Tajh Boyd watched ESPN at the team’s Atlanta hotel prior to Clemson’s football game at Georgia Tech last season. On the television appeared a graphic comparing former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton’s statistics through Week 8 of his 2010 Heisman season to Boyd’s numbers through eight games in 2011.
Boyd just smiled.
“I’m leading him in every category,” Boyd said. “I get to the game and I’m seeing ‘Tajh for Heisman’ posters. You walk out there and it’s like, ‘I’m the man.’
“But that’s where things go wrong — you can’t look into things good or bad. It will fool you.”
Clemson fans know what followed. Clemson suffered its first loss of the season that night at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Prior to the Georgia Tech game, Boyd had been amazing. He had 24 touchdowns passes and just three interceptions.
His passing stats for the next six games: nine touchdowns, nine interceptions.
There are a myriad of ways to explain Clemson losing four of its final six games in 2011 — lack of depth, faulty defense, Andre Ellington’s injury — but Boyd said his own overconfidence played a role.
“The time when you get complacent is when you get beat,” Boyd said. “You start to do things that are outside of you. For me, I wasn’t trusting what I was taught. I wasn’t even in my drop half of the time in games. I’m stepping up in the pocket and now I’m at the line of scrimmage because I didn’t get deep enough in my drop.
“You have to trust in your team, trust in yourself, trusting in what you’re taught. That’s when things go right. It’s all about being consistent.
“(This summer) I’m staying humble, staying consistent. I learned form (last season).”
Coach Dabo Swinney saw an example of Boyd’s improvement during last Saturday’s scrimmage.
On a third-and-10 play, the Clemson defense blitzed. Last year, Boyd might have tried to make a highlight play by forcing a pass, but instead he simply evaded defenders and threw the ball away.
Swinney cited the play, an incomplete pass, as one of Boyd’s highlights from the scrimmage.
“Believe it or not, I was just excited to see him throw the ball away so we could kick a field goal. That was one of the best plays he had,” Swinney said. “He made a decision and it wasn’t there and he got rid of the ball. That’s him taking the next step as a quarterback.”
Boyd got away from staying within the confines of the system last year. He also got away from paying attention to details in his mechanics. This summer, Boyd went back to square one: focusing on consistency in repeating his throwing motion.
At quarterback guru George Whitfield’s camp in California, former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer made a colorful analogy that resonated with Boyd.
“He said a quarterback has to be a surgeon, not a butcher,” Boyd said. “They both cut meat, but the surgeon is precise. Real fine details. The butcher just chops.”
Boyd now understands why offensive coordinator Chad Morris puts Clemson’s quarterbacks through the same monotonous drills over and over and over again.
“After a while it’s like ‘c’mon on man.’ It gets so boring, but when you get in a game, you can see (the importance),” Boyd said. “It’s easy to start off real well, mechanics are real good, everything is tight and flowing. After time you start getting tired mentally, everything goes (downhill). It’s all about being consistent in my technique through the whole day, the whole practice, the whole game.”
And in 2012, Boyd hopes for consistency through a whole season.