- Driving home from Clemson's campus Monday, Tajh Boyd had his music up and was
enjoying the ride when fellow senior Quandon Christian turned to him from the passenger
seat and said, "I feel different."
quarterback asked Christian what he meant, and the linebacker replied, "I feel
like this is a different team."
came out of the blue, but Boyd told the story Tuesday in the context of their upcoming
game Thursday night (7:30 p.m., ESPN) against NC State in Raleigh, NC, where
the ACC Atlantic Division foes will meet in the league opener for each.
comes into the game with a 2-0 mark and ranked No. 3 in the nation by The
Associated Press - its best ranking since the 1988 season - and it was
perfectly clear to Boyd what Christian was talking about.
time the Tigers traveled to Carter-Finley Stadium in 2011, they were flying
nearly as high, ranked No. 7 in the country with an 8-1 record, but committed
four turnovers and didn't reach the end zone until the final 90 seconds of a
point was simple - this year's team isn't destined for a similar fate.
like we've grown as a program, grown as players, and the leadership role we're
in as seniors, part of your job is to help these younger guys understand," Boyd
said. "Because a lot of them weren't here when we had the 6-7 season (in 2010)
and the adversity and struggle with that situation. For the older half of the
group, we understand what it feels like to be in bad situations."
player on the team has grown more from the last game at NC State than Boyd
himself, who threw two interceptions that night, including one on fourth down
near the goal line, but bounced back to lead the Tigers to the ACC title that
"He was a
first-year starter, and all of a sudden, it's not coming as easy and he's not
playing as well," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. "It was a good
opportunity for him to continue to get better, and he came back and responded
and led this football team to its first 10-win season and first ACC
Championship in a long time. And that's what champions do - they respond.
last year, he didn't play very well in the South Carolina game. But he responded
and came back and played very well in our bowl game, probably as good a game as
I've ever seen a quarterback play."
Boyd will be
without one of his top targets Thursday, junior receiver Charone Peake, who
suffered a torn ACL in practice last week and will miss the rest of the season.
delay surgery on the knee until the week of the Boston College game in
mid-October, according to Swinney, because the players will have fall break the
next week and that will allow him time to recover without having to worry about
getting around to classes.
classmate and former Dorman High School teammate Adam Humphries will start in
his place, and Swinney insisted he had full confidence in Humphries being
inserted into the starting lineup.
Swinney said the moment he became "sold" on Humphries as a football player was
when he was on a recruiting visit to Dorman to see Peake and attended a
basketball game that both were playing in.
"I went to
watch Charone Peake, and I couldn't take my eyes off Adam Humphries," Swinney
said. "It's a high level of basketball there at Dorman, and he was the point
guard - and was just running the show. And defensively, he was just a terror.
That is when I said, 'We better take a closer look at this guy.' And we did.
And (Dorman head football coach David) Gutshall was saying, 'The best football
player on our team is this guy right here.' And boy, he is the epitome of a
has seven catches for 53 yards in two games this year and had 41 grabs for 280
yards and a touchdown last season.
Humphries began the season in a backup role, Swinney said that had more to do
with his versatility making him a perfect option to play multiple receiver spots,
than being any indictment of his abilities.
going to play in the NFL," Swinney said. "He's going to play a while in the NFL,
if he stays healthy."
Humphries, the loss of Peake will create more opportunities for a trio of
freshmen - Germone Hopper, Mike Williams and T.J. Green - to make plays.
six catches for 66 yards and two touchdowns in Clemson's 52-13 win over South
Carolina State on September 7, while Williams and Green also had the first
catches of their college careers that day.
ready," Swinney said. "The South Carolina State game was big for them just to
be able to catch their breath. All freshmen go through kind of a transition
phase, but when you open up with a team like Georgia, that wasn't really the
stage for them. ... I really like where they are from a development standpoint."
will almost certainly need them to contribute Thursday, as those three freshmen
represent exactly half of Clemson's two-deep depth chart at wide receiver.
getting back to the original anecdote - the development of young players such as
those was one of the major reasons Christian gave Boyd as to why he feels this
year's Clemson team is so different from years past.
talking about the younger guys and their role," Boyd recalled. "I think just
this week of practice alone was very encouraging. The guys were dialed in. When
we step on that field, there is nothing else that matters besides football.
That's something that is preached to us and really coached to us, but I think
the guys really understand that."