Star QB's Null and Boyd

Sometimes a football prospect's fate is less in the stars and more in the Xs and Os, and that appears the reason five-star signal caller Tajh Boyd will not be a Volunteer in Lane Kiffin's offense next spring.

Boyd, who is set to graduate later this month, made the decision to de-commit after a phone conversation with Coach Kiffin in which he was told he might not be a fit in Tennessee's planned pro-style offense. Boyd is now scheduled to visit Penn State and will play his state title game at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, another campus he has officially visited. His father Timothy Boyd told Inside Tennessee his son might take a look at Ohio State and some other schools. But he was a bit perplexed by the way the situation unfolded.

"I mean he honored his scholarship," Mr. Boyd explained. "Some media on the Internet are saying they pulled his scholarship. He didn't pull it. He felt like why would Tajh want to go there if he doesn't fit their system? So Tahj decided not to go there because basically he wants to go someplace where he's wanted."

Perhaps some of the confusion is due to terminology. Kiffin is said to favor a west coast offense which is how Phillip Fulmer described the Vols offense when introduced last spring under the direction of Dave Clawson. Fulmer and Clawson liked the dimension Boyd brought to the offense, whereas Kiffin prefers a taller QB with a stronger arm.

"That's the problem they've got right now," Boyd said. "They wanted Tajh for his athleticism and ability to run and throw."

The pro style offense is in itself a recruiting tool because it attracts talented prospects with NFL ambitions. The question is, can it be as effective in the SEC where speed defenses often prey on pocket passers.

There's also the numbers factor since the league philosophy is to crowd the line and stuff the box to shut down the run and force the pass. An offense that does not deploy a running threat at quarterback is essentially playing 11 against 9 when running the ball because the running back and quarterback can't be counted as blockers. Getting that many players close to the line also helps defenses keep pressure on the pocket passer with a variety of stunts and bunker busting blitzes.

Kiffin will look to offset the numbers game by recruiting wide receivers that command double coverage and back the safeties up. Tennessee won its national title with Tee Martin at quarterback not Peyton Manning.

On the other hand Auburn went 14-0 in 2003 with a type of west coast offense that featured a backfield of Carnell Williams, Ronnie Brown and Jason Campbell. But even a prototypical pro style offense like LSU's usually features some elements of the spread. Of course the success of Florida behind Tim Tebow has more teams trying to incorporate that dynamic into their offense. Saturday's SEC Championship Game pits Alabama's pro-style offense and Florida's spread attack. Besides being a great game it should a great study of the nuances between these offenses.

Bottom line: If Kiffin concluded Boyd didn't throw well enough to thrive in the pro style offense, it didn't matter how well he runs and it would have been unfair to subjugate the five-star talent to a system that doesn't showcase or complement his skill set. There is certainly no shortage of schools that would love to get his signature come the first Wednesday in February.

It's a costly loss to UT's team recruiting rankings, but a necessary sacrifice in a profess of transformation.


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