Over the century-plus history of Clemson football, no Tiger quarterback can match the accomplishments and talent of Tajh Boyd. He’s a dynamic dual threat, who has led the Tigers to a 31-7 record as a starter, while surpassing the 4,000-yard mark for total offense the past two years and should come close again in 2013.
Sure, Steve Fuller garnered ACC player of the year honors twice, but his passing numbers were ordinary even by late 70’s norms. And then, there is Woody Dantzler, who ran and passed for 1,000 plus yards in consecutive seasons and even created the 2,000 passing/1,000 rushing yards club in 2001. Numbers aside, unlike Fuller and Boyd, Dantzler’s Tiger squads failed to achieve great success, maxing out at nine wins in 2000.
Boyd is the best quarterback to wear the orange and white, but is he one of college football’s all-time greats? No, not yet. That class requires big wins on national stages. Boyd has his share of those: topping Aaron Murray and the fifth ranked Georgia Bulldogs to open the 2013 season, leading the thrilling, come-from-behind win over LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, and dominating Virginia Tech in 2011 to capture the ACC Championship (Clemson’s first in twenty years). Boyd may not have a Vince Young-esque defining moment, but he certainly has his share of marquee victories. There is, of course, the one glaring smear on his resume that Steve Spurrier and the South Carolina Gamecocks are responsible for.
In Boyd’s three appearances and two starts, the Tigers have not just lost, but been ravaged by Spurrier’s squad. In turn, these results tarnished the quarterback’s legacy. The rivalry has been emblematic of the discrepancy between the ACC and the neighboring SEC with the vaunted Carolina defense shutting down the “gimmicky” Clemson offense.
Boyd’s numbers alone provide enough ammo to back up the argument, after all his career completion percentage versus the Gamecocks is a shockingly-low 45 percent and his yards-per-game is merely 113. For comparison, Boyd threw for 300 yards a game while completing 67 percent of his throws in 2012.
Simply put, you cannot join the pantheon of college football without ever beating your rival, especially in the small Southern state of South Carolina, where college football is king and battle lines are clearly drawn between its two major programs.
Currently, the Gamecocks are riding a four-game winning streak in the game for Palmetto State bragging rights, there best run since the 1950’s, and none of the games have been particularly competitive. The all-time series is heavily tilted in Clemson’s favor, but Boyd has had the misfortune of coinciding with the Spurrier-led Gamecocks. The Ole’ Ball Coach turned the also-ran program and into a national power.
But that is not an excuse, because great players rise to the occasion. RGIII bested Texas in the season-finale. Charlie Ward made the most of his opportunities against Florida. Danny Weurffel did not always beat Florida State, but after losing to FSU to close the 1996 regular season, he made amends by dominating the Gators in the Sugar Bowl with the national title on the line.
The judgment of quarterbacks differs from every other position on the field. Will Tajh Boyd be remembered as an all-time great on the national scene like the aforementioned superstars or as a player who meant a lot to an individual program? Only time will tell, but Boyd better beat the Gamecocks November 30th in order to make it a discussion.
Read more Clemson rumors, news and opinion on our Clemson football page