Clemson Football: Interview with Tajh Boyd
Tajh Boyd is the star quarterback of the Clemson Tigers.
The rising junior had an incredible 2011 campaign, leading Clemson to its first ACC title in 20 years.
A redshirt in 2009 and backup in 2010, Boyd catapulted himself inrto national attention by accounting for 16 touchdowns in his first five games as a true starter.
Boyd finished the season with some incredible numbers: 33 touchdowns and a 141.2 passing efficiency rating, which culminatied in him being named an All-ACC first team starter.
At 6'1", Boyd lacks prototype size but he is a tough competitor with enough bulk to handle the physicality that the quarterback position invites.
Boyd plays well against the top teams.
He threw four touchdowns and no interceptions against the reigning national champion Auburn Tigers. He had three touchdowns and no picks against a Florida State secondary featuring the likes of Greg Reid and Xavier Rhodes, and he threw for five touchdowns against North Carolina.
Accounting for over 4000 yards of offense last year was amazing, and with increased consistency, don't be shocked to see Boyd in Heisman contention this season.
Clemson provides Boyd with two top-tier wideouts in Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins as well as a gamebreaker in running back Andre Ellington. Another ACC title should be in the cards.
Here is my interview with Tajh.
Colan Lamont: You recently took part in the Whitfield quarterback academy at Stanford. How did you find that experience?
Tajh Boyd: I thought it was beneficial. I saw them working with Cam (Newton) on ESPN and then I got a chance to talk to them last year. It is at a good time where I was able to go out there and train a little bit and it kept me in good shape. I got to work with Trent Dilfer some too so I think it was a good experience.
CL: Ron Jaworski has said you have the skill set to play in the NFL. Do you think the academy has better prepared you for the upcoming season and the NFL?
TB: I think it has. I think this season is a crucial year for the team and myself. As far as the NFL, that’s going to take care of itself. At the Academy, I got some good experiences with those guys, some of which have played in the NFL, which I think can help me this season. One of the things that we worked on there was our approach. We talked about taking everything as seriously as possible in a leadership role and being dependable and doing the things that we should do.
CL: Which NFL team would you play for in an ideal world?
TB: That’s kind of a ways away but I think it would be cool to play for the (Pittsburgh) Steelers. Their head coach Mike Tomlin is from the area that I am from and I have actually gotten to speak with him before. I just think it would be nice to play for someone from the same background and area that I grew up in.”
CL: If you could pick one other college offense where you think your skill set would be appropriate, where would it be and why?
TB: I like Wisconsin’s offense. I think they have a really balanced offense between the passing game and running game. Russell Wilson did a great job running that type of offense. After last season, I feel like I can play in any type of offense but I feel like Wisconsin’s offense is completely different from our offense so I think it would be cool to play that type of offense.”
CL: What was the main reason that you changed your commitment from Tennessee to Clemson?
TB: I had a really good relationship with Phillip Fulmer. About two or three weeks after I committed, Tennessee announced that he was going to resign. Then they brought in Lane Kiffin as head coach and we just didn’t have much of a chemistry together so that allowed me to open up my recruitment and look at other schools, which ended up being Ohio State, Oregon and Clemson. Clemson kind of came along at the end and it ended up working out for the best.
CL: What part of Chad Morris’ offense do you think matches your skill set the most?
TB: I think running the triple option matches my skill set, even though that was something new for me. We throw the ball a ton and growing up that was something I really didn’t do a lot of. Sometimes we would throw the ball four or five times a game and I was ecstatic. I had never thrown for a 300-yard game in high school and then I threw a 400-yard game last season.
CL: Clemson went from being ranked 88th in national offense to 29th with Coach Morris at the helm. Do you think that was more about you fitting his offense or vice versa?
TB: He always tailors the offense to fit our skill set. We should have been a lot better than were and that’s not a cliché. We left a lot out there last year and we just have to learn and grow from it. I think we have the potential for more plays a game this season. We understand better now what his offense is trying to accomplish. Also, I think the freedom I have as a quarterback within his system will show up more this season.
CL: Dwayne Allen was a top tight end prospect and one of your favored targets. Do you think a tight end is more important to the development of a young quarterback than a wide receiver. If so why and if not, why not?
TB: For me, the whole package of a fullback and tight end is important. It was good for me last year because Dwayne and I were comfortable together. Dwayne added a lot of character to our team. He was one of those guys that was a natural leader out there. Dwayne was like a coach out there. I mean you have to be comfortable with all your receivers out there but Dwayne was like Coach Morris on the field. For a young quarterback, it was huge to have a guy like Dwayne out there so it’s not even about having a tight end but having older guys around you to help you. Dwayne happened to be that guy.
CL: How did redshirting in 2009 improve you as a player?
TB: I didn’t like it at first but the coaches knew what they were doing and it worked out for the best in the end. If it was up to me I wouldn’t have redshirted. It was an experience that I had to grow from. You think it is a confidence booster if as a freshman you are out there competing but here it doesn’t matter because you are going against All-Americans even in practice.
CL: You had a great 2011 season. How do you look back on it?
TB: Overall, it was a pretty good season. If we had finished the season the way we started it we would have been in the national championship game. I wouldn’t trade last season for the world though, even with the bowl game and everything that happened. I feel it is going to help our team out so much. Based on what people thought we were going to do at the beginning of last season, I would say it was a pretty successful season.
CL: What do you think your best game was last season?
TB: I would have to say Florida State, even though I had shake off some errors. We overcame a lot that game. I just feel like that was one of my better games. It was a really great experience for me.”
CL: Do you have a favorite play that you like to run?
TB: I think ‘4-Verticals’ is my favorite. I have the fastest wide receivers in the country and I can basically throw it deep and one of them will come up with it. It is not a play where the guys have a bunch of short routes. I just get to throw it as far as I want to.
CL: What have you been working to improve on during the offseason?
TB: I have been working on a lot of small things, including footwork. I have been working on recognizing coverages and making adjustments as well. It is to the point now with my receivers that I feel so comfortable with them that we don’t have to go off of a designed play call. We can just make an adjustment based on the coverage. Linebackers don’t expect you to recognize coverage and make an immediate adjustment. I have also been working on my leadership and taking it to another level. I want my guys to have as much confidence in me as possible.
CL: At 6’1”, do you ever see your height as a disadvantage for you?
TB: I definitely do not. As a quarterback, you have to slide in front of lanes either way. Being a quarterback is really all about finding your throwing lanes. For me, I think I have a really high release point. With my release point, I think I am probably somewhere around 6’4” and I think that helps me out.
CL: As one of the best quarterbacks in college football, how much do you think about the NFL?
TB: There have been times when I have probably thought about it too much. For me, it is all about going out there and performing. Right now, all I am thinking about is being the best player that I can be. Everything else will fall into place after that.
CL: How proud are you of bringing the ACC title back to Clemson after 20 years?
TB: I am extremely proud. That’s not something that I necessarily expected, but I feel like this is something that Clemson needed. It is something that can help us grow even more. Clemson is still moving up and continuing to get better every year and this is an accomplishment that we are very excited about.
CL: The Clemson fans are known for being some of the best. Do you think the team thrives off their energy?
TB: I definitely think that we feed off of their energy. Prime examples for me would be the Auburn and Florida State games from last year. During the Auburn game, you couldn’t even hear anything on the field. I’m used to talking to the guys when it is that loud and if I can’t hear them then I know the quarterbacks from Auburn couldn’t hear. It was the same thing with the Florida State game. After the last sack, the crowd just erupted. It is definitely great to have a fan base that is that passionate.
CL: How much time do you spend studying defenses during the season?
TB: During the season, you spend as much as time as possible. You are going to see different types of defenses every week. You see different schemes and different defensive coordinators and there is just so much different stuff that you have to go through during the week to prepare. You have to prepare a lot and Coach Morris does a great job of preparing scouting reports and getting us ready for what we are going to see.
CL: Which current/former NFL quarterback do you most admire?
TB: I would have to say a little bit of Tom Brady and a little bit of Michael Vick. I have always been a Michael Vick fan. His ability to create plays is unbelievable. He was labeled as a running quarterback but when he was with the (Philadelphia) Eagles he became much more well-rounded. He also manages the game really well and you can tell that it is his team. Tom Brady is the calmest guy you have ever seen in the pocket; nothing distracts him. He doesn’t let anything bother him. He can throw an interception and then turn around and throw a touchdown pass on the next play. I’m sure there are other quarterbacks out there like me but those are my favorite.
CL: How happy are you that Dabo Swinney signed an extension?
TB: It was a big deal. In schools like this there is really no guarantee that a coach will stay. It is really exciting that he got an extension because I how important this school and this program is to him. I was very excited to see that.
CL: Do you know much about incoming recruits of 2012?
TB: I’m excited about this incoming recruiting class. A lot of the guys that we have here are guys that can make an impact. I’m excited too because it is another group of guys that I get to help from a leadership standpoint. We all know how it is as freshman, a little bit of nerves and a little scary so I’m excited to see what they can add to the program.
CL: Do you think you can better 33 touchdowns next season?
TB: It is going to be a stretch but I think I can. Anywhere between 35 and 40 touchdowns is a special season. I’m kind of excited about it because we have a receiving corps as good as it is. It is something to strive for.
CL: What are you overall expectations for the team in 2012?
TB: Being relentless. There is no sense of complacency on this team. I feel like we can really take it from here and really grow and prosper. This team is coming into the season with a great mindset.
Thanks to Tajh for taking the time to provide me with these great responses and to Tim Bourret for setting it up. Thanks also to those who gave me some insight into which questions they would like answered.
Colan Lamont is a contributor for Bleacher Report. All quotes used in this interview were obtained first-hand unless otherwise noted.
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