (Texas) High School quarterbacks coach in 1994.
During his climb up the prep coaching ranks, Morris worked with future major college quarterbacks. He visited colleges like Texas A&M, watching quarterback coaches in action.
When Morris jumped to the college ranks in 2010, he spent his offseasons watching video of offenses around the country, looking for ways to tweak his scheme.
Morris has watched a lot of football. As a self-described “technique freak,” he’s watched a lot of quarterbacks. The straight-talking Texan says he’s never witnessed a quarterback throw the deep ball like Clemson’s Tajh Boyd has this season.
“He’s probably the most accurate deep-ball passer I’ve ever been around and ever seen,” said Morris, Clemson’s offensive coordinator. “I feel he’s more accurate at 35 yards than from 5 yards.”
Morris is speaking only partially in hyperbole. Boyd is not actually more accurate at 35 yards downfield than in the short passing game. But the Clemson quarterback is remarkably efficient on deep throws.
Boyd has thrown 51 passes 21 yards or farther this fall, completing 28 for 1,047 yards and 11 touchdowns with just four interceptions. That equates to an astounding 282 quarterback efficiency rating. His overall rating is 172, second in the country.
Boyd might be the best deep-ball passer in the country. But for Boyd the mastery of the deep ball had to be rediscovered.
As an elite prospect out of Phoebus (Va.) High, Boyd’s high-arcing deep ball was a distinguishing trait. But early on in his Clemson career, it vanished.
“I threw so many deep balls in high school, so many fades, I felt that was my best throw,” Boyd said. “When I first got to Clemson, that wasn’t my best throw. My deep ball became more like I was ripping it in there, not going on the trajectory I wanted it to go on. I kind of got away from throwing this great (deep) ball.”
As good as Boyd was as a first-year starter last season at Clemson, there was plenty of room for improvement.
“(The deep ball) became a big emphasis this offseason,” Boyd said. “Coach Morris is like ‘this is one of the things we have to emphasize.’
“In practice, he is pretty hostile about making sure the deep ball stays outside because any ball that stays inside can get picked.”
Boyd took the makeover process a step further when he traveled to California this spring for a week of tutoring sessions — at $200 per day — with quarterbacks guru George Whitfield.
“His arm is huge, so he was less inclined to be detailed with his legs,” Whitfield said of Boyd on CBSSports.com. “Maybe the biggest thing for Tajh was that he got to watch Andrew (Luck) and see how he approached the game.”
Boyd’s footwork is better this year. His release point is higher. He’s stepping into throws more and off his back foot less.
Against Florida State earlier this season, the improvement was on display. Boyd dropped back in the pocket to the proper depth and from a standstill launched a precise, sky-scratching 50-yard pass into the hands of DeAndre Hopkins for a touchdown.
“He was born with a golden arm,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.
A golden arm now complete with a golden touch.