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March 25, 2013

Boyd putting best foot forward

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  • CLEMSON -- Clemson star quarterback Tajh Boyd, never at a loss for words, approached the media Monday night appearing rather loose on his first day back from spring break. He even remarked about a reporter's shoes. Then he told folks he'd gotten darker while out in California.

    "I walked in and coach (Dan) Pearman said, 'I thought you were coach (Chris) Rumph).' No disrespect to coach Rumph," Boyd said with a smile.

    But Boyd's friendly chitchat with the local media masks some deep-rooted determination for a player who's already said this spring he'd like to be the nation's top quarterback.

    Before he could step foot on the practice field Monday, he'd already received a text message from Dabo Swinney reminding him that Clemson's all-time winningest quarterback, Rodney Williams, finished his career with 32 wins. Boyd has 21.

    Boyd, who has never met Williams, said, "We're trying to get 13 (wins)."

    I joked with him and asked, 'So 12 wins is in the bag, right?'

    Boyd replied, with a smile, "Most likely. Most likely."

    On a serious note, the Tigers' No. 2 all-time leading passer, second only to Charlie Whitehurst, said he's still approaching workouts with a sense of urgency, despite the fact that it's only March.

    "It'll be gone before you know it. In seven months, the season will be over," he said. "I didn't want to go through spring break just coasting. I don't want to waste a day."

    Boyd was again in California training with George Whitfield. He said he worked out twice a day, five days, sharpening his mechanics and in large part reemphasizing a lot of what he's been taught by Tiger offensive coordinator Chad Morris over the last three years.

    Boyd, who was joined by other quarterbacks, said he was viewed out West as sort of an elder statesman. Same deal here in Clemson, as he's the undisputed leader of the team.

    "I'm trying to embrace that, embrace every moment," he said. "Mat drills, they're terrible. They suck. But at the same time, we have to live with the moment. You're gasping for air, yet you have to say, 'This is great.'"

    Boyd acknowledges that he's got some things to work on mechanically. He threw another pick in Monday's workout. And he tossed two in the session before the team departed for spring break. Head coach Dabo Swinney said Monday's interception was all on Boyd's footwork.

    Boyd acknowledges he's got to improve his decision-making. He says he's got to "clean up a few things."

    But most of all he'd like to set the standard for leadership so that not only will this year's team benefit, but future teams as well.

    "You need to set an example to the point that younger players see you, everything you're doing and when you leave and it's all said and done, they can step up and be in that same position and lead guys the same way, then expect the same results."

    Boyd says he believes players like Rod McDowell, Sammy Watkins, Brandon Thomas and Tyler Shatley have emerged as leaders. And collectively, he calls the offense a "passionate group of guys."

    Asked what more was left for Morris to challenge him on at this point, Boyd answered, "To be a more complete general. One of the things about being a veteran is that every time you get a chance to be on the practice field and work, you have to take advantage of it. You have to be there with a passion. You can't really take a day off. It goes by so quickly. We have to embrace it."

    Two summers ago Swinney said coaches jokingly contemplated getting Boyd an apartment in the West Zone because he never left campus, opting to spend an excessive amount of time studying Morris' system before a pivotal 2011 season, his first as the Tigers' starting quarterback.

    Boyd took just one day off that summer. He said Monday he plans to again be in town for much of this summer.

    "It's just a big opportunity for me and my guys in the receiving corps. I feel like I've got the best receiving corps in the country," he said. "We've got an opportunity to be a special team. But it's going to take some time and chemistry.

    "For me, I've just got to put my best foot forward."

    *** To chat with other Clemson fans about this article please visit The West Zone message board.

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