Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd will not be attending ACC media days, which begin Sunday in Greensboro, N.C., so I spoke with him on the phone Thursday to get his take on the upcoming season. Boyd played his way into the Heisman conversation last year after the Tigers’ 8-0 start, and he has a chance to do that again. Last year, Boyd set an ACC record for touchdown responsibility in a season with 38. He completed 298 of 499 passes for 3,828 yards, all school records. He completed 59.7 percent of his passes, and led the ACC in total offense (289.0) and passing yardage (273.4) per game and was fifth in pass efficiency (a rating of 141.2).
Here are the highlights of our conversation:
What’s your outlook on the offense knowing there are questions up front you guys have to answer?
Tajh Boyd: I’m just excited for those guys to get out there and show what they can do. I’m really confident in this group of linemen and excited about this first game. We start off with a bang against Auburn, so it’s going to be competitive. We’ve got some youth out there, but those guys are ready for the challenge. They’ve been working hard all summer to prove themselves. It’s going to be fine.
How is this season going to be different for you?
TB: Just more experienced in the long run. We started off really good last year, but I think we have a better perspective on what to expect this season, and how to control certain obstacles. The big thing last year was not being consistent, the way we finish games, the way we start games. It’s been a really good summer so far. With the way guys have been pushing themselves, I think it could be a special season. We have to keep working and taking it one game at a time, but it comes down to how consistent we are.
What would you say is the biggest thing you learned from last season? You personally?
TB: Just going to compete every play. For me, it’s more about managing the game. I felt like sometimes it was to the point where I felt like everything was on my shoulders, everything was on my back. One of the things I have to understand, I always have to be able to manage the game consistently, be cool regardless of the situation, work and push the guys beside me. For me, it’s just game management.
In terms of executing the offense and being in the second season under offensive coordinator Chad Morris, how much smoother has the offseason been and do you expect it to continue to be this fall?
TB: That’s the exciting part about it, is that we’re able to improvise a little bit more. Me, the receivers, running backs. The line has a better understanding and grasp of the offense and things have been clicking. Last year we thought, we have to learn this as fast as possible. Now we’re taking our time with it, figuring out what we can improve on, and critiquing ourselves. It’s just been an awesome summer so far. I’m excited for camp to start putting some of these things to use and get ready for some of the new things we’ll put in as well.
What do you think you guys are capable of this year?
TB: It’s kind of hard to say until you get out there and do it, but I think we have all the capabilities in the world, to compete for whatever kind of championship we want to. But again, it’s all about being consistent and finishing. That’s one of the lessons we learned from last year. This team has no limits on what we can do. It’s just about how we prepare ourselves and how focused we are.
How much does it mean to you to play your way into the Heisman conversation?
TB: It’s definitely an honor just to be mentioned in a category like that. Growing up as a kid, that’s one of the things you hope for and dream about. But the team has to succeed in order for any individual accomplishments like that to come along. With the way we’ve been working this summer, who knows what we can do. Just being considered as an elite player like that is going to be awesome. I have to take things like that in stride.
Do you guys still talk about the Orange Bowl? Is that something you use as motivation, or have you done everything you can to try to forget it?
TB: You really can’t forget about it too much. Every conversation we have with a person outside the football program, that’s the first thing they ask about: How is the season going to be, are you still thinking about the Orange Bowl? My answer is, we’re going to use it as a factor, but it’s not always a present memory right now. You have to use all of the experiences you have and try to learn from them and grow from them, but at the same time, it’s not something we’re dwelling on right now.
What’s the biggest thing you need to do during summer camp to have a better season than you did last year?
TB: Just being the best leader I can be. Losing a guy like Dwayne (Allen, the tight end drafted in the third round by Indianapolis) and some of the guys like that, they had a big role in leadership and everything of that nature. The guys are going to have to be able to depend on me at all times. I’m prepared to do that at all costs. That and managing the game, taking what the defense gives me and having total control out there. You have to tune everything out.