The Kyle Parker watch is on

CLEMSON - With students returning home from spring break Sunday, Clemson's spring football practice gets underway again in full force Monday afternoon.

And this time things get a bit more serious.

The Tigers return to practice four times this week, including Monday, Wednesday, Friday and a scrimmage on Saturday. Saturday's scrimmage will actually be the first of two penciled in before the annual Orange and White game scheduled for April 10.

Only three practices have been conducted thus far, leaving little true news to report, however the biggest story line of spring ball so far may not have anything to do with what has taken place on the practice fields.

The biggest story of spring is the emergence of quarterback Kyle Parker ... on the baseball diamond.

As Jack Leggett's Tigers have reclaimed their spot as a national power this season, Parker has been one of the main reasons why, batting a team-best .414 with an ACC-best nine homeruns and 21 RBI.

In addition, he also has 10 multi-hit games.

While Dabo Swinney and company have maintained all along they expect Parker to return this fall to play football, his emergence this year as one of the ACC's best baseball players could throw a wrench in their plans.

You see, Parker, who is a junior in terms of baseball eligibility, could very well be in a position to be a high-round draft pick should his production continue its current pace. And at that point, the Jacksonville, Fla. native would have a decision to make: stay in college one more year, playing both football and baseball again, or bolt for pros.

Parker has always maintained its his desire to play both sports at Clemson, mind you. But you have to wonder if he were to inch his way into the top two or three rounds of his summer's MLB draft, could the right organization tempt him with enough of a signing bonus to leave school?


As Jack Leggett's Tigers reclaim their spot as a national power this year, Parker has been one of the main reasons why, batting a team-best .414 with an ACC best nine homeruns and 21 RBI. (Roy Philpott)
What happens from here on out remains anybody's guess, but if Parker continues to knock the cover off the baseball for the ACC-leading Tigers, this story will only become bigger as we get closer to the start of summer.

Of course, all this does is put the spotlight on red-shirt freshman quarterback Tajh Boyd even more during the final 12 practices of spring ball.

Taking advantage of Parker's absence in one session before spring break, Boyd dazzled with his arm strength while also proving he still has a ways to go with his reads and total understanding of the offense in game-type situations.

Still, the internal consensus at Clemson has to be Boyd will either start this year or next, given Parker's natural ability in baseball, not to mention his own skills as a signal caller.

But with Parker's current run on the diamond, perhaps it will be sooner rather than later.

In what usually is an over-sensationalized time of year for college football, this could actually prove to be one of the biggest stories in Clemson athletics this year, especially if Parker ends up being a high-round draft pick.

Think about it: if Parker returns to play football, Clemson will likely be picked to finish no worse than second in the ACC's Atlantic Division (battling Florida State likely). Building on his 2,500 passing yards and 21 touchdowns from a year ago, he would bring stability back at the most important position on the field.

But if he opted for baseball, the Tigers will be breaking in new running backs, new receivers and a new quarterback all at the same time. That's a lot of production to replace from last year's squad.

Sure, Boyd offers plenty of talent, perhaps more over the long term, but you'd rather have experience under center when the Tigers travel to Auburn the third game of the season, not to mention against Miami the first week in October.

Keep in mind no decisions have been made yet and spring practice and the 2010 baseball season are far from over. A lot of things can happen between now and then to push Parker closer to the pros, or closer to Clemson.

Maybe Tajh Boyd dazzles more than anyone expects over the course of the next three weeks which will help ease concerns about the possible loss of Parker.

Maybe Parker decides he wants to play football another year and will let Major League Baseball know that before the draft.

Heck, maybe he develops a wicked jump shot and helps out the basketball team next year as a combo guard. Wouldn't hurt my feelings.

But in all seriousness, in my book, the Kyle Parker watch is officially on.

He's too good at what he does, in both sports, to think otherwise.

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