By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
There are times in practice when Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd will see something the defense is doing and then defensive coordinator Brent Venables does something he does not expect.
“He brings a corner blitz and (the play) does not go for too much sometimes,” Boyd said.
Sometimes the play goes for nothing or worse yet, it becomes a turnover. And though it may be a negative play in practice, it leads to something positive happening on game days. Things Venables does and some of the other experiences Boyd has gained in his three seasons as the Tigers’ starting quarterback have paid big dividends for Clemson. They are the reasons why Boyd is on the verge of becoming the most prolific passer in the history of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“That helps us out and it kind of gets us thinking a little bit more,” Boyd said. “It is one thing seeing it on film but once you get out there on the field, and once you get a chance to see those things, it puts everything into use.”
Boyd will need to use all of those things today when third-ranked Clemson visits the Carrier Dome and Syracuse for a 3:30 p.m. start. The Orange (2-2), who will be making their ACC debut, love to bring pressure and they are pretty good at doing it.
“They bring it from everywhere,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “They will overload from the outside, they will bring it from the inside and they will have secondary pressure. They play a lot of cover zero and we have not seen much of that. They will bring one more than you can block, no matter what you do with your protections.”
This is not the first time the Tigers (4-0, 2-0 ACC) have faced some pressure. NC State brought a lot of pressure at Boyd, especially early on. He was sacked twice on the first drive of the game back on Sept. 19.
Boyd and the offense adjusted in the second half as he completed 9 of 11 passes for 100 yards and two touchdown passes to Martavis Bryant, including one for 30 yards when State brought extra pressure.
Clemson hopes that experience will pay off against Syracuse.
“All of his experiences help him, not just the NC State game,” Swinney said. “Three years of being the quarterback helps him. He has seen just about everything in his career. It’s not like there is anything new. It is from week-to-week. You have to prepare for what that opponent does.
“This particular opponent plays with a hard edge and is aggressive. They kind of force the issue.”
The Orange has recorded 11 sacks so far this season, but surprisingly their sack leader is defensive tackle Jay Bromley. But it’s not always about bringing the quarterback down. They want to confuse him and hit him as often as they can. In other words, they want to get in his head.
“This team loves to pressure,” offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. “They love to bring one more than you got. If they could blitz twelve, they would blitz twelve. They are very confident.
“Their main objective is to try and disturb the quarterback by bringing pressure from every angle possible. They are the biggest pressure team we have faced maybe since I have been here so we have to have a great plan for that.”
That plan is to get the ball to its playmakers, like wide receiver Sammy Watkins, as soon as possible.
“You have to win matchups when people do that. You have to know what you are doing and you have to know who the free guy is,” Swinney said. “That’s the challenge from a protection standpoint. The quarterback has to be dialed in. They do not do it all the time, but it is pretty significant the type of pressure they can bring.”
Syracuse will bring pressure off the edge, up the middle and from the secondary. At times they will bring an all-out blitz with zero safety help.
“They do various things. There is not one particular defensive pressure they bring,” Boyd said. “They bring various and numerous of things. It is all about recognizing it and going out there and handling it.”
And for Boyd, it means good practice.
“It puts a little bit more on me to make sure I know all the packages a defense brings so I know how to slide protections so that I put us in the best position possible,” he said. “I have done a pretty good job of doing that so far, but it has to be a continuous growth. I’m not Peyton Manning, yet! But it is coming along.
“Coach Morris and I don’t talk about the NFL too often, but when we do, if you can learn it here and when you get there that is one less thing you have to worry about. A lot of guys at the college level don’t really do it too often. They really don’t understand it that much. Coach Morris has done a great job emphasizing that and putting just a little more on me so when I do make that leap to the next level, it will be easier for me.”