|by David Hood|
But will the number of big plays in the passing game be limited this season?
Clemson ranked second in the nation last year in the number of passing plays that went for 30-plus yards, hitting 34 such plays and trailing only Baylor’s 45 big plays. The Tigers ranked fourth nationally in passing plays over 40 yards (17), and ranked second in passing plays over 50 yards (Clemson had 10, Baylor had 11).
As a result, opposing defensive coordinators will be scheming to stop the big play and force quarterback Tajh Boyd to take the underneath routes, something that Boyd struggled with in the opener against Georgia and even last week against South Carolina St., something Boyd admitted Tuesday when he said that Saturday’s effort was lackluster at best.
“It just wasn’t up to par, I don’t think,” Boyd said. “We did some good things, but whether it was me and it just translated down, whatever it was, it just wasn’t as exciting as it usually is. We just kind of came out kind of flat in general and just didn’t do what we were capable of doing.”
The old baseball commercial says that “chicks dig the long ball,” and that saying can even translate to football – who doesn’t love a long pass over the top of the defense? But opposing defenses saw enough of that out of the Tigers last season, and Boyd said he has to learn to take what the defense gives him.
“When I was out there I kind of wanted to hit the deep ball a little bit more, and I didn’t take my checkdowns and try to create some things,” Boyd said. “I just have to play the game. I have to just take what’s there – take the flat routes and take the checkdowns. Honestly, I don’t think a lot of teams are going to let us do that this year. I don’t think teams are going to let us go deep, and that is something we are just going to have to get used to. We just have to take what is there when we are out there on the field.”
Boyd said the fact that all of Clemson’s receivers are speedsters adds to the deep safety look he has been seeing.
“We just have some guys that can run. All of my guys across the board are fast,” he said. “When we are out there, we have to be alert to take what is there during the game. Last week was one of those times when I really wanted to go deep and took a little extra time I should have just taken the shorter routes and taken what was there. You know, it’s 3rd-and-10 and I wanted to take the 11-yarder, but maybe if I take the three-yard checkdown, he runs for 10 yards. Those are things we have to keep working on and developing.”
However, don’t think that the deep pass has entirely disappeared from Clemson’s arsenal – Boyd said that if the Tigers execute on the underneath routes, the deep routes will open back up.
“If you go out and execute the little things, then those big things will come later on,” he said. “It might not happen at the moment or happen at the time, but as the course of the game goes along you will be able to have what you want. You just have to perform within the system and take what is there.”
David Hood can be reached at email@example.com