We recently had the opportunity to speak with Clemson QB Tajh Boyd. Tajh is one of the highest-ranked quarterbacks in the NCAA and is already towards the top of many 2014 NFL Draft prospect boards. Boyd looks to stear the upcoming 2013 Clemson team towards a National Championship.
Audio of our conversation below, transcript after the jump.
Q: Alright Tajh, thank you for taking some time out to speak with us, we really do appreciate it. Starting off with the end of your last season at Clemson University, what grades would you give your overall team performance, your individual performance, and why do you give those grades?
A: I think that, from a team standpoint, we graded out at as a "B," and it'd probably be the same way individually. I think as a team we did a lot of really good things---won a good amount of games---won eleven games and two losses. But I feel like, those two losses, both of the games were lost in the fourth quarter: Florida State and South Carolina. I think we had the lead in both games. The reason it is a "B," is because I think as a group we just need to learn how to continue to finish games. We seem to make sure that everything is squared away throughout the course of the game, but I think we kind of lacked that finish those last few games. Not from a competitive standpoint, just from a mental standpoint. So we have to continue to keep growing and keep working.
As a player, [I] did a lot of good things that [have] been retty decent, pretty good, broke some records. But I have to continue to keep growing. Didn't like the fact that I threw 13 interceptions last year, I felt like those could've been cut down to 5 [or] 6. So I have to continue to work on that, somewhere. Tipped passes off of one guy's hands, somewhere, just poor decisions. So, just have to continue to grow, keep learning, keep growing mentally. I don't think there's ever a time where there's not room for improvement. So it's going to take a lot of work, it's going to be a big offseason. But I think team and individual, we have an opportunity to be special.
Q: In 2012, your accuracy jumped up an impressive 7.5% to 67.2%, what do you attribute that large rise to?
A: Just a lot of work, throughout the course of the offseason. Continuing to work on my footwork. Footwork leads to accuracy. That's one of the things that we stress here at the program, as well. Coach Morris, our quarterback coach, we work on it so much that it becomes almost secondhand to you--just being in the right situation.
And then a lot of it was just having the chemistry with my guys, my receivers. Kind of having an understanding of where those guys are going to be [and] what kind of passes I can throw to them. Another one was just knowledge of the defense. Recognizing what's going on out there and making better decisions overall. A lot of it was just small things, but turned out to big. There was a lot of times where we really needed some of those completions and they came in clutch times. I pretty much key that to the offseason.
Q: What was and/or is your motivation for staying and continuing your career at Clemson?
A: Just trying to help put this team in the best situation possible. Again, there's some things I can go out and accomplish individually, but ultimately I can back for more team-oriented reasons. I think we have a chance to be a special group- a special group of people, a team in-general. And I think we have an opportunity (the players, the coaching staff, etc.) to play at the highest level; to play in the biggest game. Hopefully we put ourselves in the position to do that. But again, that's going to take a tremendous amount of effort through out the offseason [and] summer. And everyone being on one accord, one page. It's going to be fun. You've gotta keep growing and I just wasn't ready to leave yet. The coaches have been great to me and I just felt like there was no need to leave at the moment. 'Cause there's more out there for us, together.
Q: Kind of playing off what you just said--you guys can continue to work during the spring and summer to improve--what do you think is the most important thing that you and your teammates can do during this time to get better?
A: The most important thing right now, as far as the offensive standpoint goes, is just getting this chemistry down. We lost some guys, not too many guys, but enough where it was some key leadership roles that were lost. And we have to step up and replace those measures.
So we have to be a tight-knit group in every area, every facet of this team. Whether it is the linemen sticking together, the receivers, running backs, having a good relationship with the linemen, etc. So it's going to be a good time for us. It's going to be fun for us, and we just have to continue to all know what we want to accomplish as a team. What are the most important goals and go out and succeed in acheiving those.
Q: So continuing on that--getting better with your teammates, building that chemistry--do you feel that going into this 2013 season that Clemson has the potential to be a National Championship team, and, personaly, do you feel like that you can be a Heisman candidate?
A: I think so. I think as far as the team goes, we've been taking the steps each year and getting better each year. And I think we're so close to kicking that door down. Again, you have to go out there and compete/perform. Just cause of what we have in past couple of years, that's not going to be a total correlation of what can happen this year. We have to take it game by game, understand what we're doing; understand what we're capable of doing, and going out there and doing it. There's no room for complacency as a group, and I think we have an opportunity to go out there and put some special things together--go out there and just take it a game at a time, play-by-play, and have a chance to be special.
And I feel like the Heisman, you've got people that have me in consideration and things like that. I've been in consideration for the past few two years, and it'd be nice to get down there. But, ultimately, those things can't happen without the team things going on. So, I think if we can perform as a team and do what we're capable of doing, everything else will work itself out. I think there's a chance to do both of those things, and just got to keep working.
Q: Alright, so obviously to reach both of those goals, if you will, you have to be a leader on this team. How do you get the respect, or how have you built that respect in the past with your team to see you as a leader? And how important do you see it to be a leader on this team?
A: I think I've been one of those guys that has had an opportunity to earn respect with those guys, early in the past 2-3 years, mainly due to just being a hard worker and being consistent. Guys respect work, they respect pride. And I think those are some of my strong points. But now's the time to take my leadership role to the next level. Going out there and being somewhat of that coach on the field at all times, in all aspects. And if someone has a question, I need to answer those things. And that's some of the stuff I continue to work on in the offseason--just being able to know everything like the back of my hand.
I want to be an extension of Coach Morris and coach them out there on the field. And it's going to take a lot of work in regards of being a football player and a leader, so I'm excited about the opportunity to do that and the capabilities/possibilities that this team has.
Q: Finally, football or otherwise, what is the most important thing that you have learned during your time at Clemson?
A: The most important thing is being a good person, in-general. Those are always some of the key values as a kid, and you usually learn it from teachers, parents, etc, but it goes a long way, especially in the community. So, I think in the position that I'm in, as a player here, you get viewed as a really positive role model. You want to make sure that you continue to improve upon that. I think in this business, and you can see in the NFL, that image is everything. It can gain a guy millions of dollars, it can cost a guy millions of dollars. But regardless of money in-general, I think it is something that should be upheld in the community and put to use at whatever school you go to.
So, I just learned a great deal of respect, just kind of understanding what goes into a football team. This is more than just the coaches: you've got the training staff, the equipment staff, and you have to learn how to have respect for the people that put in the work, and put in their time to make sure everything in run successfully/appropriately. So those are just some of the small things I've learned, but there's more as maturation goes, and it came with time.