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Clemson's QB Question: Will Parker leave school?

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson backups Tajh Boyd and Michael Wade slog through hours of quarterback workouts, throwing with teammates, learning formations and prepping to help the Tigers defend their ACC Atlantic Division title.

Starter Kyle Parker, meanwhile, is taking batting practice swings at Coors Field.

With football camp less than a month away, the biggest question on campus focuses squarely on two-sport standout Parker: Could he give up football for pro baseball?

"It's definitely in the back of your mind," said Wade, a high school quarterback twice shifted to defense in his four years with the Tigers. "But it's not something we talk about a lot, just getting ready for the season."

No one yet knows what role fifth-year senior Wade or redshirt sophomore Boyd could play this fall. That's because Parker's yet to decide his future after a visit last week to the Colorado Rockies.

Parker was a freshman star on the football field last year, throwing for 20 touchdowns and 2,526 yards as Clemson reached its first ACC title game. However, Parker was already in the sites of Major League Baseball scouts as a power-hitting outfielder after two stellar seasons on the college diamond. Parker enhanced his credentials with 20 homers this year, believed to the first time a Division I players had 20 home runs and thrown 20 TDs.

Then last month, the Rockies sent many Clemson football fans into a panic it selected Parker No. 26 overall, high enough that most organizations won't gamble on a prospect playing football.

"You know, sometimes we'll joke about how much money he's going to get," said Wade, who's father played on Clemson's 1981 national champions. "But we don't think much about what he's going to do."

Right now, that's take a break from a whirlwind year that began with football workouts last summer and ended at the College World Series. Parker's mother, Cathy, said he enjoyed his get-to-know-you visit to Denver last weekend as they start the negotiating process.

Tiger baseball coach Jack Leggett said he spoke with Parker after he returned. "I think they showed him what could be expected if he were to sign," he said. "I think that's as far as it's gone right now."

Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney cracked in March that it would take a "Brinks' truck full of money" to lure Parker away from Death Valley. More recently, he put Parker's chances of returning at "50-50."

Swinney believes Parker has as much upside for the NFL as he does in the majors. "This kid has great talent as a quarterback," Swinney said last month. "I know that's a selfish thing for me to say but I know he could go right into that league and be a pro as well."

Swinney also said he'd be comfortable with Boyd or Wade under center come Clemson's opener with North Texas on Sept. 4.

Boyd is a 6-foot-1, 210 pounder who picked the Tigers over Ohio State and Oregon. He's got a strong arm and was a co-MVP at the U.S. Army All-America game after the 2008 season.

Wade, at 6-1 and 205, has more grasp of the offense and took two snaps in mop-up duty in 2008.

"I don't have the cannon that Kyle or Tajh have," Wade acknowledged. "I think I can make plays to help this team."

So does Boyd, who's filled with confidence that, if asked, he can perform as Parker did last year.

"When you grow up playing since you were seven and never having to sit out, that's something hard to do," Boyd said of his redshirt 2009 season. "When the opportunity comes, you've got to take advantage of it. That's what I'm trying to do right now."

Swinney and the Tigers reserve quarterbacks expect a resolution sooner rather than later. The Rockies also drafted North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson, signing him to a deal that allows him to play college football.

Clemson already enters the season without departed stars in tailback C.J. Spiller, receiver Jacoby Ford and tight end Michael Palmer and doesn't want to add its rising sophomore Parker to that list. So Boyd and Wade will keep sweating it out with their Tiger teammates to prepare for the season.

"There are a lot people skeptical about us," Boyd said. "Some people are predicting we could be pretty bad. We're out here and we can't worry about that."