Boyd Prepares For Record-Breaking Season

Tajh Boyd hopes to improve on a junior season in which he won ACC Player of the Year.
Tajh Boyd hopes to improve on a junior season in which he won ACC Player of the Year.

Clemson’s Tajh Boyd is in position for a record-breaking year.  Of course, that wouldn’t be different from the last two seasons.

Boyd started under center for the Tigers as a sophomore in 2011, succeeding Kyle Parker.  That year, Boyd finished one touchdown shy of Philip Rivers’ ACC record for most touchdown passes in a single season.  The former NC State quarterback had 34 touchdown strikes in 2003, while Boyd tied Chris Weinke’s 2000 Heisman season with 33 touchdown passes.  Boyd also added five rushing scores, giving him the ACC record for most total touchdowns in a season.

Boyd broke that passing record (and his own total touchdown record) as a junior in 2012, passing for 36 touchdowns and rushing for 10 more.  He passed for 3,896 yards, his second-straight season with more than 3,800 yards, to move into the top five for ACC passing yardage in a season.  He also improved his passing accuracy to 67.2 percent.

More importantly, Clemson is winning. The Tigers have put together back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time since the Danny Ford days.  Last season, the Tigers ended the year with a thrilling 25-24 win over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl despite an early ankle injury to wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

Boyd will have a chance to leave his mark as one of the most prolific quarterbacks in ACC history.  He currently 22 touchdowns behind Rivers for the career passing touchdown record, and 23 behind Rivers for total touchdowns.  It seems unlikely that he will better Rivers’ 13,484 career passing yards, but he should easily pass Duke’s Thaddeus Lewis for second all-time (10,065) with a full season of work.

Boyd hasn’t been merely posting prolific numbers: He has also been an efficient passer.  His 149.58 passer rating currently sits fourth on the ACC career list, behind North Carolina’s Bryn Renner, Weinke, and the recently drafted EJ Manuel.  Boyd’s 62.5 percent career completion rate places him 11th all-time.

As a result, Clemson has had one of the nation’s best offenses.  The Tigers were ninth in the FBS in total offense in 2012, improving from 16th in 2011. Clemson averaged 41 points per game last year, sixth best in the nation.

The Tigers have a chance to establish themselves as an elite team in 2013.  To do so, they will have to conquer a very challenging schedule.  Clemson hosts Georgia to start the season on August 31 and close the season with a road game against South Carolina.  Clemson opened 2012 with a 26-19 win over Auburn in the Chick-fil-A College Kickoff, but has lost four straight against the Gamecocks in their rivalry meeting.

These are the games ACC teams have traditionally lost in recent years to further the image that it is a weak football conference.  Georgia Tech has struggled against Georgia in their rivalry series.  Florida State lost to Oklahoma in 2010 and 2011.  Virginia Tech lost neutral site games to Boise State in 2009 and Alabama in 2010.

It will be difficult for Boyd to improve on last year. He enters his final season as the defending ACC Player of the Year, a first-team All-American, and the Chick-fil-A Bowl MVP (not to mention those records he already has).  However, a Sammy Watkins could help, allowing Boyd to show off his deep-play ability.   The rising junior wide receiver missed time throughout the season due to a suspension, an illness, and that Chick-fil-A Bowl ankle injury.

Hopefully, the return of four starting offensive linemen will result in fewer sacks for Boyd.  He was sacked 31 times in 2012, tying him for 18th in the nation in the dubious category.  Last season was one of change on the offensive line, returning just two starters.  With an extra year of experience (and maybe some encouragement to Boyd to get rid of the ball quicker), Boyd could spend more time upright, and Clemson fans could spend less time fearing for his health.

The records will fall and the wins will add up for Boyd and the Tigers.  However, their eyes will be on larger goals, such as becoming the first ACC team to play in the BCS National Championship since Florida State in 2000.  If that happens, Boyd could add even more hardware to his collection, perhaps even a Heisman Trophy.


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