Clemson getting all QBs ready: With injuries in ACC prevalent, Tigers want freshmen prepared

Tajh Boyd

Rob Ostermaier

CLEMSON -- The numbers suggest the Clemson Tigers should prepare for an uncomforting scenario this fall: starting at least one game with a true freshman quarterback.

Over the last two football seasons, ACC starting quarterbacks have missed 21 games due to injury. During that period, only five ACC programs have kept their starting quarterbacks in the lineup each game for consecutive seasons. One of those quarterbacks was Kyle Parker, who started 27 straight games at Clemson but played much of last season with bruised and broken ribs.

For former Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder, it was a separated shoulder causing him to miss four games in 2009. Last season, it was an injured throwing elbow (ruptured bursa sac) forcing Ponder to miss two games and be hampered in others.

Miami's Jacory Harris sat three games last fall with a concussion.

Maryland's Jamarr Robinson hurt his shoulder and lost his job.

Georgia Tech's Joshua Nesbitt missed four games with a broken arm and Boston College's Chase Rettig turned an ankle.

Quarterbacks are in the crosshairs of opposing defensive fronts. They are often stationary targets and thereby subsequently injured. And next fall, the Tigers will be one injury away from going with a true freshman QB in Cole Stoudt or Tony McNeal. Both players enrolled in January and participated in spring practice, with Stoudt emerging as the early favorite to back up starter Tajh Boyd, a redshirt sophomore.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said he hopes Stoudt and McNeal will be better prepared when Clemson begins summer camp Aug. 5.

"What a blessing it was to have them go through spring ball," Swinney said. "Hopefully the game will be a little slower once camp starts, kind of like a redshirt freshman."

Of course, the Tigers are hopeful that Boyd won't miss a snap. The fact that he is 6-foot, 220 pounds and built more like a running back is cause for optimism.

But Clemson's new up-tempo offensive scheme means more plays per game this fall, thereby more chances for injury. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris also wants the quarterback to be more of a running threat, increasing the amount of quarterback collisions.

Boyd embraces the prospect of being a dual-threat quarterback.

"I try to look at the way Tim Tebow played," said Boyd of the former Florida Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. "He played fearless. He had that fight. He was a warrior, that was the biggest thing."

Boyd needs to be a healthy warrior and to learn to avoid taking the full brunt of contact.

Boyd said he learned from absorbing his first big hit on a run against South Carolina last season when he was sandwiched between two vicious hits delivered simultaneously by a pair of Gamecocks.

Boyd, along with his backups, are expected to develop over the next few months.

"The summer is critical for the whole offense," Swinney said. "They'll be out there and each have a leader in each group they have to run … they'll work on those little things we talked about.

"If we are the same (as after spring), then we didn't have a very good summer."