Wanted: QB on the run

Offense figures to move the chains if Parker sets sights on scrambling

pstrelow@thestate.comOctober 15, 2009 

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Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker scrambles to his right picking up 15 yards for a first down during the FIRST QUARTER as Clemson leads Middle Tennessee State 30-7 in Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2009.

RICH GLICKSTEIN/RGLICKSTEIN@THESTATE.COM — The State

  • Tigers vs. Demon Deacons

    WHO: Wake Forest (4-2, 2-1 ACC) at Clemson (2-3, 1-2)

    WHEN: Noon Saturday

    WHERE: Memorial Stadium, Clemson

    TV: Raycom, WACH-57

    RADIO: ESPN Radio 93.1 FM

    LINE: Clemson by 7

CLEMSON - It might be go-time for Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker.

As in, for all the instances the 6-foot redshirt freshman continues to find himself scrambling from the pocket, the Tigers want him to consider tucking the ball under his arm and run.

"That's one of the things we've really challenged him on this week, because he can run," coach Dabo Swinney said. "He's done that."

Perhaps not enough.

One of the reasons Clemson assumed its offense would be improved this season was because of the added running element its quarterbacks - Parker and backup Willy Korn - figured to provide.

Parker's scrambling has reduced the number of sacks the Tigers have incurred. He has been corralled seven times in five games, whereas Clemson surrendered 2.6 sacks per game last season.

But he has yet to emerge as a bona fide running threat, whether via designed runs or scrambles. The absence of such a threat has been magnified by the rushing role mobile quarterbacks have played in Clemson's three losses.

Albeit out of an option offense, Georgia Tech's Josh Nesbitt (18-91) rolled off five consecutive runs to set up the Yellow Jackets' game-tying field goal in the fourth quarter of their victory.

Two weeks later, TCU's Andy Dalton moved the chains by uncharacteristically tallying a team-high 86 yards on variations of the read-option. Then, in Clemson's loss at Maryland, Chris Turner mounted three notable runs on the Terps' go-ahead touchdown drive at the end of the second quarter.

That's what defensive coordinator Kevin Steele labeled "probably the killer."

Parker ranks eighth among ACC starting quarterbacks in rushing yards gained (79), behind comparable athletes in Duke's Thaddeus Lewis (120) and Turner (175). That speaks more to Parker's reluctance to run than his production when doing so.

Parker has run from a pass-play scramble eight times this season; he gained at least 8 yards on five of them, making a first down on five of six third-down scrambles.

Swinney said he considers Saturday's noon contest with Wake Forest a "big game" for Parker as a decision-maker.

"There's been some times where he maybe could have ran the ball," offensive coordinator Billy Napier said. "But I think there have also been some times where he's done a good job managing the pocket and made some first downs with his feet.

"You have to feel that and get out of there."

In much the same manner as Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner, Parker has displayed a knack for scrambling to stretch out plays, biding time behind the line of scrimmage until a receiving target springs free.

That approach has yielded a few big completions, one costly interception at Georgia Tech and a slew of incompletions or throw-aways that have fueled his 48.7 completion percentage.

"That's (his) gamesmanship," Swinney said. "And I love his mentality and aggressiveness.

"But no question he's got to a run with a little more awareness in certain spots. ... He learns every game and every week. That's what I mean by quarterback decision-making. I've got the clock in my head, beep, buzzer's off, time to go. I create a scramble and make a play or I can come to run - and always come to run. Go make a play. And that's just him continuing to mature as a player."

Add in the fact he has scrambled to run just once the past two games, and it's easy to spot why goading Parker to run is one of several potential remedies for Clemson's struggles in sustaining drives.

"Once you get out of the pocket, it's my discretion," Parker said. "Whatever happens out there happens. We're just trying to make plays and move the ball.

"The biggest thing is, we want our offense to execute where I'm not having to move out so much, and we can stay on schedule. That would make us a lot more successful."

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