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A year ago, when Tajh Boyd turned the ball over, the Tigers lost.
When he didn't, they won.
Oh sure, there were other areas of the game involved in determining the outcome, but generally speaking, turnovers dictated Clemson's wins and losses in 2011.
And there's a good chance the same story could be written this year as well. Clemson's offense is one of timing and rhythm and when all cylinders are firing, it's very difficult to stop. Much of that rhythm depends on Boyd, whether it's hitting his wide receivers in stride deep down field, or checking down to the safety valve, his decision-making means everything.
Decision-making doesn't always mean finding the right receiver either. Sometimes, it's simply throwing the ball the way in a critical situation, instead of trying to force the issue.
During Saturday's scrimmage, Boyd demonstrated he's learned from last year's mistakes by simply throwing the ball out of bounds.
Or at least, he's taking a step in the right direction.
In a critical third down situation with his unit in field goal range, Boyd avoided pressure and simply threw it away, keeping the opportunity for a field goal on the table.
"That's what it is all about," Boyd tells CUTigers. "We had points available and if I took a sack it would have knocked us out of field goal range. Right now it's all about getting points- field goals and touchdowns. I feel like we can score on every drive."
Don't think that didn't go lost on the coaching staff either. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney siad it was one of the best throws he saw the entire scrimmage.
"Believe it or not I was just excited to see him throw the ball away so we could kick a field goal. That was one of the best plays he had today," Swinney said. "He made a decision and it wasn't there and he got rid of the ball. That's him taking the next step as a quarterback."
There were other signs Saturday that showed Boyd has matured as well- like taking off downfield when the opportunity presents itself.
Again, too many times a year ago Boyd elected to force the issue, instead of taking the easy six- or seven-yard gain.
In Saturday's scrimmage, Boyd scored on a 32-yard touchdown run and turned a lot of heads in doing so.
"I'm doing what I can," Boyd says with a laugh. "I'm bringing back my roots from the 757 (southeast Virginia). The Vick's, the Hagan's the Iverson's and the Tyrod Taylor's. It's good to be able to make runs like that. I'm in great shape right now and not really winded at all. If anything, I have to keep working and have the same vision in the passing game with the running game.
"It gives me new respect for guys like Andre Ellington and C.J. [Spiller], but it's a work in progress."
|"I'm in great shape right now and not really winded at all. If anything, I have to keep working and have the same vision in the passing game with the running game."|
Admittedly, it is just one scrimmage. And it's just the first week and a half of preseason camp. There are still 20 days remaining before Clemson even plays a game this season.
At the same time, Boyd has proven he's been a relentless worker during the offseason. Last year, he studied up on the playbook and it paid off in a very big way.
Boyd smashed multiple single-season school and conference records on his way to winning to 10 games, an ACC Championship while being named a first-team All-ACC signal caller.
This year, he's lost 12 pounds in an effort to become quicker, and he's also trying to make better decisions to prevent last year's regular season collapse from happening again.
"When we turned the ball over last year we weren't at our best. We lost four out of six games turning the ball over. We've got to get rid of that and play smarter," Boyd said.
A smarter Boyd equals a smarter Clemson, and it also should equal more wins in 2012.