CHARLOTTE -- The Tigers say they are motivated for today's Meineke Car Care Bowl. They say it is important to record a 12th consecutive winning season. But fans traveling to Bank of America Stadium or planning to watch the game on ESPN also figure to have an eye on 2011. They are curious to see how much and how well the heir at quarterback, Tajh Boyd, performs.
Boyd is coming off his most extensive playing time of the season against South Carolina, when he tossed 18 of his 40 career pass attempts in relief of Kyle Parker. While Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has stuck with Parker as his starter, he hopes to play Boyd early and often against a tough South Florida defense.
"Kyle has had the majority of first-team reps," Swinney said, "but Tajh has had quite a bit of work, not just through this week, but all through bowl practice.
"I'd like to get him in there early. In a perfect world they both get to play and, play well."
South Florida coach Skip Holtz expects to see a lot of Boyd, whose workload in the regular season was dictated by the score.
The progress of Boyd, a redshirt freshman, is perhaps the most important Clemson player development issue going forward.
Swinney said Boyd is one player whose stock has risen during bowl practice. By the time Boyd takes over as quarterback next fall, he'll have had two bowl practices, two full spring practices and three summers of experience under his belt -- more work than Parker enjoyed prior to his freshman All-American campaign. But Parker also arrived on campus more polished, thanks to a father who played in the NFL and a high school coach in Carl Smith, who is now in the NFL.
"Kyle was further along coming in here from a background standpoint," Swinney said. "But Tajh has come light years from last January.
"Had it not worked out the way it did, he might not be quite as far along as he is, but Kyle was pretty much all baseball last spring. Tajh pretty much got to go all spring as the first-team guy and really got exposed on some things, seeing he had a lot of work to do. He prepared all summer to be the starter. That process mentally helped him grow. He is much, much better prepared."
There has never been any doubting Boyd's physical tools. Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel said Boyd has a slightly stronger arm than Parker and is bigger than Parker at 6-1, 230 pounds.
McDaniel said Boyd has become more of a student of the game in his second year on campus.
"He's grown up a lot," McDaniel said. "One thing about Tajh is he comes and asks me if he has a question about what defense we were in during practice. ... He tries to figure out what is going on. He has a lot of questions."
While today could mark the beginning of sorts of the Boyd Era at Clemson, it is assuredly the end for Parker, who has a pro baseball contract with the Colorado Rockies.
The end of the Parker's Clemson career almost came after the South Carolina game. The sophomore admitted he weighed the benefits of returning for the bowl game or beginning to prepare for his pro baseball career.
"I think the thing everyone needs to realize is everyone is doing their best to win the game," Parker said. "We'll play hard and finish this up."
Check out the Clemson blog at postandcourier.com/blogs/tiger_tracks and follow Travis Sawchik on Twitter (@travis_sawchik).