Boy Oh Boyd: Clemson QB off to fast start
The biggest concern for Clemson's offense this preseason has become the biggest factor in the 13th-ranked Tigers 4-0 start.
First-time starter Tajh Boyd had heard all the questions about his lack of experience, his inaccurate passes and his admitted failure to work as hard as he should've his first two years. These days, though, it's a confident Boyd in control of Clemson's charged up offense.
''Tajh is putting it on the money,'' Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.
And the Tigers have taken that to bank with their best start in four seasons.
Boyd has thrown for at least 260 yards and three touchdowns in each of four starts. He was 30-of-42 for 386 yards and four TD passes in a 38-24 victory over defending national champion Auburn two weeks ago, then followed that up by throwing for 344 yards and three scores to beat Florida State, 35-30, last Saturday.
The Tigers hope to keep things rolling this weekend against No. 11 Virginia Tech (4-0), their first road game of the season - the most difficult test to date for Boyd's progress at quarterback.
So far, he's cleared every hurdle. Boyd leads the Atlantic Coast Conference in passing yards and total offense. He's thrown 13 touchdowns and one interception - although some might dispute that number after Boyd's clumsy miscue against the Seminoles.
Boyd was stumbling away from defenders when he lost his footing and the ball popped straight up as he tried to throw it away before hitting the ground deep in Clemson territory. Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner was there to easily pick it off for an interception return score.
But wait. The play was officially reversed to a fumble return touchdown a day later, Clemson saying the ball was clearly behind Boyd when Werner caught it.
''It was a terrible moment, but I'm glad it was a fumble and not a pick,'' Boyd said this week. ''I didn't want a pick on my record.''
Still, Boyd's gotten texts from friends watching the play on ESPN's ''Pardon The Interruption'' or ''SportsCenter.'' He said anyone who knows him wasn't surprised.
''I'm goofy and clumsy,'' Boyd said. ''I'll be walking through campus and trip on something.''
A couple of places Boyd hasn't stumbled so far are with his dedication to improve and on-field demeanor.
He arrived at Clemson as a friendly jokester, always smiling and cutting up with any teammates who'd listen. Boyd was not ready at the end of last year when he filled in for starter Kyle Parker during the Tigers' 6-7 season. It led some to question Boyd's work ethic, something he acknowledged this summer was not what it should've been his first two years.
That changed with Parker's choice to play pro baseball for the Colorado Rockies and Swinney's hiring of offensive coordinator Chad Morris. Boyd sat next to Morris at a Clemson basketball game last January soon after the coach came on board and it's been a rapid run to learn ever since.
Morris says the change was evident against Florida State after Boyd's very public error. In the past, it might've taken Boyd several series to blot it out and could've cost the Tigers a victory. Instead, Boyd was past things in a couple of plays and drove Clemson to a touchdown on its next series.
''He was doing what he was coached to do,'' Morris said.
Boyd, from Hampton, Va., could have a potential distraction ahead this week as the Tigers take on No. 11 Virginia Tech (4-0), the defending ACC champion.
Boyd was recruited by the Hokies and is friends with Tech quarterback Logan Thomas. Boyd last played at Lane Stadium in 2008 when his Phoebus High team won a Virginia state championship.
But Boyd said this week is about the Tigers staying focused in their first road game and not letting past failures - Clemson has lost five straight to the Hokies - get in their way this season.
''It's a homecoming of sorts,'' Boyd said. ''It's definitely going to be exciting up there.''
Thomas, of Lynchburg, Va., said he and Boyd became friends as highly recruited prospects.
''I talk to him twice a week pretty much the first three weeks of the season,'' Thomas said. ''He's a great guy. He's a great competitor.''
Boyd's had a few, unsteady moments in his short career as Clemson's starter.
This summer, Boyd decided to Tweet after South Carolina quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus was arrested in Greenville for urinating in public. ''Like coach, like QB, smh (shaking my head),'' Boyd tweeted, referring to Gamecocks quarterback Steven Garcia's five suspensions.
The post was removed.
Boyd admitted being ''a little bit'' nervous before the opener against Troy. It showed. He played his worst half of the season and the Tigers booed at Death Valley when they left the field down 16-13 at halftime. Clemson and Boyd rallied for a 43-19 victory.
Boyd's kept the nerves in check on the field since then and feels prepared to lead the Tigers.
''I know people have their doubts here and there, but I really do feel like the program is on the verge of a different path,'' Boyd said. ''We just have to prove it this weekend.''