News and notes from Tuesday's scrimmage

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Boyd is feeling more comfortable at the helm of the Tiger offense
Boyd is feeling more comfortable at the helm of the Tiger offense

Andre Ellington after practice audio (MP3 Format)

CLEMSON – The Clemson Tigers ran through a situational scrimmage Tuesday morning in Death Valley, and backup quarterback Tajh Boyd gained valuable experience in Kyle Parker’s absence, getting reps with the first team offense in a scrimmage for the first time this fall.

Parker, who signed a baseball contract with the Colorado Rockies late Monday night, had permission from head coach Dabo Swinney to miss last night’s practice and today’s scrimmage, allowing Boyd to work with the Orange [first team] offense during the scrimmage.

The majority of the scrimmage was spent working on specific game situations, such as the two minute drill, four minute drill and overtime, and Boyd said that he feels he is seeing the game much clearer now than he did in the spring.

“It went pretty well,” Boyd said. “I did a lot of good things, and I made some mistakes, but overall I thought it was pretty decent. I knew Kyle wasn’t here, so I had to step up and run the offense as well as I can. I am seeing everything, and I ‘m making the proper reads. I might make a few weird throws, but I’m seeing everything fine.”

Boyd completed 9-of-20 passes for 68 yards and two touchdowns. He threw a two-yard scoring pass to tight end Dwayne Allen and a 25-yarder to Jamie Harper, and he said he treated the scrimmage as if Parker was injured and he had to step in and play, but also is preparing for the day when he will the main guy.

“I am looking at every situation as a learning opportunity right now,” he said. “When it’s my opportunity to take over the team, I want to be ready for it. This scrimmage is the first time I had first team reps, and I just went out there and had some fun and did some things well.”

Offensive coordinator Billy Napier said Tuesday was a step in the right direction for the redshirt freshman.

“Playing without Kyle was a great experience for Tajh,” Napier said. “He did really well, and the guys around him did really well. Now, they were going against the second group [second team defense] the whole day, so we expected them to do well. It was good experience for him to get out here. We actually challenged him, and he showed up. I am pleased with him.”

Napier agreed that Boyd is a different player now than he was during the spring.

“He is in a whole another world right now,” Napier said. “He understands the big picture, and he worked his butt off this summer. He led our players in the offseason drills, and he did a lot of film study. Last night [without Parker at practice] was a struggle for him, and the whole team struggled with their energy. But he came back out there today, and bounced back and did a lot of good things.

“This is great training for him, in that potentially he could go in and play in case KP gets injured. Today we kinda worked on that situation. If that happens later in the year, then he is one step closer to being ready overall. He has developed and gotten better, and he operated that first group pretty well today.”

One downside to the scrimmage was the loss of running back Roderick McDowell, who suffered a concussion. McDowell is being counted to on to be the third option at running back, behind co-starters Andre Ellington and Harper, and Napier was asked what would happen if one of the running backs went down during the season.

“We’ve been fortunate here recently to have three really good running backs,” Napier said. “Jamie has been dinged up at times, so we know that two [backs] can do it. But if we got another one hurt, then we would really be concerned. I don’t know about the young kids. Demont Buice is not ready to be a college running back yet. D.J. Howard has been dinged up, but he has shown some flashes. But with D.J. being hurt and Buice not being ready, we would have a lot of work to do and would probably just play two.”

Harper ran for 141 yards on nine carries and scored two touchdowns, one receiving and one rushing, with a run 59 yards early in the scrimmage and another of 50 yards for a touchdown late in the session. He also had two receptions for 31 yards, one of which went for 25 yards and a touchdown, and he said his runs were the result of great blocking by the offensive line.

“We went through a lot of different situations out there today, and between me and Andre, we are going to get a lot of carries,” Harper said. “Today, things were just popping out and the offensive line did a great job on some combination blocks. On one of the runs, it was a toss sweep, and the tackle got to the edge and made a great block, and I broke a tackle and got as many yards as I could.

“The other play was a short yardage play, and we were running a zone scheme, and the defense really flowed to the left. I saw a cutback lane, and when the linebacker went over the top, I just hit it and scored. “

Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said he was pleased overall with the play of the defense, especially with the Attack [first team] defense going against the Purple [second team] offense, and vice versa.

“It was all just situational,” he said. “The thing we instilled in them today was just to execute. We were very effective against the run in execution, and we were effective in the two minute drill and on third down. They executed very well across the board. Where we didn’t do so well was where the offense had the ball, they were ahead, and we have to get the ball back and there are only about three minutes left. Now, we were able to do it, but we made it hard on ourselves.

“The big thing is, they were sharp mentally today, and we just have to make sure that happens every practice and every game. That is where it all lies for this defense. Tackling was better today. The second team defense is still having some missed assignments, but we have three our freshmen out there and their heads are swimming a little bit. We just have to keep working.”

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