CLEMSON -- On the day Colorado drafted Kyle Parker, Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd dined at the Esso Club, a popular campus establishment, sporting a Rockies baseball cap.
Had Boyd become the biggest Rockies fan east of the Continental Divide? Boyd says no, insisting his cap choice was merely a coincidence.
Still, Colorado's first-round selection might remove a major roadblock for Boyd.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney indicated the redshirt freshman is next in line should Parker depart -- a decision could come next week -- and Boyd is using the summer sessions to improve, motivated by opportunity and doubters' familiar refrain.
"A lot of people just don't think I'll be ready to play," Boyd said. "But I think I will. All you can do is try to push yourself to the limits. I'm just going to go out here and keep working."
Boyd was among the last to leave the practice field following summer workouts Thursday, toting with him a non-Rockies baseball cap and a heightened sense of urgency.
Boyd arrived last spring with similar billing as Parker had brought a year earlier. Boyd ranked as ESPN's 58th overall prospect, Parker entered ranked 34th. Both possess strong arms, quick deliveries and the ability to improvise with their feet.
However, Parker had the benefit of father who had played in the NFL, and a high school quarterbacks coach who was on a sabbatical from the NFL. Boyd entered college facing a steeper learning curve.
"Kyle's (high school) quarterback coach for two years (Carl Smith) is now with the Cleveland Browns," Swinney said in the spring. "Kyle just has a greater foundation. Everyone is at different levels."
This spring, Boyd completed 19 of 50 passes (38 percent) for 223 yards (4.46 ypa), two touchdowns and two interceptions in two scrimmages and the spring game.
For comparison, Parker completed 25 of 47 passes (53.1 percent) for 345 yards (7.3 ypa), five touchdown passes and no interceptions in the spring of 2009.
Parker answered Clemson's quarterback question last season with 20 touchdowns, 2,526 passing yards and nine wins.
Could Boyd deliver similar results?
Boyd's teammates see improvement in his second summer on campus.
"He has come out and really had a good summer and worked real, real hard," Clemson left tackle Chris Hairston said. "Anytime I come in here, it doesn't matter what time, I see Tajh over here doing something.
"Last year I don't think he realized what it took to prepare as a backup. He understands he is going to have to prepare a whole lot harder than he ever has."
Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel saw as much of Boyd as anyone last fall, as Boyd was the scout team quarterback.
"He is making great strides," McDaniel said. "He's in there probably getting more film study, running the plays more. When he's out there working against us he's trying to put it on the money every time."
McDaniel is expected to lead a stout defense.
The running game is solid.
The major question again looms over quarterback, where Boyd believes he can be an asset wearing the hat of a starter.
"I know people are trying to throw us under the bus," Boyd said, "but I like it like that way.
"I'm going to compete regardless of the situation. … I'm just preparing myself to be the man."
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