Clemson Offense Looks to Take Next Step
By Brandon Rink
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Consistent play from quarterback Tajh Boyd and a new offensive formation could help the Tiger's offense become more potent in 2012.
After getting a taste of success last season, expectations have been raised even higher in Clemson. The Tigers are going nowhere in 2012, however, if junior quarterback Tajh Boyd slumps in year two as a starter.
No one knows this better than Boyd himself.
“This team is going to go how I play,” Clemson’s signal-caller said after the Tigers’ spring game. “That’s really how it is. These coaches stress that I have to have a big summer, and I’m gonna go as hard as I can. There really are no days off.”
In a breakout first-year as a starter last season, Boyd set the single-season ACC record for total touchdowns (43) and multiple single-season school records, including passing yards (4,157) and total offense (4,408).
But Boyd’s sophomore season did leave plenty of room for improvement.
In the 8-0 start, he fired 24 touchdown passes and only three interceptions, but in the 2-4 finish, Boyd’s TDs and picks were even at nine apiece.
Even in a vanilla spring game, the inconsistency reared its ugly head again for the Tigers’ gunslinger. On the surface, his numbers were fine, hitting 20-of-26 passes for 269 yards and a touchdown, but also in the mix were two interceptions and a crucial sack in the red-zone.
“When I’m on, I’m on – I am one of those best players in the country,” Boyd said talking spring game turnovers. “And then you get some picks here and there. It’s always like a bonehead play, something off the wall. I gotta get rid of it.”
The junior QB knows he doesn’t have the benefit of easing into this season like he did last year when Clemson started the season with Troy and FCS-opponent Wofford.
“We don’t have a cupcake game (to open the season),” Boyd said. “We start off with Auburn on September 1st (in Atlanta) so I’ll be ready to play and I know the boys will be ready to play…it’s going to be a big summer for us.”
The spring’s final exhibition in TigerTown displayed what could be a new direction for Boyd and the Clemson offense, running the majority of plays with the first-and-second team out of the Pistol formation (a shortened-shotgun with the running back aligned behind the quarterback).
Morris and co. made the trip to Nevada to learn from Pistol-offense author Chris Ault this offseason. Nevada has finished in the top-10 in total and rushing offense nationally each of the last three seasons.
Despite that educational trip, I don’t think anyone expected to see it in use as much as Clemson did to close spring practice.
Morris called just one first-half play out of the base formation Clemson used last season (shotgun in the spread offense) and close to 90 out of the Nevada-inspired offense.
Senior Tigers tailback Andre Ellington is its biggest fan it seems.
“It’s an advantage for the offense, the running back especially,” Ellington told the Independent Mail’s Greg Wallace earlier this spring. “Because we (tailbacks) are squared up behind the quarterback. The linebackers can’t tell where we’re going to go. Left or right. As opposed to being in the slant formation, where most of the time we’re coming across the ball.”
If Boyd can hold up his end in the passing game, improving the run with the Pistol (59th nationally last season) could take Morris’ offense to the next level.
Clemson tweaking an offense that jumped from 86th to 24th in scoring offense last year (9.6 PPG more) is one of the more intriguing storylines in the ACC.