Boyd relishes role of underdog
ESPN 150 Watch List quarterback
Phoebus High School (Hampton, Va.)
Quarterback Tajh Boyd knows he must prove himself each and every day. He was raised in talent-rich Virginia, specifically the Hampton area where great high school quarterbacks haven't exactly been lacking in recent history. He has a long line of quarterbacks to compare himself against with the likes of Tyrod Taylor (Virginia Tech) and E.J. Manuel (Florida State), just to name two. The 6-foot-1 quarterback has certainly heard the questions "is he a good enough passer" or "is he tall enough" and has repeatedly answered the toll with production many quarterbacks three inches taller would love to have.
He has worked to prove he belongs by attending Elite 11 camps at North Carolina and Penn State and has been one of the best signal callers we have seen at all of the Nike and Elite 11 events this spring. Boyd attributes his drive and motivation to his parental guidance growing up.
"My dad motivates me because when no one else believed I could play QB, he did," said Boyd. "We worked so hard when it was freezing outside, raining, or anything else. I don't want to disappoint him, so that is what motivates me."
Sounds like gas prices don't deter Tajh's dad Tim Boyd either, as he has escorted Tajh to both camps with the hope it will lead to an Elite 11 national invitation and help Tajh continue to prove he is among the nation's best in the Class of 2009.
The West Virginia Mountaineers obviously paid close attention to that production and have a history of not worrying about ideal height at quarterback. They were able to lure him to Morgantown early in the recruiting process.
"I committed to West Virginia because when I went and visited the school everything just felt right. I was real comfortable with the coaches and I liked the atmosphere," said Boyd, who completed 69 percent of his passes for 2,049 yards, 25 touchdowns and six interceptions his junior season.
Familiarity may have also played a role as Boyd played under current West Virginia running backs coach Chris Beatty as a freshman at Landstown (Va.) High School.
Boyd likes to compare himself to former Ohio State QB and Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, an unbelievably accurate assessment in terms of physical tools.
"Troy Smith is not that big, but has cannon for an arm, is really confident and smooth and is kind of why I wear number 10."
Boyd clearly possesses the same confidence but is as humble as can be when you meet him.
"I love playing QB because I'm in control, always have the ball in my hands and everyone looks for me to win games.
"My best skill is my release because it's kind of hard for defenders to break up my passes because the ball gets there in a hurry, but I need to work on all the mental aspects of the game -- reading defenses, going through all my progression and knowing where everybody is at on the field."
That is just the kind of demeanor you want your quarterback to have, which is why Boyd has had so much success.
He has even loftier goals as a senior in pursuit of a state championship.
"I want to throw for 3,000 yards and run for at least 800 yards."
If that happens, what else will he have to prove? As a junior Boyd posted the highest QB rating of anyone in any division in the state. This year he wants to elevate from being second team all-state as a junior to first team as a senior.
When you first put on the tape, it is easy to think Boyd is an athlete playing quarterback and not the other way around. That's until you see several series and realize he is a heady, productive passer with a live arm and the legs to be a serious dual-threat in the spread offense.
He has very good mechanics overall. He gets back and sets up quickly and carries the ball high in the pocket. He has a quick release and drives off his back foot to get good power and velocity on his throws. He also shows very good touch on seam routes and crossing routes and shows the consistent ability to lead his receivers. He has a good strong arm and shows he can make all the throws. He has very good accuracy in the short-to-intermediate passing game.
He shows he has good toughness and the ability to stand in and take a hit but rarely has to because he can elude the rush so well. He has very good quickness and can buy time in the pocket with his movement and shows the ability to avoid the rush. Is very shifty and shows wiggle in the open field to make people miss. He is a threat when he pulls the ball down as he has the elusiveness to really hurt a defense. Although he has good running ability, he lacks the ideal top-end speed that would make him a home-run threat at wide receiver if moved there.
He is quick and elusive and plays with smarts and toughness. Even though he can really run and make plays with his legs, you can tell he takes pride in the passing game and proving he is a worthy throwing prospect. Very good athlete who is versatile and extremely productive.
Tom Luginbill is the national director of recruiting for Scouts Inc. Luginbill is a college football and recruiting studio analyst for ESPNU.