Boyd's attention to detail has him in the midst of a special season

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Morris casts a watchful eye over his pupil at every practice
Morris casts a watchful eye over his pupil at every practice

CLEMSON – April: The Clemson football team had just concluded spring practice and new offensive coordinator Chad Morris wondered privately about his quarterback.

Tajh BoydTajh Boyd
RS So. Quarterback
#10 6-1, 225
Hampton, VA

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finished an unremarkable 8-for-24 for 114 yards in the spring game, and Morris wondered: Would Boyd be able to run Morris’ up-tempo offense? The ability was there, sure. But where was the footwork? Where was the attention to detail?

As a result, he called Boyd into his office and told Boyd he was at a crossroads in his football career. The next three months would determine what his legacy would be, he told him. Morris sent Boyd out of his office with an edict – work harder than you’ve ever worked before. Use the summer wisely.

July: Morris met with the media at head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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’s annual golf outing, and for the first time he said publicly what he had been wondering all along. Was Boyd the guy? He didn’t know, and said he was surprised at how the spring had gone for the Virginia native.

“Tajh needs to have had a good summer,” Morris said at the time. “When spring practice started, I thought Tajh and [backup quarterback] Cole StoudtCole Stoudt
Fr. Quarterback
#8 6-4, 200
Dublin, OH

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were this far apart [holding hands about 18 inches apart.] Now, they are this far apart [holding hands about five inches apart.] Tajh has a lot to prove to me in fall camp.”

Last Saturday and this week: Boyd throws 32 passes in Clemson’s first half against North Carolina as Morris relies on his quarterback. The Tigers can't mount much of a running threat, and the Heels are doing what the previous seven teams have done – forcing Boyd to beat them through the air.

In the third quarter, Boyd hits tight end Brandon FordBrandon Ford
RS Jr. Tight End
#80 6-4, 235
Wando, SC

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with a back-shoulder throw – one of the prettiest throws you will ever see – to put Clemson up 38-17. Two minutes later, he picks up a North Carolina blitz and hits freshman wide receiver Sammy WatkinsSammy Watkins
Fr. Wide Receiver
#7 6-1, 200
Fort Myers, FL

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on a 42-yard touchdown pass that puts the Tigers up 45-24, and he finishes his day by hitting 27-of-46 passes for 367 yards and five touchdowns while rushing for another score.

During the week, Boyd’s name came up repeatedly whenever the Heisman Trophy was mentioned on college football shows on networks around the nation, and deservedly so. Boyd now has 24 touchdown passes on the season, just three shy of Cullen Harper’s school-record 27.

For the season, he has completed 172-of-278 passes for 2,379 yards. He is ninth in the nation in passing yards per game at 297.38 yards per game. He is 11th in the nation in passing efficiency with a rating of 160.08, pretty heady numbers for a player who had never started a collegiate game before this past September.

Morris was asked this week to comment about how far Boyd has come since that April sit-down in Morris’ office, and he said what fans are seeing now is the result of Boyd’s work ethic.

It’s also something he saw very early in fall camp.

“Tajh is a perfectionist, wants to please. When he knows I’m down on him, he’s always trying to figure out how to get right,” Morris said. “What you’re seeing with Tajh is that he took what I said to him after spring practice to heart, and put in work over the summer. Not just memorizing our offense, but learning it. He spent every moment he could up here because it was important to him. I told him that it’s an honor to be the quarterback at Clemson. It’s not something that is just given to you, you have to earn it. He saw that. It didn’t take me long into fall camp to realize that he put in a lot of time.”

Boyd said Tuesday that he never felt like his job was in jeopardy, but he did take Morris’ words as a personal challenge to show up in August as the best quarterback he could be.

“I felt like they had confidence in me still, and I felt like my teammates had confidence in me,” Boyd said. “Ultimately, I still had confidence in myself. My biggest challenge was learning over the summer, and having people like Dwayne AllenDwayne Allen
RS Jr. Tight End
#83 6-3, 255
Fayetteville, NC

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, Andre EllingtonAndre Ellington
RS Jr. Running Back
#23 5-10, 190
Moncks Corner, SC

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and Brandon Ford here helped. We pushed each other.”

While many of his teammates were at home over the summer, hanging out with friends at the mall and living the normal lives of young men, Boyd was still in Clemson, feeling the pressure of Clemson’s losing season from the previous year. There were early-morning workouts instead of the mall. There were film sessions in the WestZone instead of video games.

Instead of trips to the lake, Boyd could be seen running gassers with his teammates in the summer heat on the practice fields behind the Jervey Athletic Center. And each gasser had a name – the first one was Troy, Clemson’s first opponent of the season. The second one was Wofford, the Tigers’ second opponent. The name of each opponent was called out loud, and Boyd made sure he “finished the season” before leaving the practice field. And yes, each “season” included a trip the ACC Championship Game and a bowl game.

“I took what Coach Morris told me as a challenge, and I told myself I was going to work harder than I ever had,” Boyd said. “And I have been a pretty hard worker my whole life, but I knew I had to step it up. But it wasn’t really work, because this is something I had a passion about. I had something I wanted to prove.”

Boyd said he sees how the results have paid off in October, but he knew all of his work was worth it in August when he finally got the praise he had been looking for.

“The biggest sense of accomplishment I have ever felt was when we started fall camp,” he said. “We were just a couple of days into it, and Coach Morris came over to me and he told me he could see how much I had worked over the summer. That is what I wanted to hear.”

Despite the 8-0 start and the accolades that are starting to roll in, Morris doesn’t let his pupil sit back and admire them. Instead, he pushes him about the details and has told him he has to have his best week of practice thus far if the Tigers are going to go on the road and win at Georgia Tech.

“I took responsibility for him in the Maryland game in the first quarter,” Morris said. “Maybe I didn’t prepare him like I should have and paid attention to the small details. I told him that was on me, but North Carolina is on him. I told him that he was going to have the best week of practice so far, paying attention to small details and he did. I told him this morning that it doesn’t change this week. What can he do to get better? He has to pick up his hots [hot reads] a little bit better; he had a sack on him both against UNC and Maryland. He can always improve on footwork, he’s doing a good job at pulling the ball down and making plays when everything breaks down around him. I’ve got to continue to coach him harder and demand more out of him. But what I want is for him to demand more out of the players around him.”

Boyd smiled when he was told about Morris’ comments.

“That’s just the way he is,” Boyd said. “He wants us to succeed.”

Boyd then had to cut the interview short.

“I have to go watch film,” he said, heading off towards Clemson’s film room. “I still have a lot of work to do.”

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