CLEMSON - Years and years of habits were retooled in a matter of seven weeks.
The 16 former Clemson players participating at Thursday's Pro Day, starting at 9 a.m.
QB Tajh Boyd
CB Bashaud Breeland
WR Martavis Bryant
K Chandler Catanzaro
LB Quandon Christian
LS Philip Fajgenbaum
TE Brandon Ford*
FS Rashard Hall*
CB C.J. Jones
RB Roderick McDowell
CB Darius Robinson
OG Tyler Shatley
LB Spencer Shuey
OT Brandon Thomas
WR Sammy Watkins
CB Jerrodd Williams
*last played for Clemson in 2012
Clemson Pro Day
How Tajh Boyd learned to throw a football in Pop Warner, at Phoebus (Va.) High School and at Clemson were with the team's best interests in mind. Once he lands with an NFL team in training camp, he'll do the same, mastering whichever of the 32 offensive playbooks he's asked to master.
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For a couple months, though, NFL draft prospects must put "me" before "we." When the Tigers boarded the plane back from Miami after beating Ohio State in the Orange Bowl in January, Boyd and a couple of teammates wished them well and stayed behind to immediately begin training to become professionals.
The biggest job interview of Boyd's life arrives Thursday when Clemson's indoor practice facility hosts NFL scouts at Pro Day. For Boyd, it has everything to do with the way he throws a football. Not the way he did so during his time at Clemson. The way he does today.
"I mean, it's a little different," Boyd said. "I feel like I always had a quick release, but I think it's a little bit more compact. I feel like my footwork is smoother, more balanced on my throws. I'm ready to get out here and throw it around."
After working in the summer of 2013 with San Diego-based quarterbacks coach George Whitfield Jr., Boyd was recommended by EJ Manuel, the first quarterback taken in last spring's draft, to seek out Manuel's private mentor, Ken Mastrole.
The Mastrole Passing Academy operates out of south Florida, with help from friends and former NFL greats Dan Marino and Jim Miller, who was Mastrole's teammate with the Chicago Bears in 2002.
"Dan was willing to come in and sit down (with Boyd) and watch film and talk about being a pro," Mastrole said, "talk about how his years progressed in the NFL."
Mastrole considers himself a technician, breaking down the throwing motion just like a golf swing.
"I honestly think this - taking from what I've learned watching different quarterbacks and doing this over the years - I feel Tajh has an incredible level of arm talent," Mastrole said. "Meaning, he can throw it from multiple angles and make multiple throws."
The first thing Mastrole needed to know before accepting Boyd under his wing was that he was adaptable.
"I have versatility. Obviously, I feel like I can sit back there and throw the ball on any platform," Boyd said. "I think one of my greatest assets is the way I release the ball. I can release it at any angle - which is high, sidearm or three-quarter release."
Boyd's scouting report on NFL.com's Combine report reads differently: "Throws with a low elbow and sails downfield throws - can improve his accuracy . Will require patience adapting to pro-style passing."
"It's no knock on Clemson," Mastrole said, "but a lot of that has to do with the offense that he's in and the pace of the throws, how quickly he needs to get them distributed to his playmakers."
True, Clemson never asked Boyd to be a pocket passer. The name of the game for offensive coordinator Chad Morris was immediacy, making plays as fast as possible.
"That's just one of the things that happens when you're at Clemson; the ball comes out a little bit quicker," Boyd said. "One of the questions I got from a lot of the coaches was, 'Are you able to play in that progression offense and are you able to make sure you manage that?' And I feel like I can. I don't think it's a problem at all."
Boyd wants to present a more refined, relaxed throwing motion to showcase for scouts. Boyd already threw at the NFL Combine last month, but now all eyes are on him rather than a cluster of the nation's top passers.
"I'm not going to tell you we've drastically made changes," Mastrole said. "You'll see him more comfortable with his base and lower body. You'll see less effort on his throws, where he's using proper weight transition."
Two of Boyd's college teammates were also in south Florida the past two months: cornerback Bashaud Breeland and wide receiver Martavis Bryant. The latter gave Boyd a friendly, familiar target in passing drills. Both Bryant and Sammy Watkins have joined Boyd in Clemson this week preparing for Pro Day drills.
"Tajh has gotten a whole lot better. He's a lot smoother now," Bryant said. "With Coach (Chad) Morris, it was about technique and getting it out quicker. But now Tajh, since he's going to be playing pro-style football, Tajh has more time to rock back and sling it around."
The biggest difference from college to the pros: the complexity of NFL systems, combined with the speed of opposing defenses. Which is why Boyd's mind will be as critical as his arm strength, though Mastrole doubts neither.
"He's got to be comfortable at the end of the day and execute this stuff at a hundred miles an hour," Mastrole said. "So we have made a couple small tweaks, but it's all been natural stuff. I think he's seeing the ball become more explosive with less effort off of his hand."
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