Spring Preview: Tajh Boyd's takeover, freshmen backups create sense of urgency at QB

Clemson will play the 2011 season with little experience at a key position

Clemson's Tajh Boyd breaks a tackle by a Presbyterian defender.

Photo by Sefton Ipock

Clemson's Tajh Boyd breaks a tackle by a Presbyterian defender.

Editor's Note: The following is part of a position-by-position look at the Clemson football team's personnel options, present and future, heading into spring practice. Next: defensive line.

QUARTERBACK

Top of the depth chart: After waiting his turn for two years, Tajh Boyd (redshirt sophomore, 6-1, 225) takes over reins of the Tiger offense.

Out of the mix: Kyle Parker finished his two-year stint as the Tigers’ starting quarterback with two seasons of eligibility remaining, and will report to the Colorado Rockies in March. Michael Wade graduated after working as the Tigers’ third-team quarterback throughout much of his career.

A chance to compete: First-year freshmen Tony McNeal (6-1, 190) and Cole Stoudt (6-4, 200) will compete for the backup spot this spring, after enrolling in January. Also working at the position are sophomore walk-ons Donny McElveen (6-2, 190) and Taylor Ogle (6-5, 190).

In the pipeline: The Tigers’ third quarterback signee – Morgan Roberts (6-4, 200) – was signed as a ‘grayshirt’ and may not join the team until next January.

Order of business: It’s Tajh Boyd’s turn to shine, and he’ll try to do it while directing the on-field implementation of new coordinator Chad Morris’ offense.

Boyd believes he’s well-suited to the task.

“I think it could be a perfect fit,” Boyd said recently. “It’s keeping defenses on the edge. I’m trying to become the most versatile player I can to keep this offense explosive. Just having that extra threat would make this offense go, as you can see from all the spread teams (like) Oregon, Auburn, Texas.”

Boyd’s preparation over the past month has included spending time on the phone with Garrett Gilbert – Texas’ starting quarterback who played for Morris at Lake Travis High School - and studying film of Morris’ offense last season at Tulsa, which featured dual-threat quarterback G.J. Kinne.

“Kinne (involves) everything in the offense,” Boyd said. “He exploits all the players and their abilities. It’ll definitely be one of those kinds of offenses where the playmakers get the ball and get the chance to do something in it.”

Boyd says he benefited from two extended stints of playing time at the end of last season, as he played the second half of both the South Carolina and South Florida games. He finished his redshirt freshman season by appearing in seven games and 139 snaps, and completed 33 of 63 passes for four touchdowns and three interceptions.

That’s not much experience to build on as the Tigers begin preparation for a front-loaded schedule that includes consecutive games against Auburn, Florida State and Virginia Tech early in the season. Boyd, however, is somewhat ahead of the game, having prepared last spring to be the Tigers’ starter in anticipation of Parker signing a baseball-only deal with the Colorado Rockies.

While preparing Boyd will be the Tigers’ top priority, an almost as pressing issue will be in identifying which player will back Boyd in the season-opener.

Dabo Swinney said recently that he hopes the competition between McNeal and Stoudt settles itself during spring drills and preseason camp, so that one of the freshmen can redshirt next fall.

As the Tigers work their way through the spring, every snap for every quarterback will be critical to next season’s success.

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