CLEMSON -- Following the spring game, Clemson's offensive staff agreed quarterback Tajh Boyd had not reached Kyle Parker's level of the previous spring.
The words were more a nod to the developmental advantages Parker enjoyed than an indictment of Boyd. Parker's father played in the NFL, his high school quarterbacks coach, Carl Smith, is tutoring Jake Delhomme and Colt McCoy in Cleveland.
Still, the message to Boyd was clear: a summer of improvement was critical to accelerate growth and become a viable option come August.
Making the matter more urgent was Parker smashing his 12th home run of the baseball season on the eve of the spring game, his football future growing more and more unclear.
During spring exit interviews, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney asked all players to arrive Aug. 3 better than they left in April. Perhaps no player's summer performance was to be judged more critically than Boyd's.
The early returns are encouraging for Clemson.
"He had a ways to go this spring," Swinney said. "It's very obvious he worked hard all summer. He looks way more confident, much more poised, much more sure of what to do and that was good to see."
The first 50 minutes of practice were open to the media Tuesday. Boyd displayed his strong arm and quick release that had him ranked as one of the country's top 100 prospects in 2009. But it was what happened behind closed doors Tuesday, and the reports from the players' only summer workouts that impressed Swinney.
The Boyd who has emerged the first week of training camp is a player with a better grasp of the offense, a player for whom the game has slowed down.
"This summer I put a lot of work into it and I think it showed out here," Boyd said. "I feel like I'm a better leader. I feel like I can go through my progressions. Like a lot of times early in the year I would look at one guy and that's it. But now I feel like I'm getting a grasp of things."
Offensive coordinator Billy Napier said the uncertainty surrounding Parker's future was a major plus for Boyd, increasing his sense of urgency this summer, knowing he could be the guy.
"I think it helped a lot," Boyd said. "When you go out there and act like you are going to be in the role all the time you are going to try and step your game up."
Though No. 11 is still around, Boyd is still viewed as the future at quarterback at Clemson.
Most expect Parker to sign with the Rockies and begin a baseball-only career next year, though the Rockies are open to allowing Parker to continue to play football at Clemson. Moreover, Parker will also be eligible for the 2011 NFL Draft.
In the fall of 2011, Boyd will still have three years of eligibility.
This fall, Boyd is an injury away from starting, which makes this summer a critical one to close the production gap with Parker. While Boyd says he's improved, there's also considerable room to grown. "I'm going to use (every day) as a step up -- keep on moving up," he said. "There is a lot of work to be done."
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