by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Tajh BoydTajh Boyd
RS Jr. Quarterback
#10 6-1, 225
Hampton, VA

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is driven. He is hungry. He wants to be the best.

And he doesn’t care if you notice the work he puts in, the hours of film study, the lonely summer mornings when he is working out alone, or the fact that he has pushed himself this past off-season to be in better shape for the upcoming season.

He says he knows that people will take notice when the season is over, and the wins are on the board. Only then will he allow himself the privilege of sitting back and acknowledging the accolades. But only for a little while, because then it will be back to work, preparing for yet another season.

Boyd put together an outstanding sophomore campaign, his first as a starter, throwing for 3,828 yards and a school-record 33 touchdowns. He led the ACC in total offense per game, was first in passing yards per game and fourth in passing efficiency in the league. Along the way, he set a ton of school records, and sits poised for an outstanding junior year.

However, he struggled down the stretch last season, a major cause in Clemson losing four of its last six games. Against teams that finished in the top-44 nationally in total defense, many of which Clemson played down the stretch, Boyd threw for 1,654 yards (236 ypg) 11 TD's and 8 INT's while completing just under 55% of his passes.

In the off-season, he re-dedicated himself, vowing to slim down, watch even more film and cut down on his turnovers. In the midst of all that work – far removed from the cheers of an adoring Death Valley – he toiled. And he knows that people see the smile, the cheerfulness, and they don’t understand exactly what it is that drives him to work like he does.

“I don’t think so. That’s the thing – I don’t think people really understand. It’s a drive. It’s a hunger,” Boyd told TigerNet this week. “I want to be the greatest player at Clemson. I want to be the greatest quarterback. No disrespect to anybody, but you want to put yourself in the best position possible to be the best player you can be. That is one of those things I love about Coach [Chad] Morris – he is going to push me to be the best player I can be. He is all about personal growth and making the best decisions.”

Boyd knows he can make the throws – last season showed that – but said he wants to get better each week. And he doesn’t feel like he is even close to being as good as he can be.

“A lot of players have the physical tools, but the things that separate the good players from the great players are things like decision-making and how much they grow and the mental part of the game,” Boyd said. “I want to keep growing and have room for improvement as much as possible. Because once you peak, you are finished. There is always room for improvement, and I’m not close to being finished.”

Brock Huard of ESPN recently released his list of the top 10 college quarterbacks for 2012, and Boyd didn’t make the list despite his statistically-great season a year ago. Huard said that his list combines not only the player’s past statistics, but also takes into account their NFL potential.

The No. 1 player on that list is Matt Barkley of Southern Cal, and deservedly so. Barkley is not only a good college quarterback, he is going to be a good pro quarterback. But Boyd threw for more yards than Barkley last season. However, Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas is second on that list – not because of anything he has accomplished as a starting quarterback on the college level but because he is a 6-6, 262-pound specimen that reminds some of former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton.
Boyd was 2-0 against Thomas and the Hokies last season, he threw for 800 more yards, threw 14 more touchdown passes and had a better passer efficiency rating. Boyd said this week that he and Thomas – who grew up near each other in Virginia – keep in touch, but it isn’t hard to tell that there is a burgeoning rivalry between the two quarterbacks.

He smiled when I asked him about so many outlets looking at Thomas as a better quarterback, but the competitive fire in his eyes came alive when he talked about Thomas.

“I haven’t talked to him in a while. We are friends,” Boyd said. “We knew each other in high school and went to a few college campuses together. And he was my tight end in the U.S. Army All-American Game. With the type of competitor I am, you don’t take things like that lightly. But you have to go out there and perform. People are going to have their opinions. My main objective here is to help this team win as many games as possible. That is my thing right there. Everything else can go by the wayside. That is all that matters. But I do consider myself one of the top quarterbacks in the country. That is just the way I feel and that is the way I carry myself. “

Boyd said he understands why people consider the taller Thomas a better quarterback.

“I don’t think I am going to grow anymore,” he said, laughing. “I think I am done growing. I am going to be 6-1. But in any aspect, there is a little motivation there. I see it. Every time you go out there during the summer and you work out, you think about things like that. That is what motivates you to get up early in the morning. It does drive you to a certain extent, and there is no denying it. And I use that as much as possible.”

He said he put in the work during the off-season, and can't wait to show off the new-and-improved Boyd in a little less than three weeks.

“Especially when it comes to just competing, it drives anybody,” he said. “I am excited about his season and we are going to go get them. It is going to be fun. And as long as we win, everything else will take care of itself. We just have to win first, and then all of those mornings of work will be worth it.”

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