Will Tajh Boyd play in 2009?

CLEMSON - Not much has changed with Tajh Boyd's outlook on early playing time since he signed with Clemson this past February.

Just ask him.

In a conversation with Boyd earlier this month, the incoming freshman revealed to CUTigers.com he's as confident as ever he'll have a chance to see the field this fall, even with three quarterbacks ahead of him on the depth chart entering the start of preseason camp.

"I think I'm going to play," Boyd said. "My rehab is coming along ahead of schedule and I've really been working hard to learn the offense so I'm ready when practice starts.

"Honestly, things could not be going better for me since I moved down here."

Of course, Boyd's words don't sound that much different from most freshmen arriving on college campuses around the country this time of year. How often do you hear about a star quarterback arriving on campus expecting to play even when there's a certain first-round pick ahead of him on the depth chart, not to mention a couple of reliable backups?

It happens, and many times it's almost foolish to suggest early playing time is even possible when even the freshman himself knows its in his best interest to redshirt.

In Boyd's case though, it's a little harder to merely dismiss what he says.

Maybe it's how he says it. Maybe it's because he just seems to be everywhere on campus - in the weight room, watching camps or even eating dinner.

Or maybe it's because he makes the football look like nerf ball when he grasps it in his gargantuan hands - whatever the reason, when Tajh Boyd says it, it seems to mean a little more.

Keep in mind the five-star quarterback, who announced he would sign Clemson over Ohio State and Oregon in a pressure-packed press conference just days before signing day, did so with the idea he would have the best opportunity for playing time as a true freshman in Tigertown.

On the surface, he appeared to be right.

Ohio State welcomes back Terrelle Pryor, the former No. 1 prospect in the nation according to Scout.com, for his sophomore season after a strong freshman campaign while the Ducks settled on former junior college transfer Jeremiah Masoli after a sensational start to his career in the Pac 10 in 2008.

At Clemson, of course, there is truly no proven starter back in the fold when preseason camp begins Aug. 4.

But at the same time, the Tigers' quarterback situation doesn't seem quite as murky as what it did after a close loss to Nebraska in the Gator Bowl on New Year's Day.

Willy Korn's recovery from shoulder surgery now appears to be complete and two-sport standout Kyle Parker looked better playing football this past spring than he did on the baseball diamond.

And while the two returning quarterbacks have combined to start just one game at Clemson, it certainly leads to preseason questions concerning Boyd's status for the upcoming season.

Keep in mind, despite being the highest-ranked quarterback Clemson has ever signed, he's also coming off surgery to repair a torn ACL just days after signing day.

And ... he's just a freshman.

But for Boyd, nothing has changed. Nothing at all.

"It really hasn't changed at all," Boyd said when asked about his thoughts for the upcoming season. "The move from Hampton, [Va.] down to Clemson has been great. I love it down here. My parents love it down here and my rehab has been going great.

"I've been out here throwing and getting ready for the season and I'll be ready to go when practice starts."

Five-star quarterback Tajh Boyd signed with Clemson as the No. 4-ranked signal caller in the nation according to Scout.com.
Of course, no one can question Boyd's ability. From a talent standpoint, he's as gifted as any quarterback Clemson has signed since recruiting rankings became mainstream.

His arm strength rivals that of Parker's, who arguably has one of the strongest arms to ever play in Tigertown. He also is a natural leader, similar to Korn.

And after exploding on the scene in the U.S. Army All-American Game last December as a co-MVP, setting game records for passing yards and touchdowns, there wasn't a school in country that wasn't considering making a run at his services before he signed with the Tigers.

But what this likely all will boil down to before the Tigers kickoff off their 2009 season against Middle Tennessee on Sept. 5 is a clean bill of health.

If Boyd shows that he's not 110 percent recovered from his torn ACL come August, it simply may not make sense for him to try to play as a true freshman.

Why risk it? This isn't rocket science here, it's football.

Giving Boyd time to fully recover while making a run at the starting quarterback position next year could be the best thing that ever happens to him, especially when you consider Parker could enter the Major League Baseball draft next summer.

At that point, it could be just a two-quarterback battle between him and Korn, not three.

But for now, Boyd insists he's ready to play ... this year.

"There's no question [he's ready]," he said. "My knee feels good and I'm throwing the ball as well as I ever have but I have no regrets about my decision to come to Clemson. I really do love it here.

"But as far as playing this year? Yeah, I'm ready. I thought all the quarterbacks looked good this spring. Kyle and Willy did a really good job but I think there are some things I can bring to this team.

"We'll see what happens this fall."

And 81,000 Clemson fans will be anxious to see as well.

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