CLEMSON — Tajh Boyd is perceived by most as the dark horse, third-party, Ron Paul-like candidate in Dabo Swinney's Decision 2009.
Boyd doesn't quite see it this way.
Most anticipate a redshirt for Boyd this fall, a true freshman coming off February ACL surgery and behind Willy Korn and Kyle Parker. But Boyd sees an early opportunity at Clemson, which is in part why he chose the Tigers over his runner-up Ohio State.
"Terrelle Pryor, he is Ohio State," said Boyd of the sophomore quarterback in Columbus. "(Clemson) hasn't really established anybody. I've got an opportunity to come in with a new coach, who is going to play the best player."
The 6-foot-and-a- 1/2 inch, 210-pound Boyd enrolled early, attended spring meetings and stalked the facility like an overzealous, walk-on hopeful.
Boyd views summer camp as critical.
Part of the reason he is so adamant about competing for a job is due to Korn's three years of remaining eligibility and Parker's four. Boyd knows the August winner — if there is a winner — has the first chance to cement himself as a long-term answer at quarterback.
"If they were juniors going into their senior years I would have no problem redshirting," Boyd said. "That's the reason I don't want to redshirt, because Willy is a redshirt sophomore, Kyle is a redshirt freshman.
"I don't want to take any risks. I want to be out there ready to play."
The first test in his attempt to make an improbable run at the quarterback job — good health — appears to have been passed.
Less than six months after ACL reconstruction, Boyd, a pro-style quarterback, said he is participating in all summer workouts outside of a few lateral agility drills. He is lifting weights, running and throwing.
ACL rehab usually takes between eight to 12 months, but Boyd said damage in his knee was solely limited to the ligament, simplifying and hastening the recovering process.
"I told somebody I'm going to be ready by fall camp and they were like 'no way,' " Boyd said, "but I really am.
"A lot of people are counting me out. I'm trying to do as much as I can."
Boyd is not feigning good health.
Swinney said this week Boyd is ahead of schedule and "anticipates him being there, ready to go" when camp opens Aug. 4.
Swinney still prefers to redshirt Boyd, to ensure 100 percent health and allow Boyd a full year to digest the system.
"In a perfect world he redshirts," Swinney said. "But he may be lining up winning an ACC championship for us."
Swinney says there will be an open competition this summer.
He used the example of Wake Forest's Riley Skinner advancing from third team to starting quarterback as a redshirt freshman — indicating the same could happen at Clemson.
Boyd cited recent examples of Florida's Tim Tebow and Pryor — recent true freshmen quarterbacks to play during their first season at major programs.
To join them, understanding the offense is the most daunting obstacle.
"I was in the meetings and kind of lost," Boyd said. "I'm writing stuff down but I really don't know what it means. When I'm out there the speed is a little faster but the speed won't be the biggest thing to get used to or the physical (aspect) it will be the mental side: reading defenses, making sure you are making the right reads."
It is that side of things that might make all the difference in his August candidacy.
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